Shootout in US Army Base

Srilata Swaminathan

When a psychiatrist in the US Army went berserk, killing 12 and wounding 30 in a shooting spree at Fort Hood where he was posted, the news shocked the world. The fact that the man, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was of Palestinian descent and a Muslim, have predictably resulted in frenzied Islamophobia and accusations that he was in league with terrorists.
The Socialist Worker (The Making of a Tragedy, November 9, 2009) notes several instances of the open Islamophobia that the incident has sparked off: ‘Debbie Schlussel, a frequent columnist for the New York Post and Jerusalem Post, urged readers of her Website to think of Hasan: "whenever you hear about how Muslims serve their country in the U.S. military....Well, actually, they do serve 'their country' in the U.S. military. And their country is Dar Al-Islam and greater Koranistan. It’s Islamic terrorism, stupid. Wait, that's repetitive. It's Islam, stupid."...
‘Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin: “I've said it many times over the years, and it bears repeating again as cable TV talking heads ask in bewilderment how all the red flags Hasan raised could have been ignored: Political correctness is the handmaiden of terror."
What really caused the Fort Hood rampage?
Some of Major Hasan’s neighbours have spoken up to reveal an endless series of racist taunts and abuse to which he was subjected. A bumper sticker that said "Allah is love" in Arabic was torn off Hasan's car, and the vehicle was scratched with a key while it was parked at his apartment complex near Fort Hood in August, someone had put a diaper in his car, saying, “That’s your headdress,” and once someone drew a camel on a piece of paper and left it on his car, with a note saying, "Here's your ride."
It is laughable that “political correctness” is being blamed for Hasan’s supposed terrorist sympathies being ignored. One wonders, was “political correctness” preventing anyone responsible from recognising and putting an end to this kind of racist Muslim-baiting?
The US army has almost 20,000 Muslim soldiers who are now worried that their lives may become even more difficult for them in the army. More than 3500 Muslim soldiers have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past few years. The trauma and internal conflict they undergo when faced with daily outrages against civilian occupied populations, not to mention Islamophobia, can only be imagined.
Major Hasan’s relatives say that Hasan, born and educated in the US to parents of Palestinian origin, was increasingly disturbed at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having hoped that Obama would call off the wars, he had been disappointed and dreaded being deployed in Afghanistan. He had been trying for six months to leave the army.
Major Hasan, as a psychiatrist, must have been bombarded by the dark underbelly of the horror stories and nightmares experienced by returning soldiers. The trauma of war has deeply affected the lives of soldiers and their families in the US. The rate of domestic violence, crime rates, divorces in the family of soldiers and the rate of suicides has been going up alarmingly in the past five years. In the Fort Hood area, since the wars began, domestic violence has gone up by 75% and violent crime by 22% even when they have fallen in similar towns elsewhere in the US. In 2008 more than 115 active-duty soldiers in the US army committed suicide sending the rate of suicides up from 10 per 100,000 in 2002 (before the invasion of Iraq) to almost 20 per 1,00,000 and these rates are going up with the last two years being the highest since 1980 when suicide records in the US army have been kept.
It must be remembered that not long, ago, in May 2009, Sgt. John Russell similarly went on a rampage and shot dead five fellow soldiers at Camp Liberty, a combat stress clinic in Baghdad. Sgt Russell’s religion was not blamed for the tragedy. Why, then, is Major Hasan’s religion being equated with terrorism?
After the shootout, Obama went to Fort Hood for some damage control. While addressing the thousands of assembled soldiers he echoed the lies of the Bush regime: that the continued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were to bring democracy and progress to the people of these countries and to bring the terrorist of September 11, 2001 to book.
The Fort Hood shootout was not the job of a single madman or terrorist. It is a tragedy compounded of the US’ indefensible wars and rampant racism. Will the US face and address the truth? Or will it continue to deny it and sweep the incident under the Islamophobic carpet?