The Violence Within Is The Veteran Without
It's time to take care of your troops, America. We are mired in violence and gun lust, post traumatic stress and substance abuse; outward anxiety and inward extremism. Maj. Nidal Hassan is one of us.
Eight years we've been at war now. The youngest victim of Hassan's murderous rampage was but 11 when the towers fell. For years, Maj. Hassan listened to the horrors of the occupations which resulted, and it made him crazy, as it made me crazy. Then they told him it was his turn to go, as they told me it was my turn.
We military few are carrying a burden larger than most in this country would care to comprehend. Blood has been spilt, and the only solution we're given is more spilt blood. So we kill, like they do in combat, like they did in Fort Carson, Fort Benning, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood...Oklahoma City.
We kill ourselves, like we do on every base, in every state, in my bedroom...all too close. I was called up for Iraq. Five years I survived to be discharged and recalled. While I never deployed, I was a journalist. I heard stories.
As Maj. Hassan heard stories. The kinds of which nightmares are made of and then medicated. If they were like the ones I heard, memories have rubbed off on Maj. Hassan of murder, torture, racism, rabid aggression, sexual deviance, mutilation, brutalization and dehumanization.
When they told me to deploy, after I was out, after I'd started college, all I could see was the same thing I'd seen the night before I flew home from the Army: myself in a chair with a pistol in my mouth. It goes off. My problems seem to end.
But I have always directed my violence inward, despite the Army's coaching to the contrary. The angrier I feel, the more I want to destroy myself. Maj. Hassan directed his violence outward as trained; violence which resulted from entrapment by endless war and occupation.
Maj. Hassan knew this war is not against terrorists but the indigenous peoples of his Father's land. He begged his command on several occasions not to make him deploy. They refused because in America, a Soldier does not have that right.
Seeing no institutional recourse, Maj. Hassan chose a tragic redress of his grievances. I chose the path of outright resistance. I did not end my life. I reclaimed it and refused deployment to Iraq. I was found guilty of misconduct, but I know from experience how often the Army's dead wrong, as is our nation. Resisting slavery was once illegal too.
But the usual suspects are asserting that it's not the war, the guns, or the Army's brand of illness and callousness at fault here. It's Islam and the terrorists, they say, while their ethnocentricity goes unchecked by good people and knowledgeable veterans.
So he screamed Allahu Akbar before he pulled the trigger. Ever hear what Soldiers scream in combat? It's a combination of profane, blood-lustful jargon and cries for reassurance from the almighty. "Ain't no such thing as an atheist in a fox-hole," I've heard. What about Christians behind mass murder?
They happen in Iraq and Afghanistan all the time. There's a million dead, and they didn't all kill themselves. Knowledge of this is what drove Maj. Hassan to the realization that our wars are genocidal. Lack of legal recourse is what drove him to violent madness, as it nearly did me.
I wish we could have just said no and walked away, but the law is wrong, and many in our all-volunteer Army would actually consider themselves prisoners of war. Bound by contract often signed under duress to carry out the bloody will of others; waiting for their time in service to end, praying to avoid stop-loss.
The Greatest Generation's involvement in WWII lasted three-and-a-half years. Three and a half years ago, we were already trapped in a civil war that we helped start two years prior! With 30 percent of those deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan coming home with mental illness, we can expect a lot more tragedy where this came from, unless we do something now.
Soldiers must be given the right to walk away as Maj. Hassan tried to do so many times. If half the military quits, so be it. We'll rest assured knowing our truly volunteer force is getting twice the care and attention. But the first step in repairing trauma is curtailing the trauma, a luxury not afforded to our troops, many on their third and fourth tours. What better way to put needless war in check?
Next, we must provide health care professionals at any cost. We need a VA that is fully funded and staffed, like a defense contracting firm, oil company or bank. Six month waiting lists for mental health services are simply unacceptable when the number one killer of Soldiers is not combat but self.
Lastly, we must meaningfully grieve. We must grieve for our lost. Our lost in Fort Hood. Our lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, at home, those who are slipping away. We grieve for you, and we are sorry.
The orphans, the widows, the homeless, the hopeless. We grieve for your losses and will support you, we promise. The survivors and the truth-tellers, the veterans, the Winter Soldiers. May we one day be forgiven and in turn forgive ourselves. Happy Veteran's Day America.