THE PENTAGON brass and corporate media reports and interpretations of the stunning attack at the massive US Army base at Fort Hood, Texas, have omitted the most telling point. Far from an aberration, these deaths of ordinary soldiers and officers are an integral part of the last eight years of brutal wars of conquest and occupation that the US imperialist war machine has waged against the populations of Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan.
The 6th November Nato air strike that killed seven Afghan troops and police through “friendly fire,” the helicopter crashes that killed 10 US troops a week earlier, the US air strike called in by German officers that killed 100 mostly civilian Afghans in early September, bombings in Baghdad neighbourhoods and Peshawar market places — all are part of the daily atrocities US aggression has brought to that region.
The big difference is that this latest shooting brought the war home.
Responsibility for these deaths lies with the US military and civilian leadership who conspired to wage aggression following 9/11 and now continue the carnage. The conclusion is both simple and obvious: Get the US troops out of all three countries as quickly as possible.
First, a caution: When examining such a tumultuous event, progressive forces should maintain their scepticism, seek their own independent sources and be willing to confront head-on any big lies spread by those in power. The Pentagon and the corporate media use their monopoly to distort and “spin” events to achieve political ends. These can range from scapegoating the Muslim community to mobilising for an invasion.
Remember, an anti-Muslim campaign followed the 9/11 attack, which the Bush administration also used as a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.
As of 8th November, the official story is that an army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, pulled out hand-held weapons and shot 40 people at Fort Hood’s “Soldier Readiness Centre,” a terminal sending and receiving troops to and from the war zones. Thirteen have died. A dozen others, including Hasan, who was shot by a civilian police officer, are still in intensive care.
According to various background stories, including interviews with Hasan’s relatives, the major was distraught because he was recently ordered to deploy to Afghanistan. Born in the US in 1970, Hasan volunteered for the Army out of patriotism and later experienced harassment for be ing a Muslim, especially after 9/11. Hasan’s parents are from the West Bank in Palestine. His relatives have all expressed sympathy with those killed and wounded in the attack.
An article by one excellent independent reporter, Dahr Jamail, who had reported directly from Iraq in the first few years of the occupation and recently wrote a book about dissidence in the US military, expressed no serious contradictions with the official facts. Jamail also reported an almost universal disillusionment with the Afghan war among the GIs at Fort Hood, even those who had supported the US war in general.
The Pentagon is still calling the slaughter the act of an individual and probably due to a “mental breakdown”. Without speculating on the alleged shooter’s motives, it is clear that the shooting took place within a political context. It occurred at a nerve centre of a bloody and increasingly unpopular war. It occurred as Palestinian desires for their own nation have again been crushed. It occurred within a week of the FBI’s unwarranted execution of a Muslim religious leader in Michigan.
It is hard to predict what impact the shooting will have on the war and the planned escalation in Afghanistan but it continues to be a lead story and the focus of discussion.
US soldiers, most of whom joined up because there were no reasonable civilian jobs available — these days there are no jobs available at all — are themselves looking for a way out of the war even as they are ordered back two, three and more times into ugly combat.
The progressive movement should find a way to unite the fight for jobs at decent pay with the struggle against these wars of aggression, so that US youth have a greater chance to avoid being a tool of world-wide oppression.
Even more urgent at this time is to resist in every way any attempt to scapegoat the Muslim community in the US. This community needs every sign of solidarity in its defence.
It should also be apparent to everyone that if a US army officer, born in this country, can become so alienated from these wars of aggression that he strikes out against a cross-section of his fellow soldiers and officers, then it would be foolish to expect Afghans or Pakistanis or Iraqis to welcome Washington’s occupation. They will resist until the US is driven out.
And within the US military, what manifests now as a “mental breakdown” has the potential of turning into a generalised resistance.
End the wars now! Get US troops out of the Middle East and Central Asia!
Workers World (US)