Dahr Jamail : Ft. Hood Shootings Reflect Problems in U.S. Military

The sun sets at Ft. Hood, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, as the media awaits a briefing on the day’s terrible events. Photo by Michael Thomas / AP.

Shootings rock massive Fort Hood
As soldiers point to grim mood at the base

‘I’d say [morale is] at an all-time low — mostly because of Afghanistan now,’ he explained..

By Dahr Jamail / November 5, 2009

[This story was written the evening of the shootings at Ft. Hood. When you read it you will know facts not available at the time of this posting. But what’s important here is not the details of the terrible events that took place today; it’s the context in which they occurred, and about which Dahr Jamail reports. That is why this is an important report and one that we encourage you to read. — Ed.]

At approximately 1:30 p.m. CST today, a soldier went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, killing 11 people and wounding at least 31 others, according to base commander Lieutenant-General Bob Cone.

Truthout spoke with an Army Specialist who is an active-duty Iraq war veteran currently stationed at the base. The soldier spoke on condition of anonymity since the base is now on “lockdown,” and all “non-authorized” military personnel on the base have been ordered not to speak to the press.

“A soldier entered the ‘Soldier Readiness Center (SRC)’ with two handguns and opened fire,” the soldier, who is currently getting treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) explained. “That facility is where you go just before you deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.”

The soldier named the gunman as Major Malik Nadal Hasan, and said he was about 40 years old. According to the soldier, Hasan was a member of the base’s Medical Evaluation Board, and worked there as a counselor.

“I can confirm Major Hasan was the gunman, and I actually saw him this morning,” the soldier explained. “I was over in the area doing some paperwork, and saw him at the facility. He seemed fine to me, and I spoke with one of my friends who had an appointment with him this morning. They said Major Hasan seemed OK to them too.”

The soldier believes that at least one Killeen Police Department officer was killed before the gunman was shot. Two other soldiers with suspected involvement in the mass shooting were also taken into custody by a SWAT team, according to the soldier.

Fort Hood, located in central Texas, is the largest US military base in the world and contains up to 50,000 soldiers. It is one of the most heavily deployed bases to both Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the shooter himself was facing an impending deployment to Iraq.

The soldier says that the mood on the base is “very grim,” and that even before this incident, troop morale has been very low.

“I’d say it’s at an all-time low — mostly because of Afghanistan now,” he explained. “Nobody knows why we are at either place, and I believe the troops need to know why they are there, or we should pull out, and this is a unanimous feeling, even for folks who are pro-war.”

In a strikingly similar incident on May 11, 2009, a U.S. soldier gunned down five fellow soldiers at a stress-counseling center at a U.S. base in Baghdad. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news conference at the Pentagon that the shootings occurred in a place where “individuals were seeking help.”

“It does speak to me, though, about the need for us to redouble our efforts, the concern in terms of dealing with the stress,” Admiral Mullen said. “It also speaks to the issue of multiple deployments.”

Commenting on the incident in nearly parallel terms, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the Pentagon needs to redouble its efforts to relieve stress caused by repeated deployments in war zones; stress that is further exacerbated by limited time at home in between deployments.

The condition described by Mullen and Gates is what veteran health experts often refer to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While soldiers returning home are routinely involved in shootings, suicide and other forms of self-destructive violent behavior as a direct result of their experiences in Iraq, we have yet to see an event of this magnitude take place in Iraq.

Prior to the May incident, the last reported incident of this kind happened in 2005, when an Army captain and lieutenant were killed when an anti-personnel mine detonated in the window of their room at a US base in Tikrit. In that case, National Guard Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez was acquitted.

The shocking story of a soldier killing five of his comrades does not come as a surprise when we consider that the military has, for years now, been sending troops with untreated PTSD back into the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to an Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center analysis, reported in the Denver Post in August 2008, more than “43,000 service members — two-thirds of them in the Army or Army Reserve — were classified as nondeployable for medical reasons three months before they deployed” to Iraq.

Mark Thompson also has reported in Time magazine, “Data contained in the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope.”

In April 2008, the RAND Corporation released a stunning report revealing, “Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan – 300,000 in all – report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment.”

President Barack Obama, speaking during an event at the Department of the Interior in Washington, said that the mass shooting at Fort Hood was a “horrific outburst of violence.” He added, “It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil.”

Victor Agosto, an Iraq war veteran who was discharged from the military after publicly refusing to deploy to Afghanistan, has had firsthand experience with the SRFC at Fort Hood, where he too was based.

“I knew there would be a confrontation when I was there, because the only reason to do that process is to deploy,” Agosto explained, speaking to Truthout near Fort Hood . “So the shooter clearly intended to stop people from deploying.”

Agosto was court-martialed for refusing an order to go to the SRC to prepare to deploy to Afghanistan.

“I was court-martialed for refusing the order to SRC in that very same building. I didn’t enter the building, but I didn’t go in because I was refusing the process,” Agosto continued. “It’s a pretty important place in my life, so it’s interesting to me that this happened there.”

Source / truthout

Also see:

  1. War Comes Home: Massacre at Ft. Hood by Danny Schechter / News Dissector / Nov. 6, 2009
  2. Ft. Hood tragedy: Repeat deployments take increasing toll by Sid Christenson / San Antonio Express-News / Houston Chronicle

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11 Responses to Dahr Jamail : Ft. Hood Shootings Reflect Problems in U.S. Military

  1. Anonymous says:

    When the fragging begins on the home front, you know it’s really time to end the war, even the “good war”.

    Americans can be warlike, but they at least pretend to need a reason to fight. All this Bush/Cheney-created nonsense doesn’t even have a pretense of a meaning any longer.

    Bring them all home now.

    – Piltz

  2. The shocking story of a soldier killing five of his comrades does not come as a surprise when we consider that the military has, for years now, been sending troops with untreated PTSD back into the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    When you have an ideological point to make despite the facts, it can make you look rather stupid and shallow. For Dahr Jamail, this misleading post is one of those times. The killer was never deployed. He made a six figure income and worked regular hours. He spent most of his duty time working in Walter Reed. He didn’t have PTSD.

    It was determined after the incident that he likely had written some postings online which justified suicide bombings by equating them to a soldier throwing himself on a hand grenade to save his comrades. I fully favor pulling out of Afghanistan. But I find it completely disgusting to use the real mental and physical trauma endured by our warriors in doing their duty, to explain the acts of a coward who chose his own form of suicide attack in order to avoid deployment.

  3. I'll just 'echo' DHS:

    But I find it completely disgusting to use the real mental and physical trauma endured by our warriors in doing their duty, to explain the acts of a coward who chose his own form of suicide attack in order to avoid deployment.

    ……well said, DHS.

  4. I see now 13 have died, and found this update:

    KILLEEN, Texas (Reuters) – The suspect in a shooting rampage at Ford Hood Army post on Thursday in which 12 people were killed and 31 wounded is in a hospital in stable condition, contrary to previous reports he had been killed, an Army general said.
    "Our investigation is ongoing but preliminary reports indicate that there was a

  5. Another article pertaining to this incident. I'll probably have to make it a two-part comment due to the length restrictions:

    Fort Hood suspect said methodical goodbyes

    MIKE BAKER and BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE
    AP Features

    Nov 06, 2009 16:58 EST

    As if going off to war, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan cleaned out his apartment, gave leftover frozen

  6. Investigators were trying to piece together how and why Hasan allegedly gunned down his comrades in one of the worst mass shootings ever on an American military base. The rampage unfolded at a center where some 300 unarmed soldiers were lined up for vaccines and eye tests.

    Soldiers reported that the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar!" — an Arabic phrase for "God is great!&

  7. "He told (them) that as a Muslim committed to his prayers he was discriminated against and not treated as is fitting for an officer and American," said Mohammed Malik Hasan, 24, a cousin. "He hired a lawyer to get him a discharge."

    Mohammed Hasan said outside his home in Ramallah that he heard about the shooting from a relative. "I was surprised, honestly,

  8. dospesentas says:

    What’s this the “Happy In Nevada Show”? (ha, ha – just kidding you Happy)

    This article illustrates how the anti-war crowd is willing to exploit the suffering of our troops to feed their misguided agenda. Unfortunately for them, they jumped to the wrong conclusion and got caught.

    Clearly that wasn’t the plan, but thankfully it wasn’t removed.

  9. To dospentas – you made me laugh. However, we’ll go on with the show and I’ll give you an ‘encore’ (smile).

    In a grim November 3rd Wall Street Journal piece (buried inside the paper), Yochi Dreazen reported record suicide rates for a stressed-out U.S. Army. Sixteen soldiers killed themselves in October alone, 134 so far this year, essentially ensuring that last year’s “record” of 140 suicides will be broken. This represents a startling 37% jump in suicides since 2006 and, for the first time, puts the suicide rate in the Army above that of the general U.S. population. After eight years of two major counterinsurgency wars (and various minor encounters in what used to be called the Global War on Terror), with many soldiers experiencing multiple tours of duty, with approximately 120,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq and almost 70,000 in Afghanistan, with the Afghan War clearly in an escalatory phase, commanders in the field calling for 40,000-80,000 more American troops, and base construction on the rise, the military’s internal problems are clearly escalating as well. As Dahr Jamail, author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sarah Lazare report, under these circumstances, the Army is digging deep for deployable troops; in fact, it’s dipping into a pool of soldiers who have already been damaged or even broken by their experiences in our war zones — and that’s just to meet present deployment needs. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that Dreazen included this striking passage in his report: “At a White House meeting Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged President Barack Obama to send fresh troops to Afghanistan only if they have spent at least a year in the U.S. since their last overseas tour, according to people familiar with the matter. If Mr. Obama agreed to that condition, many potential Afghanistan reinforcements wouldn’t be available until next summer at the earliest.”

  10. Sorry, I should have typed:

    dospesentas

    I’ll get it right in the future.

  11. USA TODAY had this to say:

    Red flags at Fort Hood
    As fans of mystery novels know, it’s always easier to connect the dots after you’ve read the book. The same is true after the nation’s periodic mass murders. Whether it’s the killings at Columbine High School in 1999, the deadly 2007 rampage in a Virginia Tech classroom or the slaughter just days ago at Fort Hood in Texas, the most oft-repeated phrase in the days after such tragedies is this: Warning signs were missed.

    Were the hints so obvious in the case of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged gunman in last week’s killings, that someone should have foreseen the tragedy? Much is still unknown, but several red flags have been found since Thursday’s massacre:

    — In 2007-08 classes at a military medical college in Maryland, Hasan, then an Army captain studying psychiatry, made a class presentation that “justified suicide bombing,” spewed “anti-American rants” and argued that the war on terror was a war against Islam, according to former classmate Val Finnell. Finnell said he and another student complained to officers about Hasan, but nothing came of it.

    — About six months ago, federal investigators came across Internet postings by someone with Hasan’s name expressing sympathy for suicide bombers and Muslim civilians killed in the current wars, but investigators did not confirm the author’s identity.

    — Recently, when he was a counselor to soldiers at Fort Hood, Nidal, 39, made it clear that he opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and feared being deployed this month. He had also sought an Army discharge.

    (Hasan: Suspected of killing 13 at Fort Hood./Photo by AP)

    With hindsight, it’s easy to say now that Army superiors or federal authorities should have read more into these signals. But developing systems that can reliably identify the next potential killer among a much larger group with anger issues is a good deal tougher. In that context, the Fort Hood killings raise several questions.

    The number of soldiers returning home from multiple deployments in desperate need of counseling is increasing. Military psychiatrists are in short supply. Was the Army willing to overlook disqualifying problems to train and retain another psychiatrist? And how did his fellow Army psychiatrists not spot the threat?

    Hasan often complained about anti-Muslim discrimination in the Army. Conversely, some former classmates said fear of being accused of discrimination kept superiors from disciplining or discharging Hasan. Does the military strike the right balance between protecting the rights of Muslim servicemembers and screening for the tiny minority who become radicalized? Was the shooting spree, which left 13 dead, an act of Islamic terrorism, as Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., suggested on Sunday? Or was it more akin to the workplace violence that has become so depressingly familiar?

    As the Army mourns the victims, and celebrates the heroes who ended Thursday’s rampage, it has to deal with these pressing questions. Finding the answers is unlikely to be any easier than figuring out beforehand that a psychiatrist might commit such an insane act.

    Posted at 12:21 AM/ET, November 09, 2009 in USA TODAY editorial | Permalink
    USA TODAY welcomes your views and encourages lively — but civil — discussions. Comments are unedited, but submissions reported as abusive may be removed. By posting a comment, you affirm that you are 13 years of age or older.

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