Neglected Questions on the Attempted Fort Hood Attack
by Anthony Gregory: Why
Capitalism Is Worth Defending
private Naser Jason Abdo, a Muslim, has been arrested for plans
to attack the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. Two years ago, another
Muslim American soldier was arrested for killing 13 people at that
base. These and other mass shootings and attempted acts of mass
violence have increasingly made the news in the last few years,
and the pundits typically have political lessons to teach in their
wake. Now is a good time to ask a few questions they will likely
Rep. John Carter
of the House Army Caucus celebrated the capture of Abdo thusly:
[W]e may well have averted a repeat of the tragic 2009 radical
Islamic terror attack on our nation's largest military installation.
Is an attack
on a military installation terrorism? How about the attacks on the
U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 were those an act
of terrorism, as the U.S. government said they were?
is a strange definition, because it would seemingly make all warfare,
even the most traditional warfare pinpointed against military targets,
terrorism, and the U.S. government, and presumably
Congressman Carter, wouldn t agree with that. It would mean
every U.S. war was terrorism even when it was targeted specifically
at army bases and military personnel.
of terrorism favored by the U.S. and other governments define terrorism
as a private act, and yet in the years since 9/11, we have heard
over and over again about state-sponsored terrorism.
If Saddam Hussein s government and the Taliban are capable
of terrorism, and terrorism does indeed include attacks on military
bases, surely the U.S. government can be guilty of terrorism.
Yet even if
we include states in our analysis, terrorism is better defined as
targeting civilians with the purpose of bringing about political
changes. Under this sensible definition, Abdo and Nidal Hasan,
the man implicated in the Fort Hood attacks two years ago, would
be harder to describe as terrorists, since their primary targets
appear to be military. On the other hand, such actions as the U.S.
bombing of Hirsohima and Nagasaki and the U.S. sanctions on Iraqi
civilians throughout the 1990s would be textbook cases of state-sanctioned
When the Norway
shootings occurred on Friday, July 22, many jumped to call it terrorism.
When the alleged shooter was revealed not as an Islamist but as
an anti-Islamist, some conservatives switched to calling him an
extremist. Liberals, in contrast, sometimes throw the word terrorism
around to include rightwing extremists who have
never lifted a finger against anyone such as the Michigan
militia members who were detained in March 2010 for their supposed
plot to overthrow the U.S. government.
of terrorism is incredibly tenuous and used to score political points.
The Nazi regime called its enemies terrorists but never described
its own actions as terrorism. The U.S. government s effective
definition seems to be: Terrorism is an act of violence, against
either soldiers or civilians, whether conducted by private or state
groups, so long as the violence is not approved by the U.S. government.
2. How do
these people get through the military recruitment process?
supposedly employs the best and the brightest, and yet its screening
process is rarely scrutinized when a member of the Armed Forces
is implicated in an atrocity or serious crime. Neither the soldiers
callously shooting at what turns out to be civilians in the Wikileaks
footage from last year, nor the troops caught up in the multiple
torture scandals throughout the war on terrorism, nor the numerous
instances of soldiers returning from battle engaging in domestic
crime, are ever noted as possible evidence that there is a problem
with the military itself.
As the war
on terror has slugged along, the military has lowered its standards
to widen the pool of potential recruits. Americans have tired of
these wars, and so we have seen stop-loss orders, the redeployment
of soldiers multiple times after their terms expire, and dishonest
practices adopted by recruiters on school campuses. The military
has loosened standards to enlist illegal aliens and has waived rules
against recruiting felons in tens of thousands of cases. CBS reported
in 2009 that not only did female soldiers accuse male soldiers of
rape in hundreds of cases that were never seriously investigated,
but in numerous instances moral waivers were used by
the Army and the Marines to enlist convicts with felony rape and
sexual assault on their records.
It should thus
be no surprise that the U.S. government is so desperate for cannon
fodder that those who are a bit mentally unstable even before heading
into combat make the cut. The state lacks the means or incentives
to carefully screen out dangerous people, even if such a process
could be undertaken reliably. Let us remember that the first Fort
Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, was an Army psychologist.
the military itself breed violence?
is an institution in which the skills of killing are taught and
the enemy is dehumanized. When soldiers and veterans resort to violence
outside the battlefield, unapproved acts of torture, or terrorism,
it is rarely regarded as possibly connected to the military culture
itself. The most notable example of this was Timothy McVeigh, the
convicted and executed Oklahoma City bomber, who was in the U.S.
Army for several years, including a stint in the First Gulf War,
where he later said he learned how to turn off his emotions. He
considered himself a soldier at war with a U.S. government gone
out of control, notably in its conduct in the Waco, Texas, standoff
of 1993. Two years later, on the anniversary of the Waco fire, he
bombed the Murrah building, seeing his crime as an act of war.
the connection should be obvious an institution that instills
into people the capacity to see other people as subhuman enemies
to be killed is going to breed people with problems handling their
violent impulses it is never asked outright if the military,
and especially its wars, encourage acts of violence. But as long
as we are at perpetual war, living with a permanent warfare state,
there will be more Abdos, Nissans, and McVeighs.
can we learn from how he was caught?
A review board
in the military recommended Abdo s release from the Army as
a conscientious objector in the spring, but his discharge was delayed
after he was charged with possessing child pornography. He was then
scheduled for court martial. Is it possible that by failing to let
him out immediately and to deal with his criminal charges outside
of the military system, the military exacerbated the problem and
made his attempted attack more likely?
In any event,
Abdo s attack was reportedly preempted by concerned
citizens, including a gun dealer who alerted authorities
about his suspicious behavior. Although we are supposed to think
of gun dealers as irresponsible predatory merchants who will sell
a weapon to anyone, and the military as a refined organization that
find and neutralizes threats with precision, the opposite seems
to be true in this case. With the entire military screening process,
social infrastructure, and disciplinary system, it took old-fashioned
cooperation between the community and local police to detect and
cut short the threat. The actual Ford Hood shooter from two years
ago, however, succeeded in murdering over a dozen people before
he was stopped reminding us that the illusion of military
security exists even on the military s own bases. Had the
rules of civil society and common sense prevailed at Fort Hood two
years ago, one of the soldiers would have been armed and stopped
the rampage. Instead, the shooting lasted for ten minutes before
a civilian police officer shot and stopped Hasan.
The media will
spin the attempted attack on Fort Hood as a reason to embrace the
war on terrorism, governmental efforts to stop threats through psychological
profiling, and maybe stricter gun control. Instead, we should consider
the many political sacred cows that this instance should bring into
from The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Gregory [send him mail]
is research editor at the Independent
lives in Oakland, California. See his
webpage for more articles and personal information.
© 2011 Future of Freedom Foundation
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