Reconsidering Militarism and Violence on Veterans Day; Some Thoughts on the Fort Hood Shooting
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"[T]he killing of persons of small importance is never advisable, since it brings on an increase of reprisals, including deaths. [...] It is therefore necessary to be circumspect in adopting methods of this type and to consider the consequences that they may bring for the revolution." - Che Guevara, Guerilla Warfare
To the loved ones of those killed or injured they may object to them being called "persons of small importance." To keep in context, Dr. Guevara is talking about the use of terrorism as a strategy in guerilla warfare. He is saying targeting the head honchos can be okay, but, say, the grunts are "never advisable." I point this quote out because if it were Major Hasan's intention to use terrorism in his personal struggle against the war or the Empire then it was counter-productive, and most importantly, unacceptable.
For me the real tragedy of the shootings is that when we see Hasan we do not see ourselves. In many, many ways his actions were a reflection of who we are: violent and misguided. But violence is not always wrong. Violence can be used for self-defense, but this principle is not fixed. Like the Che quote above, we should be cognizant of the likely consequences of our actions. If the use of violence, even for defensive purposes, is likely to cause more harm than good and other nonviolent methods are available then forgoing violence might be wise.
Obviously there were other paths Hasan could have followed - some legal and nonviolent - and he could have learned a lot from Che on the matter. We can say the same about our government's use of violence as well. And that is why I say it is a tragedy that we do not see ourselves.
For now we can put aside the effect of being a non-white, non-Christian male in a military dominated by white Christians, and for many who are hostile and bigoted towards folks like Hasan.
There is no need to do a thought experiment at this time on how we would perceive the incident if the tables were turned. That is, if it was a white Christian man with "an Anglo-sounding name" who violently snapped, shouted "forgive me Lord" and killed other non-white, non-Christian men and women who had been harassing him for being white and a Christian, or who were participating in a war of aggression against white Christian people he could identify and empathize with. We can also put aside that this white Christian soldier had brought these harassments up and unsuccessfully tried to use them to get out of the military before being told he was to be deployed to participate in a war he opposed against a country of white Christians.
For the time being we won't bother wondering if the above would have us saying this at a presentation, "It's getting harder and harder for [white Christians] in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow [white Christians]."
I am a non-violent person. I teeter very closely to pacifism, but I do feel that violence can be justified if it is for defensive purposes. Outside of self-defense violence is wrong. It is outrageous. Whether it is one soldier shooting a dozen others, or hundreds of thousands of soldiers shooting an entire country. Let me be clear: we are not defending ourselves in Afghanistan or Iraq. Therefore, our use of violence is wrong. Immoral. Unjustified. And happens to also be illegal.
And just because today is Veterans Day doesn't mean GI Joe gets off the hook.
You took an oath. Your enlistment oath bound you to protect and serve the Constitution. Not President Goldman Sachs. Not General Electric. Not ExxonMobil. The Constitution. Per the Constitution international law is "the supreme Law of the Land." You are also bound to only follow lawful orders per the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This means you have an obligation not to go to Iraq and Afghanistan or to provide any assistance in those wars. Come on, you know we are not defending ourselves. These are wars of aggression. Honor your oath and do what is right: resist.
If we recognize that the ongoing wars are wars of aggression and that we have a duty to stop them, and if we feel violence can be justified if only for defensive purposes then what will we say if Hasan says he was motivated to defend the people of Afghanistan by violently trying to stop some from participating in the war - that he recognized that the institution that promoted him to rank of Major this past May is at the very heart of America's empire. Will we be contemptible or considerate?
Like I said earlier, I think we should be cautious about the consequences of our actions. We also shouldn't be reflexively dismissive because the recipients of the violence were us. If we can dish it out, we should be able to take it. If violence can be justified for defense then what about using violence to defend our victims from us?
Did Hasan see his actions as defending our victims? I can understand how this question may be offensive and abrasive to people. Some may be in the military or have friends and family who are, and as such they can identify with them on a personal and social level. To ask this strips all of that away from them. That is harsh. But what if it is justified to strip this away? What if these identifications obscure our ability to process information and understand what has occurred? We rightly strip monsters like Adolf Hitler of their humanistic identities and get right down to the bone: he was a brutal killer. Do we care whether he loved nature or if he was a "good" uncle to his nephews and nieces? No. Perhaps we should do something similar to ourselves. How can we understand that we are a violent, militarized society that worships warmongers and soldiers who (knowingly or unknowingly) violate their oaths if we allow such obscurities to mask it?
Our military routinely targeted "al Qaeda training camps" as if using violence to disrupt their activities was justified. If you feel that was acceptable then wouldn't it be acceptable to do something similar to US troops being mobilized to participate in wars of aggression? If not, why? And again, don't our victims deserve to be defended, by force if necessary?
My radical leftist tendencies are already telling me that our primary goal should be to keep this from happening again and to do so we will need to stop the wars, the aggressive policies and liberate our society from this cancer. I personally feel that violence wasn't the answer and Hasan's actions will likely prove counter-productive. That being said we shouldn't rule out the possibility that violence against us may be justified.
If we keep in place institutions like the Pentagon, values like "Semper fidelis" (the notion of being "always faithful" is a disturbing one - our faith should be earned and when it is not earned we should not give it) and practices like wars of aggression, that predictably create these kinds of incidences then grieving over the slain and making heroes out of the victims is likely to prove in vain and exploitative to their memories. If we genuinely care about their lives then don't we have an obligation to dig deeper and address the problem at the roots?
One thing is for sure, this tragedy is bigger than a shooting at Fort Hood - which is just a ripple in a wave. When the dust settles hopefully we will find the wars and official government policy, and a society being conditioned to accept and perpetuate it.
We have the World's largest military. We are armed to the teeth and we are engaged in criminal wars of aggression against two poor and defenseless countries. These circumstances make it very difficult to say violence against us is not justified. If we don't like the position our circumstances put us in then we must end the wars as soon as possible. No ifs, ands or buts about it.