Muslim & American; The Two Faces of the West
Sometimes, I think God has a macabre sense of humor. He allows us to firmly place ourselves in a self-righteous position and then deftly pulls the rug away from under us by presenting an entirely contrary situation.
Take the case of the mass-murderer in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, March 11, 2012, the soldier slaughtered 4 Afghan men, 3 women and 9 children, dragged their bodies into one place and set them on fire. Then he calmly walked back to his base and surrendered saying, “I did it”. For the next FIVE days, all we were allowed to know about his identity was that he is a Staff Sergeant from Joint Base Lewis McCord (JBLM) in Tacoma Washington. The military said they were keeping his identity quiet in order to protect his family.
The reaction from media was almost universal; they all leapt to find explanations as to what could cause a “nice man” (American) would to go on a mad rampage. Reasons offered were the fact that he had served three tours of war duty in Iraq, he did not want to serve in Afghanistan, he was having financial and marital difficulties, he had seen a comrade lose his leg recently and that he had been drinking before he embarked on his solo mission of murder.
One local (Tacoma) anti-war group announced a plan to hold a vigil for the victims, but called it off hours later because they did not wish to be seen as being against “Our soldiers or, targeting a soldier”. It became a matter of patriotism, not justice or humanity
Only a few media sources broke ranks and spoke out some bald and painful facts. In a radio interview with NPR, the famous journalist Robert Fisk pointed out that while so much has been said about Sgt. Bales and now that he had been identified, so much more has been said about his friends’ testimonies regarding Bales’ stellar and peaceful personality, nobody has bothered to talk about any of his victims…not the village, or the families destroyed or any of the individuals…or even the ages of the children he murdered. One psychologist pointed out that regardless of Sgt. Bales’ negative experiences, he still had the duty to hold on to his emotional outbursts and to not harm innocent people.
When some facts started to emerge, we discovered that Sgt. Bales loved the War with its associated killing. He clearly preferred to kill Muslims rather than make peace with them. This was evidenced in at least one blog comment he made, referring to the money being spent on re-building Afghan governance, “ Giving money to Hagji instead of bullets just don’t seem right“, he blogged. “Hadji” (“Haji”) being the derogatory term used by US soldiers, for Muslims.
Even today, ten days after the mass slaughter, we see our media and our political leaders fall over themselves to mitigate the atrocity. He is still not called a mass-murderer, he is still considered to have lost his mind when he did the act and he is still spoken of as being not guilty until fully tried and convicted.
My mind flew back 2.5 years to when (Muslim) Major Nidal Hassan went on his rampage and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, where he was stationed as a psychiatrist. His trial was set to have started on March 5, 2012.
Within minutes, his face, his name and his entire life, was plastered all over the media. His Muslim identity became his name, his face and his personality, people started to draw connections between him and Islam, between him and Al-Qaeda how he was drawn by his faith, to kill “Americans”..as if he himself, was not “American” because he was Muslim. Neighbors remarked that while he was a nice, quiet man, he did have “Allah” written on his door, as if that were enough to tell us he was a murderer. Muted were other facts of the situation such as him being called “Camel Jockey” by his fellow soldiers or, that he was applauded as “far and away one of the best psychiatrists I ever dealt with.” by a soldier he had treated for PTSD. Another soldier remarked, “(Hassan is) a soldier’s soldier who cared about our mental health. Hasan hears nothing but these horror stories from soldiers who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Just hearing it I’m pretty sure would have a profound effect.”.
Few mentioned the vicarious PTSD Maj. Hassan may have suffered as he heard what returning soldiers experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan and treated their PTSD. Instead, some senior officers noted how his performance had gone down…the connection between job performance (treating PTSD) and vicarious PTSD were strangely, lost to them.
Prosecutors started to argue that he was cold and sane when he went on his mission of blood and that is how he would be tried…as a traitor and a terrorist. A competency evaluation allowed that he was competent and the path was cleared to try him as a cold, calculating, fanatical, Islamic, murderer.
Is there really a difference between Sgt. Bales and Maj. Hassan? I would suggest both snapped and in the process, took action against those people they perceived as being on the attack on people like themselves.
In the case of Sgt. Bales, the “enemy” were Muslims because of the training soldiers are receiving these days, where Islam and Muslims are viewed as being the greatest threat to America and to the West.
In the case of Maj. Hassan, the “enemy” were the fellow soldiers who were fighting Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned with stories that probably traumatized the Major just as much, if not more, than the returning soldier patients.