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Last week was historic for all the right AND wrong reasons. A health care reform bill that includes a “Public Option” with no “triggers” or “phase-in period” passed the House Saturday night after a long ugly battle with Republicans. That was the good.

“The bad”, however, was a killing spree at the Fort Hood Army base in the unfortunately named Killeen, Texas (also home of the Luby’s massacre of 1991. And no one claimed “terrorism” back then.). A Muslim veteran Army psychiatrist took two loaded weapons to the base’s “Soldier Readiness Center” (basically, a departure/arrival prep station) and opened fire, killing 13 and wounding some 43 others. (I have a self-imposed rule not to reprint the names of the people that commit such crimes to deprive them of the fame they so often crave. Dying in obscurity might help dissuade others from commuting similar acts as a shortcut to fame and notoriety, so I will not repeat his name here.)

Now clearly, I’m not defending this killer in any way. Nor do I seek to “blame the victims”. But there are lessons to be learned here to prevent such things from happening again in the future, and we ignore them at our peril.

The immediate assumption our crazed friends on the Right started making the moment they heard the killer’s Muslim name was that this was some “terrorist mole who infiltrated the U.S. Army in order to kill American troops.” In fact, the killer was an American citizen who enlisted BEFORE 9/11 against his family’s wishes.

Did he of become “radicalized” by his religion? All reports so far are that this man was begging to be discharged from the military, afraid that he was about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. If he were there “seeking to kill Americans”, he wouldn’t of been desperate to be let go. And had the military of let him go, he never would of been able to return to commit his crimes. So even if he had been “radicalized”, it is clear he wasn’t there for the express purpose of killing fellow soldiers. This was more the result of the stress of two wars without a clear objective or goal/end.

There are rumors that this man was frequently hazed by fellow soldiers for being a Muslim. If so, this certainly might have pushed him to retreat further into his religion with more animosity towards the other troops at Fort Hood. If this was the trigger, then it is something we need to address so it doesn’t happen again. The two boys that went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School in 1999 were also bullied. That is why they went after “the jocks and cool kids”. But I’ve never heard anyone try to excuse what they did because of it, and that’s not what I’m doing here with the Fort Hood massacre. But when we are fighting two wars in the Middle East, having Americans familiar with the language and customs of those regions are sorely needed. They save lives. We need to *encourage* such recruits, not hazing and abusing them. If the culture at Fort Hood is hostile towards Muslim recruits, that’s a problem that we need to fix. Today.

Now, here’s the big mystery. The military is reporting that the killer got off “over 100 rounds” before he was taken down by police with “ZERO incidents of friendly fire”. I have my doubts. That’s is an issue because every time some crazed gunman holds a school/office/whatever hostage and starts shooting people, gun advocates tell us that “the solution is MORE guns, not less. If everyone was armed, the killer might have been stopped sooner. Lives might have been saved.” Well, this was an Army base, not a college campus. I concede though that soldiers don’t roam campus armed, so the argument that “had they of been armed, this might not of happened” is still up for debate. That’s not my point. If trained police officers and soldiers on a military base can’t stop a crazed gunman from rattling off 100 rounds, killing 13 and wounding 43 more, tell me how arming “teachers” and “school staff” around our children is a good idea?

(The officer that took down the shooter reports finding “magazines” (clips of ammunition) in the shooter’s possession when he frisked him for weapons, supporting the contention the shooter had time to reload during the firefight. He would of had to do so three-to-five times in order to fire “over 100 shots”. The exact number of magazines found is still unknown.)

The question here isn’t how to stop a maniac once he’s got a gun. It’s how to stop him from becoming a maniac in the first place.

The other big news this past week was the House passing a healthcare reform bill that includes a Public Option, but with a last-minute Republican amendment tacked on with serious restrictions on abortion (though apparently, some exceptions still allowed.) I need to research this further before commenting.

I stayed up late and watched the final few hours live on C-Span. 63 Democrats voted with Republicans to pass their last minute anti-abortion amendment, and 39 Democrats voted with Republicans in opposition to the final bill. Republicans voted in lockstep on every single vote (with only one lone Republican voting with Democrats in support of the final bill). All the while, Republicans bemoaned “the lack of bipartisanship”. Because, you know, “bipartisanship” is a one way street in Republican-land.
 


 

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