Monday, November 9, 2009

One of the lessons of Killeen: cover the news of nonviolent resistance

There certainly has been a lot of commentary and speculation about the motives of the perpetrator of the Ft. Hood shootings. When I first heard the news and read that Major Hasan had, at some point before the shootings, expressed his objections to the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, my first thought was to fervently wish he had pursued his objection through the nonviolent means available to him, as many other enlisted persons have done. I wondered what prevented him from doing that. What were the barriers? Did he simply not know about the avenues of nonviolent resistance that exist? Had he never read or heard about enlisted people, including officers, who have refused deployment on moral, legal or religious grounds? It seemed to me that, given his age and education level, he must have known that such options existed.

Or did he? Hasan apparently was working at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC at the time when the Winter Soldier hearings were being held near there by Iraq Veterans Against the War. This would have been an excellent place to hear from veterans and military personnel who were questioning the wars and speaking openly about their own experiences. Hasan might have realized he was not alone in his doubt and pain. He might have been moved to become a GI resister himself, to refuse deployment and to accept the consequences. Yes, he would have incurred personal risks -- of losing a well-paid job, being ridiculed or harassed by others or facing a court-martial and possible prison time. Did he consider these risks? Did he know he would be supported by others on this path?

The thing is, it's quite likely that Hasan never knew about Winter Soldier or about the GI Rights Hotline counselors who are available to discuss options and consequences. He might not have known about these things because the major news media in the US passed on the Winter Soldier hearings and have generally ignored or minimized news about nonviolent GI resistance.

Investigators will want to ask Hasan many things about his motives and his actions.

If I could question him, this is what I would ask: If you were opposed to deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, why didn't you resist nonviolently? Were you aware of those options or not? Why did you ruthlessly murder people instead?

If I could speak to the major media, this is what I would continue to say: Cover the stories of those who pursue nonviolent resistance to war and militarism. Because if you do, more people will know what to do with their turmoil rather than lashing out through family violence, suicide and murder.

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