11.20.09

Major Postal

Posted in Society at 16:29 by RjZ

The U.S. American slang term “going postal” refers to several cases, starting around 1986, where unassuming United States Postal Service workers showed up at work and opened fire on their colleagues. According to Wikipedia, ”more than 40 people have been killed in 20 incidents of workplace rage” between 1986 and 1997. (35 of them in post office shootings.)

The United States Postal Service employs some 656,000 workers while the U.S. military is estimated at some 2.3 million strong. The military takes much greater care in selecting and training its soldiers than, presumably, the U.S. Postal Service, and, even though numbers for both change over time, even if we only assume that one tenth of the folks who join the military crack under the understandable pressure, the carnage should still amount to something like 350 times the USPS’s contribution (that’d be over 12,000 casualties).

And yet, our congress, lead to a large part by independent Joe Lieberman, is looking for signs of terrorism in the acts of Major Nadal Hasan. If the attention seeking senator can’t find terrorism in his investigation, the media at least hopes to pin the blame on the military and the ignored warnings of Major Hasan’s superiors. The senseless killing of 13 people people is obviously a tragedy. Blaming the military for this one-in-a-million (more lilke one in 2.3 million, even 100s of millions if we look back over the decades) is just headline fodder.

The story has legs because Major Hasan is a Muslim, and worse, has some rather silly ideas that his religion could mean that he and his brothers should be excused from some service. The U.S. military is still a volunteer affair; there are no conscientious objectors in the military today. If you signed up, you may be asked to do something you don’t believe in. Your job will be to follow the orders of your superior officer. If that isn’t working for you, you might consider not joining, or if you discovered this unfortunate reality a little late, you can seek a dishonorable discharge.

Aside from Hasan’s misguided views, it seems, given what we know so far, that it is unlikely he represents a terrorist cell of one inside our military or that he, in any way, represents the views of other Muslims in the military. Even if he was influenced by others, it’s still a stretch to call him a terrorist. After all, weren’t the media reports saying that his superiors knew he might not be all there? Which is it?

The military might be doing the best it can with people who don’t work out as well as expected, but there are bound to be some folks who slip through the cracks. Not to say we should do nothing when we identify depressed and unstable people, certainly those folks who, by the nature of their work have, or have access to guns (!) or that we shouldn’t keep an eye on folks who reasonably raise suspicion and are having weekly tea with Bin Laden’s right hand man. The silly thing is believing that enough control, regulation, and blame can actually avoid such out of the ordinary acts. Sad as it is, eventually, even this is bound to happen.

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