Soldiers Often 'Racialize' to Cope

New America Media, Interview, Aaron Glantz Posted: Nov 07, 2009

Editor's Note: The horrific shooting Thursday at Fort Hood that claimed 13 lives and hospitalized another 30 people has set off a great deal of speculation as to why the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, did what he did.

NAM Editor Aaron Glantz spoke to former Marine Corps Cpl. Dave Hassan, who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Hassan, an Egyptian American, said that while he was in Iraq, racist language was so pervasive that he began to use it himself.

When you heard that the shooter was an Arab-American major what was your reaction?

This is not going to end well. That was essentialy my first reaction. I donít know if the guy did it or not but assuming that this guy did do it, somebody who shoots a whole bunch of people ought to get punished for it, but in a broader sense, itís just going to fuel more of the anti-Arab racism thatís grown up in the past decade or so. Itís going to be fun for the rest of us. [laughs]

What about the fact that he was a psychiatrist?

He was probably treating guys with PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and thereís a lot more overt racism in that crowd than there is in the rest of the military.

Talk about that.

Well, your average service member is not particularly racist and not necessarily more racist than your average American. But in order to go be involved with killing large [numbers] of other human beings, you have to dehumanize the enemy, and the easiest way to dehumanize them is to racialize them. In my experience, theyíre much more prone to talking about 'f** hajjiís,Ē if only ďthese f** hajjis wouldnít be here, this wouldnít have happened.'

But after you were deployed to Iraq, you used that language even though your family is Egyptian.

Oh, absolutely. I absolutely used those words. I didnít think anything of it. It was just a part of how you talked about the people who were in Iraq and it didnít even register that I was even talking about my own ethnic community until I started thinking about it after I got home. That was a little hard for me.

But itís just how you talk about Iraqis and Afghans. Itís a word thatís used for specific people in Arabic. It means someone who has completed a pilgrimage so itís a term of respect in Arab cultures. Now itís present at every level of the military chain of command, so everybody uses it. In the military, things stop because commanders want them to stop and that wasnít the case for that kind of language.

Theyíre hajjiís and you donít even think about the fact that itís a pretty racist term to be using it the way that we used it. And he [Hasan] would have heard a lot of it, because he was treating a lot of pretty angry folks.

And how was that day-to-day for you?

For me, it never went beyond the use of language. People would say, 'Why are hajjis wearing dresses all the time,' [talking about traditional Iraqi dishdash]. One or two of the officers that I had contact with would call me over and say ĎHassan, how come these hajjis want to be doing this?í

So thinking of all this were you surprised when Major Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood?

I was surprised that it was a psychiatrist that shot a lot of people. Itís no longer surprising to me that returning veterans would kill a bunch of people. But this guy was a psychiatrist who hadnít been deployed, and he was also a major, which means he was in for a long time. If he had been at Walter Reed for a long time it was probably the first time that he had to think in detail about actually deploying to a foreign country and what that means. He would have been a lot closer to the Ďactioní there.

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User Comments

KiKi on Nov 09, 2009 at 08:57:50 said:

First of all, whose genius idea was it to put an unstable, practicing Muslim in the position of treating our young soldiers suffering from PTS in the first place? Isn't that why they are in treatment,because they are having trouble adjusting? The Major was called a 'camel jockey'? So his response was to plot and plan to kill and wound over forty people? May he rot in hell, praise be to Allah.

Montana on Nov 07, 2009 at 11:15:32 said:

My heart and prayers go out to all the victims family and friends.

From all the news reports it appears this Major is a career military man and that in his current position for less than a year and was not going well. He did not want to be deployed and in fact wanted out of the Army, so he paid back his military student loans and hired an attorney.

The reason may have been that he was being harassed and called names like ďcamel jockey Ē. I guess all that sensitivity training for those with bigotry tendencies are all for not. (Can training real change the way you were brought up?)

Another reason is called PTSD by proxy, the stress of treating PTSD in other soldiers make you go a little crazy yourself. Its even more stressful because most of the higher ranks donít even believe in such thing as PTSD. Their denial prompts them to tell suffering soldiers to ďdrink it off.Ē Some civilians in the defense dept feel the same way no doubt IMO, itís why hardly anything is mentioned of PTSD until one of these violent episodes occurs. These people see PTSD as a cop-out or an excuse. First we need to have an understanding that PTSD actually is real before we can ever hope to help treat it (does anyone believe that being shot at or killing your fellow man is not going to affect you in some way either then or in the future?). I guess with the high soldier suicide rate before and after deployment kinda takes care of the complaints from coming in (so those who said he should have just killed himself, well thatís already happening ). What real ticked me off when I heard that the military was trying to say that some soldiers coming back from this war with PTSD or other psychological disorders had ďPre-Existing ConditionsĒ and that the military would not pay to treat them, I think it has been corrected but what a bunch of asses they break you and donít want to pay.

The final issue is why does the military want to keep people in their ranks that no longer want to be there is it just sheer number? I mean is it ten percent, twenty percent. Is it that it is the only contract in the US that you canít get out of unless to kill yourself or kill your fellow soldiers? It does not make any sense to me.

I guess the Major could just be another wacko like Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nicholas, of course McVeigh was executed and apparently because Nicholas became a Christian he received a life sentenced. I real think if he gets that far the Major will get the former and not in a million years the latter.

This is so messed up, hopefully they will make some changes that make sense.




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