>Why the Ft. Hood massacre is just the tip of the iceberg

>There is a crisis in the military concerning the Department of Defense’s efforts to provide adequate mental health services to its soldiers. And, if any of the stories regarding the lack of respect for the suspected killer’s religion rings true, the military also has a tolerance problem. 

CNN has a couple of stories that goes beyond covering the shootings that left 12 people dead and 31 wounded. One story claims the suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan was harassed due to his religious beliefs. A police report filed Aug. 16 involved Hassan’s car being vandalized after a neighbor ripped off a pro-Islam bumper sticker off Hassan’s car.

The bumper sticker incident at Hasan’s apartment complex in Killeen, Texas, is the first known example of harassment that has surfaced since the shooting. Apartment manager John Thompson said Friday that he reported the situation to police after the girlfriend of then-resident John van de Walker told him that he did it. Thompson said he saw van de Walker apologize to Hasan and that a police report was filed. He added that the bumper sticker said “Allah is Love” in Arabic, but that van de Walker knew that Hasan was Muslim before seeing it. Thompson said the last time he asked Hasan about the incident, Hasan said he was still waiting for reparations for damage to his 2006 Honda Civic.

His cousin also claims Hassan felt he was treated differently because of his race and his religion:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=us/2009/11/06/hancocks.hassan.cousin.speaks.cnn

Various article also pointed to the alleged shooter’s behavior leading up to the incident. There were reports of the alleged (I say alleged because he hasn’t been convicted of any crimes and to avoid being sued for libel) shooter began giving away his belongings, became increasingly defensive about his opposition to being deployed to Afghanistan, etc.

Hasan’s neighbors on Friday said he cleaned out his apartment the morning of the shootings and gave copies of the Quran to several residents. His next-door neighbor, Patricia Villa, said he gave her his furniture and paid her $60 to clean his apartment hours before the shooting. “He told me he was leaving for Iraq or somewhere,” Villa said. “I didn’t think much of it.”

Another neighbor, Willie Bell, said Hasan had helped him set up his laptop and regularly tapped into Bell’s wireless service. Bell, a maintenance man at Fort Hood who didn’t show up for work Thursday, said he was interviewed by the FBI for four hours that day and the laptop was seized. He said he received two calls from Hasan early Thursday, one at 2:37 a.m. asking Bell to turn on the wireless service and again at 5 a.m. to say he was moving.

Here’s an Anderson Cooper 360 discussion that outlined the “warning signs” Hassan displayed leading up to the massacre:

 http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=crime/2009/11/07/ac.missed.signs.cnn

Religious intolerance is nothing new in the miliary. In April 2008, Specialist Jeremy Hall sued the Army, alleging his atheism was under constant attack by other soldiers. Earlier this year, the New York Times ran an article that outline the Army’s use of religious-based videos to treat depression and suicidal thoughts.

As an atheist and someone who deeply values this country’s allowance of people to worship whomever or whatever they want, this type of religious intolerance in the military should not be swept under the rug. Every soldier, regardless of faith or lack thereof, should be afforded the same rights and priviledges as their Christian counterparts in the military. The military is not, and should not be, exempt from following the First Amendment.

There has to be some sort of action taken by the military to do a better job of screening its personnel. My heart goes out to the friends and family members of victims who have to endure this type of tragedy because, as it seems, the military failed to take action.

The mental health care crisis in the military has been debated and criticized for years. An NPR investigation done in 2007 found that many soldiers’ anguish and pain is often overlooked and ignored by Army officials. There was also a story in the Chicago Tribune that profiled the Army’s struggles with a rising suicide rate. The San Francisco Chronicle in 2006 reported the Army, despite severe psychological problems soldiers are presenting, they were still being sent to Iraq and were even participating in combat.

The lack of adequate health care for military personnel and their families has always been an issue that’s gotten under my skin. How can the world’s most “powerful” country, which spends more on defense than on anything else in its budget, expect to have the best men and women within its ranks if they do not supply the necessary services needed to live a decent life? How can a country, that spends so much on the latest combat technology, chooses to ignore the plight of the men and women (and the families) who will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom and liberty?

Any successful CEO will tell you: you can not run a successful business if your employees aren’t physically or mentally capable of handling the duties given to them. Quality output can not be expected if a corporation does not invest in ways to make sure their employees will give their all for their job.

The military can not continue to operate on a bare minimum policy when it comes to the health and well-being of soldiers. If they expect to have a military that’s competent enough to participate in combat, then it’s imperative on them to give their employees the best mental health care services possible.

It’s high time for our nation’s generals, colonels, lieutenants, sergeants and Pentagon bureaucrats to being an overhaul of this country’s military policy and move it into the 21st century. We can’t fight 21st century wars with a pre-1950s military policy.

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