A sobering thought


I’ve deliberately held off on any comment on the shootings in Fort Hood last week. Every man and his dog has been all over the event from every possible angle. Of all the commentary to date, one of the best is John Birmingham’s Blunty column in the Brisbane Times, largely quoting a commentary from US writer and historian, Stephen Murphy. Please read the comments under the article as well.

  • This was one individual who snapped, not an organised planned attack.
  • We should focus on why he snapped and NOT his culture or religion.
  • America and its friends and allies must resist the temptation to discriminate against other Muslims or people of Arabic descent because of this incident. One of our greatest strengths in the war on terror are those rights and freedoms that we fight so hard to protect but which also provide the opportunities for individuals to act as MAJ Hassan did.
  • It is not about having greater or lesser access to firearms.
  • It could have happened anywhere – not just in the US or the US military.

I think that perhaps were should be less amazed that this tragedy occurred and more mazed that it has not occurred more often: regardless of issues regarding the Islamic jihad, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have fought in COMBAT operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Only ONE has taken issues to this extent: if nothing else, surely that is a good indication that the checks and balances ARE already in place AND that they are working well…As far back as 2005, the USMC had already identified the destabilising behavioural effects of minor traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) and introduced a robust screening programme to identify and treat at-risk individuals. The US Army has introduced similar programmes. Although GEN Casey has pledged more resources for mental health programmes, I do believe that the US DOD does need to credit itself for the steps that it has implemented already.

MTBI is a hot topic for me as I have had to deal with ACC and CRM (ACC managers contracted to NZ Police) to ensure that family members suffering from MTBI and TBI get a fair shake of the stick. So often victim of TBI do not get a fair shake because the effects of these injuries can be difficult to diagnose and may present themselves in a broad range of symptoms and effects. If nothing else, the one thing I did learn from a number of years battling with both organisations (those who think ACC is bad, wait til you try the privatised version like CRM!! Be careful what you wish for when you clamour for ACC privatisation!) is that screening and identification early definitely contributes to a faster recovery, mitigation and treatment of the injuries, reduction of long-term issues, and reintegration into society. At least the US DOD has learned this lesson and has no doubt saved many lives already  – it’s unfortunate that we fixate on the one who slipped through the system…

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