Ft. Hood: From One Army Shrink’s Perspective
I have sat silent for a long time, waiting for the news to come in from Fort Hood, waiting for people to understand and explain. Now, I have read and seen enough that I think I understand.
As always, my own life and experiences have been so rich and so diverse that I have an overwhelming memory or vision.
It was a California state prison; I have worked in a few. Religion was always especially popular within the prisons where I worked. I assumed, as did the mental health personnel in general, that it was because inmates felt so dehumanized and downtrodden that they could be expected to grasp onto anything that made them feel good. We knew and understood this.
I certainly maintained friendly associations with all chaplains. I considered them a bit idealistic, a bit naive, but I also considered myself that way. And in that feeling, that belief, that “give them the extra mile” feeling, I got some peace.
Still, I remember the day I was scared. I rarely ventured into the areas of religious worship, but once, just once, I happened to be out crossing the yard during one of the five daily times of Muslim prayer. I could not count the number of inmates, as they covered the yard.
Someone told me later that about 300 inmates were “registered” muslims, there was probably that number.
I had never seen that number of inmates congregate anywhere, ever.
Many wore caps or scarves or looked in some way, “covered.” They were on the ground, at some odd-angle, which I presumed was bowing to the east. They were people of varying races and colors, but they bowed as one, and spoke words I did not understand. They were alien to me, so although I shuddered, I respected their right to choice. It was their American right, one prison confinement could not and should not take away. I quelled my heart, I softened and continued my mission.
Then, much later, came the tragic shooting at Fort Hood. I had to wait, and listen, and learn, so I could speak the truth. I believe myself to be doing that now.
First, we need to be aware that our own United States press has never adequately covered this event. Nor have military spokesmen spoken honestly about it. For any idea whatsoever of what happened, we must go to the foreign press. I recommend the British for those who prefer the language of Shakespeare.
Sometimes, the American tabloid press has done a creditable job of describing things as they are.
But our US officials have avoided telling us anything, treating the American people as if we are stupid idiots. I am not sure whether they fear riots in the streets or a revolution. I can assure you that countries have previously revolted on the basis of far less than the shameless withholding of information that the military and the mainstream press of the United States have inflicted upon the likes of us.
The United States, its press, and its military have made not one, but three unpardonable errors that I can identify, for which none will ever be held accountable.
1. The Army Medical Corps failed to identify and care for a troubled or disturbed psychiatric trainee. As the former Captain Goldstein, M.D., “on the job training” psychiatrist in the U. S. Army Medical Corps at Fort Bragg, I saw not one but many instances with a lack of understanding of the very human behavior that is supposed to be the subject of study of a mental health professional.
Psychological difficulties within members of the department of psychiatry are not adequately assessed, and certainly not helped or treated.
Ideally, a psychiatrist in training should be offered assistance if they are stressed or have problems, and in academic or private settings, they generally are. The military is far better at “disciplining” people than helping them.
In this case, they did neither. I had then — and still have — concerns about the Army’s ability to take care of its own, psychiatrically, as this is a case of a psychiatric trainee whose personal problems with being in the military had not been identified of discussed — let alone solved.
Part of the problem is “third party psychiatry,” because the doctor is supposed to be taking care of the Army as well as taking care of the patient.
Many situations, such as insurance or employer-based care situations, put the psychiatrist in these sorts of questionable positions of responsibility. None involve the government.
Army psychiatry has been difficult in the best of times; but in wartime, it becomes a complex web of priorities. Here, the mental health of the psychiatrist in training had apparently never been identified as a concern. If it had been so identified, one has to question what was being done to assist the person in question. Whatever it was, it did not work.
2. The U.S. Army seems to have confused political correctness with freedom of religion.
The Jeffersonian concept of religion meant freedom of worship in a time when it simply meant what sacred building you chose to walk into, and which words you said to find peace with your maker.
When people put their faith in front of their oath of national service, by their public or private affirmations, we are dealing with something that is not freedom of religion. It is sedition. It is contra-indicated by the uniform military code of justice and should be punished. This did not happen.
Instead, some notion — and from my knowledge of the military, I can only assume that it was the notion of political correctness — allowed people to ignore some outstandingly horrible facts.
Nobody gave any public briefings that had anything to do with facts. We respect the heroism of the female civilian peace officer who managed to put down this fiasco. But we must not sacrifice a desire to know facts to a desire to make saints of heroes.
We offer “prayers” when we need to offer action.
3. There is a COVER-UP here. Errors are made. They frequently seem to be made in utilizing intelligence, where intelligence has been gathered but not acted upon. I do not know enough about intelligence to know why this seems to be a chronic problem in these United States. Maybe the intelligence has not been gathered as reported.
The one thing I do know is that cover-ups seem universally to be worse than either the facts or the errors. Maj. Hasan, the now-paralyzed perpetrator of the massacre at Fort Hood, had done a lot of things before that massacre.
a. He bought a gun in August; FBI had records and told nobody. Why does someone in the military need an extra, non-government-issued gun?
(Incidentally, soldiers at all levels are supposed to receive supportive counselling about the stress of deployment). He seemed to have been getting some. To say that it did not help is an understatement. This soldier was trying to use a private lawyer to get out of deployment.
Given what he had previously voiced about his faith to his origins coming before allegiance to the military, he was, at the very least, certainly not a candidate for deployment. Nobody has discussed how the military was handling this problem.)
Thank you, Lt. Col. Finnell, for being an educated psychiatrist and noticing what others who had higher “rank” could not speak. There was something very, very wrong.
Leave it to our friends at the Washington Post to come up with the power points from Hasan’s presentation. I can tell you if I ever gave a presentation to military physicians, who had on occasion asked me to do “clinical grand rounds” that centered on religion, I would have been in some pretty serious trouble.
Personally, I think that the Army’s leaning on “political correctness” may be an effort to overcorrect from its previous ingrained prejudice.
Someone once “squealed” to me about some pretty serious anti-semitic remarks made behind my back. I believed the person, who had nothing to gain, the way I believed stories I heard back at Jewish War Veterans a little later on.
I am concerned that political correctness and cover-ups have destroyed us all.
So the question becomes, what is really going on in this nation? I have never been one of the paranoid who loves conspiracy theories, but I have seen so much that seems tainted and bogus, that I have revised my opinions on a nation that seems to be deceiving me at worst, and withholding information at best. Here is what I think is going on.
The United States has a lot of, well, hubris. People here seem to believe that things that have happened in other countries cannot happen here. Just as we are rushing into health care reform without reviewing the errors that have been made by other countries, so we are assuming that because other countries have identified Al Quaeda radical Islam members in their ranks, it cannot happen here. Perhaps it can and has. People from Pakistan to the U.K. are identifying these people.
I think that military history shows us that people who do not have the numbers or finances to wage a war and have some ideologic desire to do so will look toward subterfuge and infiltration.
Soldiers are notoriously easy to brainwash.
I remember sitting with a bunch of reservists at Sunday brunch, Fort Bragg. Some years ago, these New York City cops, who were enjoying their couple of weeks at Fort Bragg, were telling me how recruiters “brainwashed” inner city youth to get them to join the military, by doing things like cutting the head off a chicken and whipping it around their heads and telling them about Satanic rituals in the Army, which I was investigating at the time. Many joined from this. The officers at my Sunday brunch table were proud.
When soldiers went up in planes to jump out with parachutes, they had to be “brainwashed,” just to do something as contrary to human safeguarding of self as, well, jump out of a plane. No criticism here, just fact.
I suspect there already are plenty of Islamics in the military. My guess is that they are never questioned about either their political beliefs or their mental health. There is now such a mandate to achieve numbers that I suspect any filters are less than when I was in, not more. I know that the induction screening for mental health is pretty feeble. My colleagues have told me that it never consisted of more than a question or two. The hundreds of naive young men I saw who were on active duty confirmed that.
There are books and internet sites and lots of places that say exactly the same thing. Now I am not a political conservative; reallly, I am not a political anything. I know just a little bit about spying. I know that most of it is what they call “white spying;” information out there that anyone can see or read. It is just a matter of how you put it together.
Our intelligence folks are not putting it together and not doing the right things.
Haven’t read this book, but peeking in this, maybe we do need to know.
We have freedom of speech. We are publishing these things. I am learning more from websites and faster, but just look at what these people are saying and realize it is possible, and there is evidence.
The information we get; like the color of the terrorist alert which we are then supposed to ignore in our daily activities, is information designed to manipulate us emotionally.
Whoever is making these things happen is not going to be caught by bringing small containers of fluid on airlines.
Now let’s get back to what I do best in life – Psychiatry.
I have not seen Hasan. But I know what I know.
If someone shoots up a bunch of people, there are a few diagnoses we can pass in review.
The most common one in military or veterans is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, known as PTSD. People who have been in or observed wartime trauma get flashbacks, and can end up shooting up people. They are highly excitable, tend to be loners, and “relive” trauma.
This man has never seen actual combat, there is no hint of trauma, and in every single account I can find, he never acted in a way that I could find consistent with this disorder. He yelled “glory to God” or its equivalent in Arabic. He was in contact with people of like belief.
From descriptions of his behavior there may have been “soft” signs of depression or irritability. His faith was very important to him. Me, if I have ever been brainwashed in my life, it was when both my mother of blessed memory and my grandmother of blessed memory made me repeat that I was “American first,” before I was Jewish or female or anything, because my grandparents could not have had their faith in the lands that nearly killed them.
This man did not get this.
I am sure that there are many mild, life-loving Islamists, for I have known some, and they have been colleagues and they have been pleasant folks, as far as I know. But I believe that the military cares more about numbers and physical fitness and rank and preserving itself and political correctness and how it looks to the public than it does about any real danger.
People in America are lazy. I always thought my job as a doctor and a psychiatrist and on some level, a social scientist, was to search for truth. The truth is either ignored by self-delusion, or hidden from us.
These people address the problem before the problem. They are worried about a “weak” military. Check out the last link on the page. The Clinton administration, whatever else they did, cut back on military.
Our military barely has the supplies they need to survive. You can check out any of a number of sites to verify this reality.
The real problem does not seem to be what we are being told. It seems to be what people are trying to hide.
This man, Roger Sperry, is an investigative journalist. I have checked up what he says as best I can. It does seem to ring true.
He addresses the prison system of chaplains, and how that has left a door open for militant Islam people. I saw easily how this could be happening. While treating prisoners at four different California institutions, I saw angry people choose Islam. I know nothing more detailed, but I know that even back then, it happened a lot.
I know that liberal agendas lean toward religious freedom, and I fully understand that liberal folks may not see underlying ideology disguised as religion, which may well be happening.
I know that religion makes people feel good when everything else in the world makes them feel bad. This includes rotten economy and losing their houses, retirment investments, and everything they own.
I also know that this is the most religious country in the world. More people believe in God here than any other nation. I have read it over and over again. I felt a Christian Theocracy try to convert me from the Judaism which remains flawless for my needs. I have felt this, curiously enough, mostly in the midwest — and would you believe — in the military.
We cannot let this story become a Christian vs. Muslim Holy War. I know there is nobody alive who remembers it, but somebody besides me must have cracked a history book at least once. It was a mess.
It was a thousand years ago and they called it The Crusades. Millions died. It was, basically, a Christian vs. Muslim Holy war.
So what is an educated person to do?
First, realize that there are two kinds of religion. There is the one inside your heart that brings you closer to God according to the literature and belief of your choice. Chances are that you carry it deep within your soul (which is in fact your brain) and that you have discussed it with nobody, since maybe your first primary school religion teacher. It may be an immature and simple faith. That is not a bad thing, as it often works a great deal better than the sophisticated stuff. Cling to that and cherish that. In life, it may be the dearest thing. Its only rival is true human love on the Shakespearean scale. I have that. I hope you do, too. If you do not, settle for nothing less.
There is a second kind of religion. A public religion. The one the world knows you profess. The Saturdays or Sundays or whatever days at a house of worship where you proclaim whatever, over and over again; where you shake hands and you are a “member.” Once you have public religion, you have a fabrication of man that is definitely not a fabrication of God. The person who stands before you has an agenda.
Make no mistake, it is political. Do not believe that the Lord God has reached down and written it. It was that little man before you, who was probably closely instructed by the head of your denomination.
The last time I listened to a sermon at a Synagogue service was when a Rabbi quoted some Reformed Judaism leader and told me and others that we should choose what kind of imported car to buy based on the political relationship of the country of origin with Israel. This was not supported by scripture. Do not try to tell me your church does any better.
I do not claim to have originated the notion of public and private religion. I will argue it is the most meaningful way to understand what is going on in the United States right now.
A nice attempt to discuss this issue in an academic, intellectual matter.
So what does an educated person do next?
It is probably a little early to leave the United States, even though I have no trust left for our leaders. We probably need a stronger military but I have seen, time and time again, that a commitment to a military career is a commitment to intellectual mediocrity at best, although they do worry a lot about being in good physical shape.
We can use freedom of speech to tell people that we know what is going on. I think we still have some freedom of speech. I am certainly not advocating the overthrow of my beloved country. My grandparents came here, I served in the military, I put myself on the line.
Maybe there really is some kind of a conspiracy going on. Even the most right wing of blogs have no more than I have said above. I do have the lingering feeling that our elected officials continue to concentrate on the most important part of their job, which happens to be, preserving their jobs.
Our elected officials have one job, which is to get themselves re-elected, God knows how. More lies, I suspect.
Maybe the answer is just to be ready to leave. Like the minutemen.
To know that our precious republic, which so many have died for, hangs by a slender thread. Our country founded on religious freedom has also been founded on being open to all. The Statue of Liberty was a port for my grandmother when the Cossacks ransacked her place. It is not too hard to see how those who may want to destroy us found it open, too. We have to be careful, maintaining civil liberties for those who deserve them.
Every soldier knows that being in the military represents a loss of civil liberties. We cannot and must not miss that this, then, must be the place. To rout out those who would destroy our great land from within. Start with the military. Make a clean sweep for a new nation. Other countries find people who would destroy them. We should be able to. Somebody is playing political games. We cannot let anybody do that with our liberties.
When I was in the military, everyone’s greatest fear was a “congressional investigation.” Every congressperson’s fear is simply losing their job and having to work for a living like the rest of us.
So tell your congressperson they will lose your vote and their job unless they clean up the military. Military officers, at least in the medical corps, were NOT people of superior skill. They were people who had no interest or drive to make it in the competitive outside “real” world. By limiting their spheres of influence to the world of the uniform, by being willing to play the game, they rise in ways they cannot rise in the civilian sector. They have the power.
We who have been in the military and moved on, we know that being in the military is a commitment to mediocrity. The enemy has found our weakness and they have done the smartest thing they could have done.
Our press has not told us. Our government has not told us.
Our enemy has found our weakness.
Smarten up, America.
Have a congressperson check out the military BEFORE joining, or lose their job.
Stand up for your rights.
Stand up for the preservation of American Civil Liberties, as our Founding Fathers intended them.
Before your faith, stand for the country that gives you the liberty to practice your faith.
America, I am begging.
Be smart. Open your eyes.
Love your land.
This is the true patriotism.