Recent months have shown that the War on Terror justified the waiving of virtually every constitutional right but the sacrosanct right to bear arms. The Washington Navy Yard shooting is yet another reminder of this stringent absurdity. As Matt Kennard, author of Irregular Army: How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members and Criminal to Fight the War on Terror, writes in The Guardian, today’s killing cannot be dismissed as accidental.
The shooter, Aaron Alexis, was not a first-time offender. Moreover, wrestling to recruit more men after the abolition of the draft, the Pentagon turned to loosening regulations on recruitment in 2005, welcoming people who had previously been barred from enlistment. As a result, Kennard warns, “we have to brace ourselves for future instances of the ‘war coming home’ in very public, tragic ways” as unstable and abandoned vets practice at home the skills they learned abroad:
With the "war on terror", the US military relaxed its entry criteria in order to cope with a mid-decade recruitment crisis. As a direct consequence, over 100,000 Americans with criminal convictions – including serious felony offenses from rape and murder, to assault – benefitted from the "moral waiver" program, which allowed the military to look the other way when recruiting soldiers with shady pasts.
Consequently, not only do mental health issues remain untreated and suicide rates rise, but mass shootings become more common: after decades of overseas brutality, those steeped in violence come back. The licentiousness tacitly encouraged for soldiers abroad is seen in its true –intolerable– light when exercised at home. The lack of treatment for veterans, alongside the recruitment of undesirables to fight wars abroad, will not leave us unscarred.
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