The news from Afghanistan over the last few weeks has been heart-wrenching, devastating, and infuriating. An American soldier named Robert Bales (on the left in the image below) walked into the midst of an Afghan civilian community, and shot 16 people dead, including 9 children and 3 women.
The shooting in Afghanistan has eerie echoes of the Fort Hood Shooting from November 5th, 2009, when an American Muslim military member, Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire inside a military base, and killed 13 people.
And yet the media coverage of the two episodes has been diametrically opposed. When Americans kill, it is portrayed as an aberration, an act of a tormented and troubled individual. When Muslims kill, it is covered as a signal of a communal, global genocidal tendency. Let’s go over some details.
Here is how Fox covered the shootings by Major Malik Nadal in the Fort Hood shootings:
The murders at Ft. Hood are about the radicalization of individuals by an extremist ideology -- jihadism -- which fuels acts of terror.
The main question we should be asking is when did Hasan become radicalized and who indoctrinated him?
Fox’s “analysis” was written by Walid Phares, the same person that Mitt Romney had picked as his Middle East foreign policy adviser.
The very same person who has been identified as a major Islamophobe, and involved in massacres in Middle East.
Phares and Fox News take great pains to point out that Nadal’s actions are not about one individual man, but part of a grander Islamist war against America. Here is what they say:
Instead it is part of a wider ideological war, generated by radicalization and inciting individuals to perform such acts.
"Lone wolf" or not, organized or not, fully self-aware perpetrator or not, influenced by overseas radicals or not, this massacre of servicemen has moved America from stage to another.
Of course future investigations would demonstrate that Hasan’s actions were indeed the actions of a lone person, not part of a broader campaign.
In short, when a deranged Muslim kills Americans, Fox News tells us that it is “the largest terror act since 9/11,” and "it's jihadist evil and terrorism." When a deranged American kills Muslims, such as the actions of Robert Bales in Afghanistan in February 2012, Fox News and its subsidiaries behave in an entirely different fashion. We are offered the following litany of explanations and justifications:
*There was alcohol involved.
* it is an isolated act of a “troubled” person that in no way shape or form reflects on the noble ideals of America or Americans.
*The soldier was housed in the “most troubled” base in America.
*He was on his fourth tour of duty, and neither he nor his family wanted to go back.
*he simply “snapped.”
*He was experiencing martial difficulties.
The headline from Fox news read: “Money, career woes reportedly plagued Afghan Killing Suspect.”
The first sentence of the article reads: “Bypassed for a promotion and struggling to pay for his house, Robert Bales was eyeing a way out of his job at a Washington state military base months before he allegedly gunned down 16 civilians in an Afghan war zone, records and interviews showed as a deeper picture emerged Saturday of the Army sergeant's financial troubles and brushes with the law.”
In short, the assumption that when we Americans kill, it is an aberration from our good nature. Even if the act is abominable, it is said to be purely an individual act totally disconnected from any larger institutional or political context. However, when Muslims kill, it is a sign of a world-wide, evil ideology of jihad and terrorism.
I have searched in vain to find a commentator in the United States that grasps the above double standard, and have not so far seen that insight in a mainstream American press. The only place I have seen it is in the UK, by Robert Fisk: Fisk correctly points that that most Western journalists use descriptions like how Robert Bailes was “"Apparently deranged", "probably deranged", "might have suffered some kind of breakdown" (The Guardian), a "rogue US soldier" (Financial Times) whose rampage was "doubtless [sic] perpetrated in an act of madness" (Le Figaro).
It is these types of double standards that are at the heart of the hypocrisy of our current situation vis-à-vis Islam and Muslims. What we should be saying is simply this: the life of each and every person in the world, civilian or military, American, Afghani, Palestinian, Israeli, Iraqi, Iranian, male or female, rich or poor, gay or straight, carries exactly and identically the same intrinsic value. Just as Dr. King taught us that the measure of a character is not connected to the color of our skin, we should be demanding that the measure of a human life is not connected to the nationality of the victim or the assailant. All human lives are sacred, all are sacrosanct. And all violations of human lives are equally morally repugnant.
Taking that type of an approach would restore a sense of dignity and honor to our standing in the world community, and it would allow us to recover the moral dignity that we have squandered over the last ten years.
Image of Robert Bales is from:
Image of Nidal Malik Hasan is from: