Military

An additional perspective on the mass shooting at NAS Pensacola

My point here isn’t to disparage our own military, though. It is only to grant some additional perspective to the situation we’re faced with today.

I think anyone can understand the fear, and the rage; in that situation in Okinawa, and in this one in Pensacola. But just as most of you would not hold me responsible for what those men did in Okinawa, just because I wore the same uniform and was in-country at the same time they were — so do I think we should not hold the entire Saudi military responsible for what one of its own did.

President Clinton apologized for the Okinawan incident, but it doesn’t mean he in any way sanctioned the act of those servicemembers. Reparations were even discussed, but it doesn’t mean the US government (or the families of the servicemembers) were just trying to ‘buy off’ their crimes. It’s meant as a show of penance, an acceptance of responsibility.

It is a strange position to find myself in, though. Because I did (and still do) question our president’s coziness with the Saudis, long before Khashoggi’s murder. I am alarmed at the idea of turning over nuclear technology to any Middle Eastern country, especially one already at war with its neighbors. I have long wondered whether our president owes significant debts to Saudi banks or royalty; because while foreign debts are certainly not against any law, they are frequently grounds for denial of a security clearance (at least if you’re anyone other than the president. Or one of his family members — who don’t actually hold any official position within the government to begin with.)

From that perspective, I do think it’s a good thing that people are questioning our nation’s (and our president’s) relationship with Saudi Arabia. I think it’s a good thing to have a little more scrutiny in that direction.

But I hope people also understand that the training of Saudi military isn’t a recent thing, isn’t solely a Trump-administration plan (nor is the sale of military hardware.) We were training Saudi military under Obama. We were training them under Bush Jr. Pretty sure we were also training them under Clinton.

Photo by Timothy Holmes on Unsplash

[The question of should we be training them — I will leave to better minds than my own. There are good arguments either way, and it’s not only about the money.]

We’ve trained thousands to potentially tens of thousands of Saudi military, over more than two decades. If this is the first such incident — I’d say it’s probably more evidence of success than failure of the system, actually. Especially when in the same week, a US servicemember perpetrated a mass shooting on Pearl Harbor. A submarine sailor; someone who gets even more background-screening and investigation than the average US servicemember does.

If you were against the Muslim ban, if you have frequently reminded Trump supporters that just because murders and rapes have been committed by Mexicans or illegal aliens, doesn’t mean that all Mexicans/illegals are murderers/rapists/animals — it should also stand to reason that one terrorist does not represent the entire Saudi military, the Saudi government, or the Saudi people.

Just as three child-rapists did not represent the entire US military, US government, or US people.

I felt it was important to say this not only for the Saudi military who are still in training at bases around the country — but also for the military trainees that are here from Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt, Morocco, and so on.

When people already can’t tell the difference between Sikhs and Muslims in this country (referencing multiple attacks on Sikhs in the past, especially around the time of the Muslim ban), I definitely wouldn’t expect anyone to immediately know all the different flags/insignia of every Middle Eastern and African military that also takes training at our bases.

It’s a tragic event without a doubt, but to me it’s really no less tragic than the shooting at Pearl Harbor.

A final note: there is also a difference between the 9/11 hijackers and military pilots being trained as part of buying our military hardware. ‘We’ (government, military) did not train the hijackers. The hijackers came to this country and enrolled in private pilot courses, that any civilian can pay to take.

They weren’t sanctioned by our government (or their own.) They would not have undergone the same kind of vetting either, only whatever any other civilian arriving in this country (from their country of origin) would have undergone at that time. It’s not equivalent.

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