There is a military proverb that first reports from the battlefield are always wrong. Today's reporting from Fort Hood should be taken with that caveat, especially to the extent that we blame the shooter's short Iraq tour for his violent rampage. We know far too little about the shooter, victims, and situation to conclude that military service or combat stress caused the carnage at Fort Hood.
It would be enough for these stories to leap to conclusions about one particular shooting. Unfortunately, such reporting (in this case and that of the Navy Yard shooting last September) contributes to a deeply ingrained (and factually false) narrative about veterans that has become a part of the American psyche. This "Rambo narrative" -- the idea that veterans are deranged killers suffering from post-traumatic stress, ready to explode in the workplace or at home - did lasting harm to the Vietnam generation of veterans. It persists today, and is only inflamed by reporting like that on the Fort Hood shooting.
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