by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Ron Paul Institute:
This past weekend, 22 people were killed in El Paso, Texas and 9 in Dayton, Ohio. There have been a number of other mass shootings in the past two decades or so; the largest was in Las Vegas in 2017, with 58 killed. This is sad, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the real perpetrators of death in America – the US military.
It has been well-said that “it’s time for America to reckon with the staggering death toll of the post 9-11 wars.”
Brown University’s Costs of War Project this month released a new estimate of the total death toll from the US wars in three countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The numbers, while conservatively estimated, are staggering. Brown’s researchers estimate that at least 480,000 people have been directly killed by violence over the course of these conflicts, more than 244,000 of them civilians. In addition to those killed by direct acts violence, the number of indirect deaths — those resulting from disease, displacement, and the loss of critical infrastructure — is believed to be several times higher, running into the millions.
The report, which uses data spanning from October 2001 to October 2018, compiles previous analysis from nongovernmental organizations, US and foreign government data, and media reports. In a statement, the report authors said the figures still just “scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war.” Due to challenges in data collection, their total estimate is an undercount, they added.”
If we want to end mass killing, this is what we should be trying to stop. Instead, the military is glorified. Deaths in war are downplayed, but when a mass shooting happens in an American city, the media saturates us with propaganda calling for gun control.
This is ironic not only because of the enormous disparity between the numbers killed by the military and those killed in mass shootings. It is also ironic because many of the mass shooters are people the military has trained to become mass killers. In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in the United States, the internet and broadcast news alike are inundated with commentary about why this keeps happening in America.
But one commonality among numerous mass killings in the United States remains absent from these conversations. It is always reported when details of the shooter are published, but the widespread connection is rarely acknowledged: A mounting number of mass shooters have ties to the military. The United States has indulged in a culture of “patriotic” militarism for decades, glorifying this institutionalized violence as a sign of strength and morality.
Indeed, this glorification of violence bleeds over into the United States’ unique problem of individuals committing acts of mass violence. Here is a brief sampling of perpetrators of some of the most high-profile mass shootings in recent years. Many were either members of the military at some point, were rejected by the military (but clearly wanted to join), or came from a military family:
Other shooters, like Paul Ciancia, Adam Lanza, and James Holmes showed up to their shootings donning battle gear, and while this does not implicate a direct tie to the military, their decision to show up to a massacre of innocent people in tactical outfits (most commonly associated with the military and police) arguably demonstrates their mentality: one of battle, which is constantly glorified in American culture.