America is living in the blowback years. What goes around comes around. Unforeseen consequences, or consequences foreseen but discounted. Unleash the mujahedeen on the Soviets in Afghanistan, and you get Osama bin Laden. Blowback usually comes as a shock, because the art of politics is to separate actions from consequences.
A nation always on the warpath means a nation always under arms, a nation to which war is always coming home. A minority of the homecomers arrive in the form of psychically maimed people, violence-prone drunks, domestic abusers, drug addicts, basket cases.
This summer, before Muhammad and Malvo embarked on their lethal jaunts, the whole issue of Wars Coming Home had turned red hot with the murders and suicides in North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, a vast military base and home to the elite Special Forces.
On June 11 Sgt. Rigoberto Nieves, 32, of the 3rd Special Forces Group, shot his 28-year-old wife, Teresa, and then himself, in their bedroom, as Teresa’s sister and other relatives sat downstairs. He had returned from Afghanistan two days earlier, having requested leave to resolve “personal issues.” On June 29 Jennifer Wright was strangled by her husband, William. The 36-year-old Green Beret confessed to the killing three weeks later.
On July 9 Sgt. Cedric Griffin, 28, of the 37th Engineer Battalion at Fort Bragg, was arrested after stabbing his wife, Marilyn, more than fifty times before setting her body on fire. The couple had been married for eight years but had recently separated. Sgt. Brandon Floyd was a member of the Delta Force, a champion triathlete. He’d just come back from Afghanistan. On July 19, amid a domestic quarrel, Floyd shot his wife, Andrea, in the head. Then he put the barrel inside his mouth and blew the top of his head off.
On July 23 in Fayetteville, the support town for Fort Bragg, Joan Shannon killed her husband, Maj. David Shannon, part of the Special Operations Command. The 40-year-old was shot in the head and chest while sleeping in his bed.
A common theme of the few good news stories on this issue cites wives complaining of the great difficulty in getting any help in dealing with a violent, maybe homicidal, husband. Analisa Nazareno had a harrowing account this month in the San Antonio Express-News about Rhonda Pion, terrified of her husband, legally blind and therefore unable to drive away from Fort Sam Houston, an Army base there. Rules required that Pion seek permission from her husband’s commanding officer to get a protective order from the military judge advocate general’s office. As one victim’s advocate said, “It’s like having to go to your father-in-law and asking him for permission to protect yourself from his son.” Ultimately Pion fled to a relative in Louisiana.