Mowahid Hussain Shah The shooting rampage at America's largest military base, Fort Hood, in Texas, which has numbed the US, is a reminder of how after-effects of overseas conflicts have arrived at home. It is a signature American crime, committed by alienated and solitary individuals, reminiscent of the shootings at Columbine High School near Denver, Colorado on April 20, 1999, killing 13 and injuring 24, and the massacre at Virginia Tech University on April 16, 2007, which killed 32 people and injured 23. The fact that the shooter was a newly promoted and highly educated US Army major, an MD who specialised in psychiatry, has sent shock waves through the US military. According to informed accounts, the combination of trauma in counselling conflict-scarred soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, along with repeated taunts from his fellow soldiers, strangers, and neighbours, created an explosive mix. Since the assailant has survived, the story shall continue to unfold, most probably through court martial proceedings. Predictably, opportunistic politicians like US Senator Joe Lieberman - who at one time was funded and feted by affluent Pakistanis in the Washington area - was quick to connect the larger Muslim community with the crime, thereby enhancing the likelihood of a backlash. It further underlines the extent to which US Muslims are held hostage to the vagaries of American military undertakings abroad. It also demonstrates that some of the paranoia and prejudice of society at large has spilled over into the US military. The Fort Hood massacre highlights two deficiencies in the US Army. First, the inadequacy and insensitivity to effectively treat stress-related disorders in a timely manner. Second, its present incapacity to effectively monitor and scrutinise an environment in which Muslim members of the armed forces endure the harassment of fellow soldiers, with a view to deter such behaviour by depicting it as unacceptable infringement of military discipline. Significantly, it demonstrates the futility of relegating the one problem which overshadows global tensions and refuses to melt away. The Palestinian origin of the perpetrator is a reminder that, buried beneath many issues, is a Palestinian trigger that ignites the blaze engulfing much of the larger Western-Muslim tensions and relations. Despite carefully orchestrated agenda-driven designs to avoid it, the Palestinian dimension continues to pop-up. It is at the root of much of the misdiagnosis that marks attempts to tamp down tensions. The focus remains on what transpires and not on what inspires. An honest probe to dig into the underlying causes which inflame global tensions can be narrowed down to two salient factors: (1) occupation-driven conflicts and, (2) venal and ineffective elites who have not met the challenge of grievance with better governance. Yet, sometimes, painful tragedies carry within the seeds of remedy. Just the other day, this writer was asked to address honour students at the American University in Washington, DC, at a forum hosted by Prof Akbar Ahmed, where Western-Muslim tensions and the Fort Hood killings figured prominently. The young American students were more interested in seeking a pathway to understanding than in being condemnatory. Their remarks and feedback centred on these core observations: Muslim voices in the US are infrequently heard; the demand placed on US Muslims to denounce violent acts by Muslim individuals is tantamount to the disenfranchisement of the Muslim community and also to tarnish the whole group for individual acts; America needs a shift in consciousness in that it needs to rebuild trust; the US needs to do more to combat Islamophobia; there should be more humanitarian aid to affected Muslim areas; and, most fundamentally, continuous efforts need to be made to improve Western-Muslim relations. The indicators are there that an influential segment of the educated American youth have doubts about the direction of their country. But it is the American Muslim youth which has yet to demonstrate the visibility and vigour proportionate to its size and potential significance. It sends a message of weakness. The abiding lesson of the human condition is that the powerful preys upon the powerless. The writer is a barrister and a senior political analyst.