We have garrison towns in the UK – places like Catterick, where the military come together in some numbers. But we have nothing of the size of Fort Hood in Texas, home to tens of thousands of soldiers, plus many more who provide retail therapy and otherwise supply the base.
It’s difficult for us to conceive of this scale of operation. Even more difficult is the understanding of why and how a senior officer – a major is as high a rank in the US Army as in ours – should turn on his fellow soldiers and shoot several of them dead.
But it has happened, and now thirteen have died after Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s attack on Friday. This is grim enough, but Hasan, who has survived despite himself being shot, is a Muslim, and the hate mail has already started.
President Barack Obama has called for calm, and in this he has the support of both Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress. This is signally important: the potential for a backlash, perhaps fuelled by paranoia, is ever present. Hopefully, commentators from all sides of the political spectrum will lend their weight to Obama’s call.