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Johnny Muhammad Got His Gun


Isn’t that a hoot? The Sniper fall guys — each of them with looks in their eyes blank as empty fishbowls — had something called a “play father” arrangement. One can’t imagine that phrase having problematic connotations. At TV trays all over the nation, addled men and women everywhere ask their beleaguered mealtime companions something along the lines of “what exactly were they playing?”

There is something inherently mocking about Fox News and MSNBC pimping that phrase; the suggestion is that people in their right minds would never use such wording. Of course, the relationship between John Muhammad [a name worthy of early Pynchon] and Lee Malvo looks intended to conjure up unsavory images in the minds of so-called reasonable people everywhere. One can imagine Ann Coulter or some other sniper of the op-ed world holding forth about storming the shelters and converting the hapless occupants to Christianity, or what passes for it these days. Just as one has already heard the snipers linked with a Whitman’s Sampler of crimes unrelated to the sniper incidents, from holding up liquor stores to “human smuggling.”. It is interesting that, even though the case against these two is supposed to be ironclad, so much energy is spent accusing the snipers of thought crimes. We repeatedly have been told, for example, that Muhammad was “sympathetic” to the 9/11 hijackers. And by sympathy, the corporate media doesn’t mean that he sent them FTD Pick Me Up bouquets when they were feeling particularly low and/or radically Muslim. Rather, that he sympathized with their purported views, and that said sympathy is wrong in and of itself.

These questions are never posed in a serious way, but they bear asking nonetheless. Why would someone who has given a large swath of his life to serving the US war machine lose faith in his life’s work to such a degree that he would start working for the “other side”? Why would a thoroughly indoctrinated soldier like Muhammad reject that indoctrination by turning his own gun and bullets against those Americans he once “defended”? Why are the self-styled experts in the media so willing to see this sniper’s acts as those of armed insurgency, yet so unwilling to ask why a soldier of such tenure would turn guerrilla against his own flag?

Perhaps Muhammad himself felt betrayed by this American system so willing to issue encomiums when people for its sake, yet so unwilling to help those who actually stick around. Perhaps Muhammad knew that he had given his life to institutions that promised paradise but delivered purgatory at best. Muhammad and Malvo will spend the rest of their lives getting to know the American system of jurisprudence, but in the case of John Muhammad, it is hard not to think that he knew that system long before he began his short but eventful run as the DC Sniper. Maybe he couldn’t shake what so many suspect: that human life is but a commodity to those who determine the value of things, and not a particularly prized one at that.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular contributor to Counterpunch. His work has recently been featured in Utne Reader’s “Web Watch”. He accepts email at


ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at

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