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Disconnected Dots

4:21 PM, Aug 6, 2012 • By PHILIP TERZIAN
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A great deal has been made—and is being made—of the fact that Wade Michael Page, the man who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, was a veteran of the U.S. Army. The press appears to be searching for some pertinent connection between details of Mr. Page's service and yesterday’s horrific event: Post-traumatic stress disorder, perhaps, or training in some 'elite' outfit.

But Mr. Page was in the Army between 1992 and 1998, too late to have served in the Persian Gulf War and too early either for Iraq or Afghanistan—too early, even, for the (exclusively airborne) campaign in Serbia. His service record, which includes at least one demotion in rank, appears to have been almost wholly undistinguished.

Moreover, if there any correlation between mass shootings and military service, it is not yet evident. James Holmes, the Dark Knight Rises shooter, is not a veteran, nor is Jared Loughner, the Tucson gunman. The worst mass murderer in recent American history, Cho Seung-Hui, who shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, was not a veteran.

On the other hand, Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, had served in the Army, and Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Marine. But none of the other presidential assassins (John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz) served in any branch of the military, nor did any of the recent attempted presidential assassins (Giuseppe Zangara [1933], Oscar Collazo, Griselio Torresola [1950], Sara Jane Moore, Lynnette Fromme [1975], John Hinckley [1981]).

Which is to say, if there is any sort of pattern here, it is impossible to detect. But of course, that will hardly prevent the media from featuring Mr. Page's Army service, and drawing connections that don't exist. 

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