Stranger at the Gate: Mass Shooters and Military Vets

March 10th, 2023 - by David Swanson / World BEYOND War

How Many Strangers Are At the Gate?
David Swanson / World BEYOND War

(March 6, 2023) — Spolier Alert: if you want to watch an excellent 30-minute film without knowing what happens, scroll down and watch it before reading any of these words.

We’ve long known that US mass-shooters are disproportionately trained in shooting by the US military. I don’t know whether the same applies to those who kill in the US with bombs. I wouldn’t be surprised if the connection were even greater.

The Oscar-nominated short film Stranger at the Gate tells the story of a man who went from a difficult childhood straight into the US military at 18.

When learning to shoot at paper targets, he had concerns about killing actual people. He recounts being given the advice that if he could look at those he would kill as anything other than human he would have no problems. So, that, he says, is what he did.

But, of course, conditioning people to thoughtlessly kill doesn’t provide them with any way of being unconditioned again, of comfortably ceasing to be self-deceptive murderers.

This guy went off to US wars where he killed people he thought of as Muslims. The characterization of the people killed as belonging to an evil religion, was largely a game of military propaganda. The actual motivations of those picking the wars tended to have more to do with power, global domination, profits, and politics. But bigotry has always been used to sucker the rank and file into doing what’s desired.

Well, this good soldier did his job and returned to the United States believing that he had done his job, and that that job had been to kill Muslims because of the evil of Muslims. There was no Off switch.

He was troubled. He was drunk. The lies didn’t rest easily. But the lies had a tighter grip than the truth. When he saw that there were Muslims in his hometown, he believed he needed to kill them. Yet he grasped that he would no longer be praised for it, that he would now be condemned for it. Even so, he still believed in the cause.

He decided that he would go to the Islamic Center and find proof of the evil of the Muslims that he could show everyone, and then he would blow the place up. He hoped to kill at least 200 people (or non-people).

The men and women at the Islamic Center welcomed him and transformed him.

In the United States today one may want to rewrite this line:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
in this way:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained would-be mass-murderers without knowing it.”

How many?

Nobody knows.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk World Radio. He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and US Peace Prize recipient