The Fort Hood attack was terrorism. The Army should call it that.
Brigitte Woosley/AP – In this courtroom sketch, military prosecutor Col. Steve Henricks, right, speaks as Nidal Malik Hasan, center, and presiding judge Col. Tara Osborn look on during Hasan’s court-martial Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, in Forth Hood, Texas. Hasan is representing himself against charges of murder and attempted murder for the 2009 attack that left 13 people dead at Forth Hood. (AP Photo/Brigitte Woosley)
By Shawn Manning, Published: August 7
Shawn Manning is a retired U.S. Army staff sergeant and mental health counselor who lives in Lacey, Wash.
In November 2009, my Army Reserve Medical Detachment reported to Fort Hood, Tex., in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. As we waited in line at the base’s processing center, Maj. Nidal Hasan entered the building and fired rounds that would kill 13 people and an unborn child and wound 32 others, including me. After many setbacks, Hasan’s trial finally began this week, only to be delayed yet again on Wednesday.
My recovery has been long and agonizing. But the pain that has taken me by surprise has come in the nearly four years since the attack, as my fellow victims and I have been given the runaround by a government more eager to protect itself than the dead and wounded.
Court-martial of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan: Trial begins for the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of a November 2009 mass shooting at the Army post in Fort Hood, Tex.
Unfortunately, I am not alone in my experience. I have watched other victims and their families be denied disability benefits and treated indifferently by the Army. This has left many families suffering not just physical and emotional wounds, but financial ones as well. Though the Army claims that the survivors of the Fort Hood attack are eligible for the same medical benefits as any service member, we are not getting the same treatment as soldiers wounded in combat. That is part of the reason we have brought a lawsuit against the government.
But it would be a mistake to think that the terrorism designation is just about benefits. It is also about the government acknowledging its complicity in the attack.
Before the shooting, the Army knew that the gunman was an Islamic religious extremist. After the attack, a bipartisan Senate report concluded that the Defense Department had evidence that “Hasan embraced views so extreme that it should have disciplined him or discharged him from the military, but DoD failed to take action against him.”
The FBI knew that Hasan was e-mailing with known terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki, asking questions about religious martyrdom and expressing support for Awlaki’s terrorist tactics. It did nothing.
The Army also knew that Hasan was an incompetent psychiatrist who repeatedly neglected his duties. Yet instead of investigating, disciplining or discharging him, they transferred him to my medical detachment for deployment to Afghanistan.
Congress has labeled the Fort Hood attack an act of terrorism. In the wake of the attack, anindependent report commissioned by the FBI looked at ways to improve counterterrorism measures. Even the president said the attack was inspired by “larger notions of violent jihad.” The only entities that have stubbornly refused to call it an act of terrorism are the Army and the Pentagon. Unfortunately for those wounded in the attack, their opinions are the ones that most affect us.
Hasan’s conviction would represent one step on the path toward justice. But that journey won’t be complete until the government tells the truth about the attack, provides proper support for its victims and takes measures to ensure that these mistakes won’t happen again.