Terrorist attacks and workplace violence have become commonplace in our universe. We can no longer consider ourselves immune from either. We don’t know when we’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The same is true for those we love and hold close to our hearts. They are with us one day and then, through some senseless violence, our world is turned upside down and they are gone.
What happened on November 5, 2009, when Army Major Nidal Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Center on Fort Hood, Texas, and opened fire with two pistols blazing? Hasan killed thirteen people and wounded more than two dozen others.
I’ve wrestled with how this tragedy occurred on a United States Army base. Perhaps more importantly, how could the Department of Defense determine the shooting was workplace violence and not an act of terrorism?
I’ve always felt safe entering the gates of a military compound both in the United States and abroad. Driving through the guarded gates always made me feel a little more secure. Unfortunately, I no longer feel that way.
When the enemy is a major in the United States Army, it’s difficult to maintain the sense of security I once had. I’m angry that in a place where I once felt safe, I now must be more vigilant.
It’s been reported the U.S. Military knew four years before the November 5, 2009, shootings that Hasan was a fanatic Islamist extremist who supported jihad, suicide attacks, and violence.
Additionally, an FBI official testified before Congress that Army Major Nidal Hasan should have been interviewed when it was learned he was e-mailing the late Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awiaki.
A two-year investigation by former FBI Director William Webster concluded FBI agents’ mistakes were unintentional and they should not be held responsible or punished for failing to prevent the shooting. Why not I ask?
The review found FBI agents on the San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force were aware Hasan had contacted known terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen numerous times before the Fort Hood shootings. The agents did not bring the e-mails to the attention of the Department of Defense.
Unfortunately, three years later there’s no closure for the victims and Major Hasan still awaits trial.
Major Hasan, an American-born Muslim, faces the death penalty if convicted of thirteen counts of premeditated murder and thirty-two counts of attempted premeditated murder. The trial is on hold as his lawyers fight the trial judges’ order that Hasan either shave his beard, which violates Army rules, or be forcibly shaved before trial.
In my opinion, shave the man’s beard and get on with the trial. Hasan gave up the right to wear a beard when he joined the Army. In the meantime, ship Hasan to Leavenworth’s general population. Leavenworth is the United States sole maximum security penal facility for the military. If Hasan were incarcerated at Leavenworth, he’d probably decide shaving his beard wasn’t a problem after all.
One-hundred-forty-eight victims and family members have sued the U.S. Government for compensation for their injuries sustained November 5, 2009.
The lawsuit alleges negligence by the government that the Defense Department is avoiding legal and financial responsibility for the killings by referring to the shootings as workplace violence rather than terrorist attacks.
A perfect example of what is so wrong about everything that happened in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings is Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning. He was shot six times that day and his injuries are preventing him from continuing his military career. He won’t receive the same benefits as those severely wounded on the battlefield because an Army medical evaluation board deemed his injuries not combat-related.
Many additional lives were changed forever on that day in November three years ago. We cannot possibly make any of the victims ‘whole’ again, but they do deserve to be heard and fairly compensated.
What’s your opinion: Were the Fort Hood shootings motivated by an act of terrorism or should they remain categorized as workplace violence?