Ft. Hood survivors: ‘Attack was not workplace violence’

Jessica Stanton | Contributor

Survivors of the November 2009 Fort Hood massacre have created a YouTube video urging the Obama administration to “stop the government charade: the Fort Hood terror attack was not ‘workplace violence.'”

For nearly three years, the Defense Department has resisted reclassifying the most lethal attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11 from “workplace violence” to a “terrorist attack.”  The shooting rampage, waged by fellow soldier Major Nidal Hasan, left 13 people dead and 32 others wounded.

The video was created by the organization The Coalition of the Fort Hood Heroes, which includes 160 victims and family members. The Coalition is also demanding a formal apology, Purple Heart awards for the soldiers and fair compensation for all injuries.

A terrorism distinction would mean service members who were killed or injured at Fort Hood would be eligible for combat zone awards, such as the Purple Heart medal.  Additionally, victims would have broader access to medical and retirement benefits, akin to those who have suffered combat-related injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In the 14-minute video, survivors point to Hasan’s known al-Qaida connection to bolster their claim the attack was an act of terror. The Muslim Army psychiatrist, who shouted “Allahu akbar” multiple times as he carried out the assault, had corresponded with a top al-Qaida recruiter over a dozen times in the six months leading up to the attack, according to the FBI.

The recruiter, American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, counseled Hasan about the principles and conditions that justify religious jihad. Awlaki, once deemed by U.S. chief counter-terrorism official Michael Leiter as the “most significant risk to the U.S. homeland,” was killed by a predator drone strike in September 2011. Awlaki also had contact with the would-be “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and was believed to have inspired the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.

The Coalition of Fort Hood Heroes suggest “government polities allowed the attack to take place.” The FBI monitored the correspondence between Awlaki and Hasan months in advance of the attack, but at the time, the bureau stated they “did not asses this guy as a terrorism threat.”

“The Army knew he was in contact. The FBI knew he was in contact, all the way from 2005 up until the shooting,” the mother of Spc. Matthew Cooke says in the video. “They knew he was in contact with [Awlaki] and they did nothing.”

The video also shows a clip of Sen. Joe Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, detailing red flags the Army ignored: “At one point, for instance, he stated in front of a group of [soldiers], that he thought a Muslim American solider would be justified in killing his comrades in defense of Islam. Rather than reporting that immediately, they kept quiet, and Maj. Hasan was actually promoted after making statements like that!”

The government has referred to the attack as a “shooting” and “murder,” and as a result of “extremism,” but President Barack Obama and his administration has never described the an act of “terror” or as “terrorism.”

U.S. law defines a terrorist act as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.”

One of the survivors featured in the video is Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning, who was shot six times, including once in the chest. Manning sought combat status for his injuries, a request that was denied by David Turban, director of the United States Army Physical Disability Agency (USAPDA).

In a letter to the Manning family, Turban reportedly stated “the fact that Major Hasan’s attack on fellow soldiers may have created an element of fear or terror in the mind of the attacked soldiers does not, in and of itself, make any assault on a soldier a ‘terrorist attack’ within the meaning of a ‘direct result of armed conflict.'”

Turban, who also concluded there was “not a preponderance of evidence that [Mannings’] injuries were a direct result of armed combat,” went on to say there is “no evidence that Major Hasan is a part of an established terrorist group, nor is the fact that he is a practicing Muslim make him any more likely to be a terrorist than any other individual.”

In the video, Manning says, “it is disgraceful that they don’t want to recognize soldiers for their sacrifice.” He continues, “They were fighting a domestic enemy. They were killed and wounded by a domestic enemy. He was somebody who was there that day to kill soldiers to prevent them from deploying. If that’s not an act of war or act of terror, I don’t know what is.”

Spc. Logan Michael Burrnett adds,”That’s not workplace violence, that’s terrorism. And I pray every night that somebody will finally care enough to make it what it really is.”

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