Fort Hood Shooting Reopens Unresolved Issues

Carter and his Texas colleagues want to recognize victims of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Carter and his Texas colleagues want to recognize victims of the 2009 Fort Hood massacre. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted April 3, 2014 at 12:11am

Another deadly shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas has pushed still unresolved issues related to the massacre there nearly five years ago back to the congressional forefront.  

Even before Wednesday’s incident that reportedly left four dead and 14 wounded , Texas lawmakers in particular have been continuing to push for victims from the November 2009 tragedy to be recognized by the federal government. Nidal Malik Asan killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at Fort Hood — an incident that shocked the nation and kicked off debate inside and outside of Washington.  

For one, there were issues with the compensation benefits for the veterans wounded and the families of those killed — and the Texas delegation has fought for years to award Purple Hearts to the soldiers killed or wounded.  

Another debate has centered on exactly how to classify the shooting: was it a terrorist attack, or an act of work-place violence?  

Earlier this week, Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, issued a press release detailing his intentions to question Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. over why the Obama administration did not label the shooting an act of terror.  

Late Wednesday as more information about the shootings was revealed, Carter issued a statement pointedly referencing the 2009 incident.  

“The idea that a second attack could happen at Fort Hood is heartbreaking not only to the victims, but to the survivors. The knowledge that a soldier could attack another soldier is devastating to the emotional wellbeing of our troops, which is why in the aftermath of this tragedy support for our troops is more important than ever,” Carter said. “We need to rally around the community and provide the safety and security these people deserve. It is my mission in Congress to ensure that the victims of the 2009 attack and today’s attack are protected and helped from this point forward. While we do not know the motives of the shooter at this time, I will continue to investigate this crisis until all the facts are known. But for now the best we can do is to pray and support the community.”  

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas brought up all those issues in December when the Senate voted on the budget deal. Cornyn was upset that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had blocked amendments, and he was frustrated that Fort Hood victims had not received Purple Hearts.  

“If a U.S. soldier is killed in Afghanistan by an Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist alongside the Taliban, he or she will posthumously be given a Purple Heart award and his or her family will receive the requisite benefits that go along with losing your life in service to your country,” Cornyn said in December. “Yet the U.S. Government has chosen to discriminate against these people who lost their lives at Fort Hood four years ago at the hands of a terrorist.”  

Cornyn has a measure proposing to provide recognition and compensation to the victims of the 2009 attack. Carter’s bill, identical to Cornyn’s, has 225 House co-sponsors. But so far, neither have been able to get their bills to the floor.  

Cornyn said during the budget fight that Asan had been in contact with senior al Qaeda operative, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was subsequently killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen.  

Cornyn said after Wednesday’s shooting that his heart was was “once again very heavy,” because “[t]he scenes coming from Ft. Hood today are sadly too familiar and still too fresh in our memories.”  

He added, “No community should have to go through this horrific violence once, let alone twice.”  

President Barack Obama struck a somber tone speaking with reporters Wednesday, saying the nation is “heartbroken that something like this might have happened again.”  

“Any shooting is troubling,” the president said. “Obviously this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago.”