Ft. Hood Massacre: Shooter Still Gets a Government Paycheck, While Victims’ Families Struggle

Last week we saw outrage in the press after the revelation that Nidal Malik Hasan was continuing to collect his salary from the U.S. Army, despite his having killed 13 people and injuring 32 at Ft. Hood in November 2009. The Army major has drawn more than $270,000 since the Ft. Hood shooting, but is the outrage misplaced?

The law states that if a soldier is accused of a crime, wages will continue until such time as they have been tried and convicted of their crime. Because of the horrific nature of Hasan’s murderous rampage it’s understandable that our gut reaction is to be upset about this. But the laws protect us all, and the outrage about his paycheck protects Hasan by diverting attention from more serious issues.

There are strong emotions about this incident, to be sure. Focusing on the outrageous payment of taxpayer dollars masks the many other elements of this tragedy we should be outraged about. Beginning with, how did Nidal Malik Hasan wind up serving on Ft. Hood as an Army psychiatrist? His fitness reports would have gotten anyone else kicked out of the Army, but in the name of political correctness, he was pushed onward and upward. No one at Walter Reed or the Pentagon had the cojones to say this man was incompetent as both a doctor and an Army officer, because they were afraid to pick on a Muslim.

Then, how could the Department of Defense and the White House possibly conclude these people died and were wounded in an act of workplace violence? Really? Can they state with a straight face this was not an act of terrorism? A radicalized Muslim shoots and kills 13 people and wounds another 32 because he had a bad day at the office? That notion is both ludicrous and offensive.

The result of the workplace violence assertion is that dead and wounded soldiers have been denied benefits they would receive if the shootings were deemed to be combat-related, and this belittles their pain. But worse than that, denying this was an act of terrorism might help obfuscate the Army’s culpability in that they allowed it to happen by not acting on hard facts in their possession about Hasan’s potential for committing this kind of attack. They knew he was becoming radicalized and still they promoted him to major. They knew he might kill Americans and still they moved him to a position where he had access to highly classified information that he might well share with other terrorists.

Sgt. Kimberly Munley, the police officer who finally took down Hasan with her colleague Mark Todd,, was invited by President Obama to attend the State of the Union address. She sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama. The president told her that all the victims of the shooting would be well taken care of. Earlier this year she was asked by ABC News how she felt now about that promise. “Betrayed is a good word,” was her reply. She felt she had been used as a political pawn, and then along with all the other shooting victims, and then been cast aside with that one offensive phrase, workplace violence. Kimberly Munley was not a soldier at the time and isn’t entitled to a soldier’s benefits, but she joined their lawsuit against the government in order to show her support. She knows what she saw that day.

All doubt about the nature of this attack should have been put to rest when Hasan declared recently that he wanted to represent himself at trial. When asked by Judge Tara Osborn about his plan to do so, Hasan admitted to her that he shot these soldiers to defend the Taliban. They were, he claimed, in imminent danger because the soldiers he shot were about to deploy to Afghanistan to kill Taliban fighters. His defense would be what’s called defense of others.

Hasan’s salary is an insignificant issue in this case. What keeps me awake is the complicity of the United States Army, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the deaths of 13 soldiers and the wounding of 32 others. These were all preventable casualties of war that the government wants to trivialize as workplace violence in order to avoid responsibility for allowing it to happen.