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EDITORIAL: Fort Hood massacre’s unfinished business

Providing benefits for victims is a matter of honor in Texas

- - Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Fort Hood shooter is where he belongs, on death row, while his victims remain in limbo. In a fit of political correctness, the Obama administration decided to classify the 2009 massacre on the Texas military base as "workplace violence" instead of what it was: the assault of an Islamic militant upon our soldiers here at home. The real-life consequence of the designation is that the victims aren't being properly compensated for their loss.

U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan got what he wanted last week when a military judge sentenced him to death for his assault on fellow soldiers. Shouting the jihadist battle cry, "Allahu akbar," he opened fire on unsuspecting troops, killing 13 and wounding 32 others before being stopped by a police officer's bullet. The American-born psychiatrist had drunk deeply from the poisoned well of an Islamist ideology that abhors the presence of any Western influence in the home environs of Islam. Betraying his oath of service, Hasan became a vocal critic of U.S. intervention in the Middle East before unleashing his cowardly ambush on his comrades. Unless a mandatory appeals process derails his goal, the 42-year-old murderer will achieve the jihadist dream of a death in service to Allah.

Members of the American military embrace a different code. They serve under arms to preserve the constitutional liberties that make life in the United States worth living. The government has historically rewarded their service by taking care of those wounded and the families of those killed while fighting the nation's wars.

Ideology trumped reality in the Pentagon's insistence on downplaying the shooter's radical roots, as if he were simply a disgruntled worker miffed at being passed over for a promotion. The administration similarly downplayed the carefully planned murder of our ambassador to Libya by calling it a "spontaneous demonstration" inspired by YouTube.

Refusing to acknowledge the clear motive for Hasan's attack breaks faith with those who live and die for the red, white and blue. More than 148 Fort Hood victims and family members have had to sue to force the federal government to reclassify the assault to receive the increased medical, disability and retirement benefits that would come from a combat-related incident.

Texas isn't waiting for the foot-draggers in Washington to do the right thing. The Texas Veterans Land Board announced Aug. 23 that it would treat the Fort Hood victims as combat casualties. "This wasn't workplace violence," says Veterans Land Board chairman Jerry Patterson. "These were casualties of war, and we're going to change the rules to give these families full access to VLB benefits." The board provides low-interest loans for the purchase of homes and land, and retirement services to veterans and their families.

Deep in the heart of Texas, the impulse to honor those who wear the uniform remains untarnished by sordid political calculations. The Pentagon ought to reverse its decision before Congress does it for them.