Let's begin with the depressingly morbid clarification that we're talking about survivors of the 2009 shooting rampage at the Texas military base, not the most recent one. As you'll recall, the former massacre was perpetrated by Army Major Nidal Hassan, an avowed Islamic extremist, who shouted "Allahu Akhbar" as he mowed down his unarmed compatriots. The US government shamefully decided to categorize the murders as an instance of "workplace violence," rather than the anti-American terrorist attack that it was. To its credit, left-wing magazine Mother Jones has followed this story, giving voice to frustrated victims, and explaining the background issues at play that almost certainly led to this outrageous snub:
In 2012, nearly 150 Fort Hood victims and their family members filed suit against the Department of Defense, seeking compensation for their suffering and lost benefits. But the case has bogged down, and the Senate has balked at passing legislation that would give victims of the 2009 shooting the same benefits as soldiers killed or wounded in combat or terrorism attacks. Lunsford and other survivors had hoped that a personal meeting might persuade the president to intervene and break the logjam. "Right now, he only knows our stories second hand," Lunsford says. "We wanted to meet with him face-to-face so he could look us in the eyes and see our pain. That's the only way he's really going to understand our situation." According to their lawyer, Reed Rubinstein, roughly two dozen victims and their relatives were planning to attend. But they didn't hear back from the White House until the day after the memorial, when McDonough sent a brief reply: "After receiving your letter yesterday, and consulting with the White House Counsel’s office, we forwarded your letter to the Departments of Justice and Defense, who are leading the government's efforts to ensure the victims of the 2009 shooting receive the justice and benefits they deserve. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet your specific request for a meeting with the President yesterday."
President Obama was unable to accommodate a meeting request from the surviving victims of the deadliest terror attack on US soil during his term in office. He was, however, able to accommodate a pair of high-dollar Democratic fundraisers on the trip, as well as a private meeting with gubernatorial candidate and late-term abortion champion Wendy Davis. Allahpundit, rightfully disgusted, examines the context:
The survivors have been begging the Pentagon for years to classify their injuries as combat-related so that they can receive a more robust complement of benefits and medical care. (One family says the difference in pay alone is $70,000 so far.) The brass has resisted, though, going so far as to deny them Purple Hearts in the interest of protecting the “workplace violence” designation. At one point the victims were told that it’s a matter of legal strategy: If the Defense Department had formally labeled Hasan a terrorist while the case was pending, he would have moved for a mistrial on grounds that he can no longer get a fair trial. Okay, but … the trial’s over now and the shooting still hasn’t been re-classified. Why not? Another theory, floated by Mother Jones, is that the Pentagon’s simply too embarrassed by the many, many jihadist red flags it missed in Hasan’s past and won’t call him a terrorist lest it lose face. I don’t understand that either, unless its institutional inertia taken to an Orwellian degree. Literally no one outside the Pentagon’s PR department believes that Hasan’s rampage was “workplace violence” and not terrorism; protecting the formal designation achieves nothing except to make Defense look ridiculous...
A few GOP congressmen have been trying to get Hagel to do something about this. Last year they picked up Democratic support from Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah and an amendment requiring combat pay for the survivors was added to the House version of the defense appropriations bill — before it was stripped out by Harry Reid’s Senate. You can imagine, then, why the survivors would think their last, best option would be to demand an explanation from Obama face to face — and why O, knowing that, would steer far clear.
At the risk of being unduly partisan, it seems Senate Democrats and the White House have at last settled on a cost-saving measure they can actually support. Unsurprisingly, it involves the military. (Though it's worth noting that the Pentagon brass has also been complicit in this contemptible episode). And at the risk of sounding glib, these Ft. Hood survivors are going about things all wrong. Everyone knows there's a quick and easy way to guarantee four face-to-face meetings with President Obama every year. Unfortunately, it doesn't entail writing a polite letter, even if you're the victim of a horrific jihadist shooting spree. I'll leave you with Obama's speech at last week's memorial, after which he raced off to two fundraisers with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid:
"Part of what makes this so painful is that we've been here before...This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more soldiers who survived foreign war zones were struck down here at home, where they're supposed to be safe."
"So painful." Just words.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography