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Did Fort Hood shooting spree turn base into a 'combat zone'?

Lawmakers want to declare that Fort Hood was actually a 'combat zone' during the rampage in order to get victims better benefits. But that would implicitly declare the shootings an act of terrorism.

By Staff writer / November 22, 2009

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, during the committee's hearing on an assessment of the Fort Hood deaths.

Lauren Victoria Burke/AP

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Several Texas lawmakers appear to be attempting an end-run around President Obama’s effort to refrain from calling the Fort Hood shootings an act of terrorism.

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Last week, Rep. John Carter (R) of Texas introduced legislation that would declare that the soldiers killed at Fort Hood were killed “in a combat zone as the result of an act of an enemy of the United States.”

It is part of an effort to make sure that those killed or wounded would be eligible for benefits and honors connected with service in a war zone overseas, such as Purple Heart medals and top-dollar life-insurance payments.

But it also would, in effect, settle the matter of what happened at Fort Hood – at least in Congress’s mind. Moreover, it would strike a subtle blow to the worldview President Obama espouses.

Already, some Republicans have begun to challenge Mr. Obama as not being tough on terrorism – noting his uncertainty about the Afghan war and his administration’s decision to give accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a civilian trial.

Indeed, on terrorism, the tone of the Obama presidency has been one of comparative calm, phasing out phrases like the “war on terror.” By contrast, President Bush’s views of the “war on terror” embraced and even amplified the threat of borderless, ideology-driven attacks of that sort that many members of Congress say took place at Fort Hood.

Military installations are known to be terrorist targets, both in America and abroad.

Last year, five Muslim immigrants were convicted of planning a murderous rampage at Fort Dix in New Jersey. This year, Australian police broke up a plot by Islamic extremists to go on a shooting spree at an Australian base until they were killed.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who has already called the Fort Hood rampage the worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11, has introduced a companion bill to Mr. Carter's in the Senate. The House bill has 80 sponsors, one-third of whom are Democrats, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Obama has asked the nation – and its lawmakers – to withhold judgment on the causes of the Fort Hood shootings until government investigations are finished.

What has led many in Congress and elsewhere to declare this an act of terrorism are, among other things, the increasingly open and radical religious beliefs of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who has been charged with 13 counts of murder in the case, as well as his ties to Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamic cleric in Yemen sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Mr. al-Awlaki’s website called Hasan “a hero” for fighting against “American tyranny.”

Hasan had his first court hearing Saturday in his hospital room, since he is paralyzed from the chest down. The magistrate ruled that Hasan will remain in the Brooke Army Medical Center.

See also:

Giuliani: New York trials show Obama is soft on terrorism

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