DoD Position Paper Does Little to Justify the Denial of Purple Heart Consideration for Ft. Hood Victims

DoD Position Paper Does Little to Justify the Denial of Purple Heart Consideration for Ft. Hood Victims

The Department of Defense issued a position paper concerning the awarding of the Purple Heart to victims of the Fort Hood shooting. The paper makes clear that the DoD is uninterested in expanding the criteria for awarding the Purple Heart to victims of domestic terrorism or threats. The distinction made by the DoD is an interesting one, in that it notes the exception presently granted to victims of domestic terrorist attacks that are "international" in origin; accordingly, the military victims killed in the September 11 attacks were awarded the Purple Heart.

The awarding of the Purple Heart to the victims of the Ft. Hood shooting has garnered national attention during the court martial of Major Nidal Hassan. The DoD has pointed to the on-going litigation as a reason to deny the awarding of the Purple Heart, fearing that to do otherwise would subject the members of the court martial to undue influence, the result of which could be a mistrial. If that were truly the concern, however, wouldn't it be more appropriate for the DoD to simply delay the decision whether to award decorations to these victims?

It is interesting to note, however, that the position paper itself does what its authors fear, namely, implies that the attack on Ft. Hood by Maj. Hassan was a terrorist act; an act the letter only seeks to mitigate by describing the act as a domestic terrorist attack, rather than an international one. Is the DoD really concerned that awarding the victims of the shooting a Purple Heart will adversely impact the members and therefore Maj. Hassan's due process rights, but labeling him as a domestic terrorist will not? It seems hard to believe, but that's certainly how it appears.

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