Monday, November 9, 2009

Barack Obama 'insensitive' over his handling of Fort Hood shooting

President Obama came in for growing criticism over the weekend for his “insensitive” handling of the bloody shoot-out in Fort Hood, Texas, where 13 people were killed by a Muslim officer in the US Army.

Mr Obama is not scheduled to arrive at America’s largest military base until tomorrow to attend a memorial service for victims of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who opened fire on a group of unarmed soldiers.

The President’s jarring absence from Fort Hood — in contrast to a low-key visit by the former president George Bush on Friday — is not the only element of his response to the tragedy that is bothering his critics, Democrats and Republicans alike.

In particular, much has been made of a transcript of the press conference where Mr Obama first gave his official response to the mass shooting. The President opened his remarks — he was attending a Tribal Nations Conference for America’s 564 federally recognised Native American tribes — with jocular “shout-outs” to various people in the audience. Only later did he turn his attention to the attack, saying: “I planned to make some broader remarks. But as some of you have heard, there has been a tragic shooting.”

Unusually, the liberal Boston Globe agreed. In an editorial at the weekend the newspaper said: “It takes more than scripted eloquence for Presidents to connect with fellow Americans. It requires a visceral ability to grasp the scope of tragedy, calculate its impact on the national psyche, and react swiftly. Obama missed the first moment to show he understood how much it hurt.”

As further details emerged about the shooting — including allegations that Major Hasan felt persecuted for his Muslim faith, and had stood on a table and shouted “Allahu Akbar!” (God is greatest) before opening fire — opinion was divided on whether or not it could be classified as a terrorist attack.

The Army’s top officer, General George Casey, did not rule it out in an ABC News television interview, saying only: “We all want to know what happened and what motivated the suspect, but I think we need to be very, very careful. Speculation could potentially heighten a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. What happened at Ford Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.”

Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that he would begin an investigation into the mass shooting. The names of all 13 victims have been released, and accounts of the massacre are emerging as family members of survivors talk to the press. The suspect is thought to be in a coma.

Source: Times Online

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