By Eric Zimmermann - 11/11/09 01:21 AM EST
President Barack Obama on Tuesday memorialized those killed during the Fort Hood shooting rampage and said the alleged gunman would receive justice.
Obama pledged that Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist believed to have killed 13 people in Thursday’s shootings, would receive a fair trial, though Obama suggested he had no doubt about his guilt.
Obama rejected the assertion that any religious belief could justify such violence.
“No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor,” said Obama, who did not refer directly to Hasan’s Muslim faith.
“And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice — in this world and the next,” the president said.
Obama spoke briefly of each of the individual soldiers killed during the attack, including a newlywed and an expectant mother.
“Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered,” Obama said.
Obama spoke in front of an audience that numbered over 15,000 and included family members of those killed on Thursday. Rows of uniformed military personnel sat in the front of the crowd.
The memorial also included a 21-gun salute, a roll call of the names of those killed and a rendition of taps. The massacre at Fort Hood was the most severe attack on a domestic military installation in U.S. history.
The incident has sparked fears of retribution against Muslims in the U.S. and in the armed services in particular.
On Sunday, Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said premature speculation about the shooter’s motives could create a backlash against Muslim soldiers.
Though the shooting was tragic, “it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity became a casualty here,” Casey told ABC’s “This Week.”
Obama did not repeat Casey’s warning against an anti-Muslim backlash, but did hint at the need for religious tolerance.
“We are a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.”
Prior to the shooting, some of Hasan’s colleagues had complained to senior officers that Hasan had made numerous anti-American statements, and the FBI reportedly knew that Hasan had e-mailed a radical Islamic cleric with ties to terrorist groups. Those revelations, however, did not lead to his discharge.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, announced that his panel will open an investigation into whether the military missed any warning signs that could have prevented the bloodshed.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a closed briefing on the killings on Monday.
Army Secretary John McHugh and Casey are scheduled to testify, according to a notice from the panel.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called for a similar investigation. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), has so far declined, saying lawmakers should wait for the Army and FBI to finish their own investigations.
“Once those facts have come to light and are presented to us, the committee will consider and assess them,” Reyes said Monday.
Cabinet and military officials in attendance included Casey, McHugh, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.
While at Fort Hood, the president met with families of soldiers who were killed during the shooting as well as with wounded soldiers in the hospital.
The following lawmakers attended the memorial: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Chet Edwards (D-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Al Green (D-Texas) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D).