American Elephants

Over Three Years and No Trial for Major Hasan. by The Elephant's Child


It was on November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood Texas when Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, killed 13 people and wounded 30 others — the worst shooting ever on a military base. He has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder, and 32 counts of attempted murder.

Three and a half years later, the military has still not tried Hasan. Hasan has asked, through his attorney, to plead guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder. Army regulations prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea to charges that carry the death penalty. Hasan then tried to plead guilty to 13 counts of unpremeditated murder. The judge ruled that Hasan cannot plead guilty to these lesser charges, or to 32 additional counts of attempted premeditated murder, because these pleas could be used against him in the trial of the premeditated murder counts.

No one has doubted the identity of the shooter, Major Hasan. No one has doubted that he acted intentionally. So how come there has been no trial?

The reason it has taken so long is that Major Hasan has discovered that his religion, Islam, requires him to grow a beard. Members of the military are not allowed to have beards, and the judge of the military trial ruled that he cannot have a beard and has threatened to have it forcibly removed. This has been litigated for a good part of three years.

We revere our military, and the men and women who volunteer to serve; but we should not forget that the military is a very large bureaucracy that floats on a sea of paper and rules.

What has happened in recent years is that lawyers have become deeply integrated in the military decision-making process, down to the brigade level, with two or three lawyers deployed with every brigade. They not only apply their view of the law, but constrain action through the rules of engagement they write, and how things will appear to network TV.

The federal government does not understand terrorism. We don’t know how to treat it, we don’t know what the rules are. Islam is a religion that permeates all aspects of believers’ lives, from personal grooming to food, to war-making, to sex and marriage. When you get to religious believers who want to destroy the West and all its peoples as opposed to religious believers who belong to a religion of peace, it gets very complicated.

So we get down to Guantanamo, and terrorism, release of prisoners who immediately return to the battleground, and demonstrating our benevolence with civilian trials for terrorists, and military trials where the religious commandment to grow a beard can delay a trial for three years, and we can’t accept the prisoners’ legal admission that he killed 13 people, something everyone knows is true.

Throw in the “trusted traveler” status for Saudi Arabia. Nobody has thought through our relationship with the violent part of Islam and how the usual rules do or do not apply. Americans don’t get beheading, or amputating hands for a crime. We don’t understand veiled women and what to do with that in this country, nor “honor killings,” nor the repression of women and marrying little girls to old men.

These are questions that need answers, and the answers aren’t going to come from the JAG corps. Their “rules of engagement” have succeeded in getting a lot of our soldiers killed. And misplaced political correctness led the entire group of military doctors at Fort Hood to ignore all the warning signs, and there were many, of Major Hasan’s descent into jihad and a mass shooting.

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