The Fort Hood shootings constituted the largest massacre on a military base in the history of the United States. There is overwhelming evidence that the defendant’s motivations were religious in nature. But as the trial ensues, the US government continues to bend over backwards to avoid calling the massacre an act of Islamic terrorism, consistent with Islamist demands not to associate Islam with terrorism.
On November 5, 2009, Army Major and psychiatrist Nidal Hasan took his semi-automatic pistol and headed to the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on the military base at Fort Hood. There, soldiers were being cleared for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq. Hasan fired a spray of bullets killing 13 people and wounding over 30 others. It was the worst massacre on a military base in US history.
Hasan had purchased a gun that would be efficient in a high-target environment and attended weeks of target practice.
Two days prior to the blood bath, Hasan gave away his furniture, disseminated business cards that read Soldier of Allah, and emailed Al-Awlaki saying he looked forward to joining him in the afterlife.
Dressed in traditional Islamic garb, Hasan appeared at the Fort Hood military base prepared to fulfil his Islamic duty to defend his Muslim brothers.
Upon his arrival to the scene, he bowed his head in prayer, then jumped up and screamed “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the greatest!) before unloading his ammunition at unarmed soldiers.
Reports indicate that army officials were cognizant of Hasan’s increasing radicalization since 2005. Hasan had given a seminar which revealed his Islamist ideology, during which he justified suicide bombings. He also expressed increasing ambivalence about serving in the military since the US was “killing Muslims”.
Additionally, an investigation discovered conclusive evidence that Hasan had significant email communications with Anwar Al-Awlaki, a prominent Al-Qaeda operative who was a target of Obama’s targeted killing drone program. Hasan’s emails asked whether it was acceptable to kill innocents during jihad and when suicide bombings were justifiable. He also regularly visited jihadi websites which condoned suicide bombings.
Hasan was charged in a Military Court under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with 13 counts of pre-meditated murder and 32 Counts of attempted murder.
He appeared before a board of mental health professionals to determine his fitness to stand trial. At his hearing, Hasan confessed to the murders and claimed he did it to “defend Taliban leadership.” He showed no remorse. Never-the-less, the board ruled he was sane.
Hasan is representing himself at trial. The trial commenced August 6, 2013. During Hasan’s opening statements, he confessed the murders and blatantly asserted his jihadi motives. He explained that he had “switched sides” and regards himself as mujahideen.
The prosecution has had almost 90 witnesses and Hasan has engaged in virtually no cross-exam. Some believe that he is purposely leading a strategy of defenselessness in order to achieve martyrdom. Though he denies it, Hasan’s past statements indicate that he wished he had been killed so he’d become a martyr and that government execution would still qualify him as such.
So the question remains, how should Hasan’s mass murder be characterized?
An independent commission conducted an investigation of the Fort Hood shootings. DoD released its report in January 2010. It found that the Pentagon was unprepared to defend itself against internal threats. DoD and other government agencies have characterized the massacre as “workplace violence” and omitted any mention of Islamist ideology or terrorist behavior.
The leaders of the investigation stated that their concern was “actions and effects, not necessarily motives”. And, Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey proclaimed that “as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”
The FBI determined that because Hasan had no co-conspirators, further investigation was unnecessary.
In his public address and at the eulogy, President Obama also refused to acknowledge the role of Islamic terrorism in the massacre.
Yet motive is what distinguishes one type of homicide from another. A homicide victim is equally dead regardless of motive. But our legal system and moral code mandate that intent be taken into account when determining what, if any punishment should be accorded.
The omission of the terrorist motives in the Fort Hood massacre is resulting in the denial of purple hearts for the fallen soldiers, and a denial of medical benefits and financial compensation for the survivors.
Though the UCMJ does not have terrorism in its code as a possible charge, the military court could have waived jurisdiction, allowing Hasan to be prosecuted in Federal Court where a charge of domestic terrorism would have been in order.
Even if Hasan was not criminally charged with terrorism, the government could make a political determination that this was a terrorist act, allowing the victims to be properly compensated. DoD officials claimed that Hasan could have argued he couldn’t get a fair trial due to accusations of criminal liability.
However, Hasan has already admitted criminal guilt. Therefore, it is more likely that the government’s characterization of the massacre as workplace violence was made in line with its pattern of denial regarding Islamist ideology.
This Administration has rewritten all national security training material to delete all reference to Islamic terrorism and has launched an aggressive campaign of interfaith dialogue and “peer pressure and shaming” to stifle all debate on the issue of Islamism.
The Administration has also formed close alliances with Islamist organizations in a quest to silence all speech critical of Islam, in a manner tantamount to blasphemy codes.
Free speech constitutes a human right and is critical to maintaining the cause of freedom. It is especially important to allow open debate on the nature of national security threats and their motivational ideology.
Denying the threat of Islamic radicalism has consequences. Resulting policies hamper America’s ability to defeat those that wish us harm. Whether the Benghazi attacks, the Fort Hood massacre or other Islamic terrorist attacks, most Americans realize that purging the language does not eradicate threats.
This awareness does not apply to the Administration, however, where the folly continues.
This article was commissioned by The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.
Deborah Weiss, Esq. is a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine and the Washington Times. She is a contributing author of “Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011). A partial listing of her work can be found at www.vigilancenow.org.
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