Will justice ever come for the victims of Nidal Hasan?
It’s around 5,000 miles from El-Bireh, a dirty little administrative center for the Palestinian Authority bureaucracy, to Kileen, Texas. A year after Nidal Hasan opened fire in Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 29, a public square in El-Bireh was dedicated to Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who took part in the murder of 38 Israelis, including 13 children.
El-Bireh may one day yet dedicate a public square to Nidal Hasan, the most famous of its sons, but for now Hasan sits in Bell County Jail, where the Texas weather is twenty degrees warmer than back in El-Bireh, and the families of his victims sit in their own jails, waiting for Hasan to finally be brought to trial.
The Fort Hood courthouse was being boarded up two years ago for the hearings that have dragged on. Fences were added, windows were covered over and the court was made wheelchair accessible as a courtesy for Nidal Hasan, not for any of his victims, like Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who in the time that Hasan has sat waiting for a trial, has managed to learn to walk again.
Every year the cost of keeping Hasan locked up runs about half a million dollars, payable by the army to the county. That’s over a million dollars in the last two years. Where does all that money go?
Nidal Hasan’s living quarters are not exactly those of the ordinary prisoner. He has a handicap accessible shower in his cell, along with his own bathroom, and a bed with an air mattress. Those are better conditions than those of veterans in many VA hospitals, who describe everything from blood spills to fecal matter, and who would welcome the kind of facilities that a murderer of American soldiers enjoys.
Hasan’s defense team has relied on one tactic, endless requests for postponements in a delaying game that has gone on for years. After all their delaying tactics, the trial is scheduled for August of this year. Whether it will actually take place then is another matter.
Faced with an unwinnable case, public anger and a difficult client—Hasan’s defenders have stalled for time, hoping that public interest will die down and that their client will become more cooperative at playing the part they need him to play. An insanity defense would be their best shot, but a jihadist like Hasan is not likely to welcome being portrayed as a madman.
The endgame of the defense is to keep Hasan from receiving the death penalty. That’s why a capital mitigation specialist has been digging into Nidal Hasan’s biography looking for a way to unbalance the scales of justice. The mitigation specialist has led to more delays and a quarter million dollar bill to the government for his services on Hasan’s behalf.
Sooner or later Hasan will face some small amount of justice, but it will not be until the defense team has wrung every last billable hour and every dubious claim out of the process, while the families of the dead stand by and wait. If Hasan gets the death penalty, then he will eventually be executed. More likely though he will spend another thirty years in a room with a private shower, with regular visits from a physical therapist, and more comforts than a man in his condition would enjoy out of prison. While the Obama Administration slashes Tricare benefits for veterans, Hasan has nothing to worry about.
Nidal Hasan had told Anwar Al-Awlaki that he couldn’t wait to join him in Islamic paradise, but for now his paradise is taxpayer hell, as the men he tried to kill are forced to help foot the bill for his daily comforts. Meanwhile the years pass.
To the Obama administration’s misfortune, the shooting happened on an army base by a terrorist who was serving as a military psychiatrist, making it impossible to move him into the civilian court system. But it has done its part by refusing to recognize him as an Islamic terrorist, or a terrorist of any kind. Instead the Fort Hood Massacre was classified as “workplace violence.”
In a strange twist of terminology, Dalal Mughrabi is considered a terrorist, but Nidal Hasan is not. Al-Qaeda, in the person of Anwar Al-Awlaki, was willing to claim Hasan, but the Obama administration was not willing to let them have him. Not only was the Obama administration unwilling to concede that Hasan, whose business cards identified him as a “Soldier of Allah,” was a terrorist, but it was equally unwilling to concede that the soldiers he attacked deserved Purple Heart medals for being wounded in the service of their country.
Inside the massive heft of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, buried in sections 551 and 552, was a small attempt to honor the fighting men and women of the armed forces confronting the terrorist threat of Islam, despite the unwillingness of the authorities to recognize its existence.
Section 551 modified the terms under which the Prisoner of War Medal is granted, amending the original text, which reads, “By foreign armed forces that are hostile to the United States,” to eliminate the “Hostile to the United States” part. This was not done because non-hostile armed forces are likely to take American soldiers prisoner, but because giving the medal requires overcoming the refusal of our government to concede that the people taking American soldiers prisoner are hostile.
Section 552 awarded the Purple Heart to the soldiers who had been wounded at Fort Hood and in the Muslim terrorist attack against the recruiting station in Little Rock, Arkansas. In recognition of the deeply perverse mindset the legislation was up against, 552 included an exception, preventing the medal from going to someone like Nidal Hasan, who perpetrated an attack.
In its long list of objections to the NDAA, the Obama Administration took special exception to the idea of giving Purple Hearts to the soldiers wounded at Fort Hood and Little Rock, describing them as “shooting incidents,” not terrorist attacks.
The initial investigation into the attacks had focused on Hasan’s mosque and his Islamic connections, but that investigation, like the one that might have prevented the attack, was quickly short-circuited. The case has been kept simple by the prosecution, but complicated by the defense, which is still digging through piles of documents, searching for a defense.
By the time the trial begins, it will have been nearly three years since the initial charges were filed against Nidal Hasan. His defenders have tried to close the hearings to the public and to delay the case as long as possible. The Obama administration has tried to hide the terrorist nature of the attacks. Like the dirt heaped on the graves of the dead, the hope is to hide away what happened until everyone forgets.
And in a cell in Texas, a soldier of Allah lies on his air mattress, waiting for rivers of honey and mountains of musk, for silver palaces and the obligatory seventy-two virgins, “dark-eyed,” “chaste as hidden pearls” with “rounded breasts.” While his victims suffer, he waits for paradise.
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