It took two hours for a jury composed of Majors and above to impose the death sentence on Nidal Hasan. Not surprising, considering the non-defense offered by Hasan, overwhelming evidence and the heartbreaking accounts of the lives lost, the cost borne by next of kin, and the continuing suffering endured by surviving victims testified to during the sentencing phase of Hasan’s court martial. Some of the testimony brought officers to the verge of tears.
Four long years after Hasan used an FN57 pistol to kill 13 unarmed soldiers and civilians (including an unborn child), justice has been decreed. Hasan told those caring for him that a death sentence would ensure he was a martyr. COL Mike Mulligan, the lead prosecutor disagreed. In his final statement he said: “You cannot offer what you don’t own; you cannot give away what is not yours. He can never be a martyr because he has nothing to give… Do not be misled; do not be confused; do not be fooled. He is not giving his life. We are taking his life. This is not his gift to God, it’s his debt to society. He will not now and will not ever be a martyr. He is a criminal, a cold-blooded murderer. On 5 November he did not leave this earth, he remained to pay a price. To pay a debt. The debt he owes is his life.” I cannot improve upon his eloquent and absolutely appropriate explanation as to why a death sentence was the best manner to deal with Hasan.
It will take years, if not decades, to carry out the execution as the decision and sentence winds its way through the military appeals process. Every day Hasan spends on death row at Leavenworth, an extremely segregated and select group, will be another day for him to suffer through as he sits in his wheelchair waiting to receive his sentence in full.
Victims of the Ft. Hood shooting will, unfortunately, continue suffering under the decision that the attack, which was carried out by a radical muslim targeting U.S. military personnel while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” was categorized as “workplace violence” and not a terrorist event. One of the reasons cited for the finding was the concern that calling it a terror event might sway a future trial. If that’s the case, the decision can now be revisited without that potential consequence.
Senior medical officers who failed to include Hasan’s radical beliefs in their evaluations of his service, likely due to concerns of being charged with discrimination in the military’s uber PC environment, were minimally punished with letters of reprimand. These letters stop future promotions but allowed them to continue serving, having already secured a military pension.
A worse injustice was that the FBI did nothing to their agents who ignored a number of alarming and disturbing electronic communications between Hasan and al-Awlaki, a radical American suspected of being involved in the 911 attacks.
The FBI actually has never answered satisfactorily why al-Awlaki was not arrested upon his return to the U.S. In the end, the evidence was enough to see his demise inside the smoking remains of a car struck by Hellfire missiles in Yemen. The FBI’s bungling of the Hasan investigation, and decision to not notify the Army or Hasan’s superiors of his correspondence with al-Awlaki, contributed to the litany of errors before it that eventually allowed Hasan to kill so many.
So 12 years after 9/11, we have evidence of government officials who fail to realize that, while radical Islam is at war with us, we remain on a peacetime footing.