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article imageOp-Ed: The Trial of Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan

By Johnny Simpson     Nov 12, 2009 in Crime
It is a good thing Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan survived his killing spree at Fort Hood. Maybe at his trial we'll get some answers, and under oath. What were his motivations? What did his colleagues, the Army and DHS know about him? And when did they know it?
Regardless of motivation, it is rare for spree mass murderers to survive their rampages. They usually don't surrender. Most go out in a blaze of gunfire, as though suicide by cop is embedded in the act. Or, as in the case of suicide bombers, the death of the bomber is implicit in the crime. Hence the moniker.
Only the rare suicide bombers who are caught before they can commit their atrocity, or fail to detonate, live long enough to answer key questions as to the five W's and one H. If Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan had perished in his shooting rampage at Fort Hood on November 5th, a lot of questions would have been left hanging in the air. As happens when most senseless mass murders in history end in the death of the perpetrator.
Fortunately, Dr. Hasan is still alive to answer our many questions. Like why did he do it? In Dr. Hasan's case, did he do it because he suffered from a form of 'secondhand PTSD' from listening to the horror stories of returning war veterans? Did he just snap? Was he taunted with slurs like 'camel jockey' and other anti-Muslum and anti-Arab epithets from fellow soldiers? Was it because he was vehemently opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a war against Islam and fellow Muslims as he stated? Because somebody keyed his car? Or was it a combination of the lot?
Those seem to be the prevailing questions in many mainstream media outlets such as ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post. Other media outlets like FOX News, the New York Post and conservative pundits Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin have been opining on what appears to be Dr. Hasan's radical behavior and statements, and are calling the Fort Hood massacre a terror attack driven by the same Islamist extremism that is to blame for 9/11 and the Mumbai, London, Bali and Madrid atrocities. They believe that premise is reinforced by witness allegations that Dr. Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar!" just before he gunned down fifty-four people.
That same chasm in opinion appears to be manifesting itself within the political divide in Washington as well. President Obama has asked Americans not to jump to conclusions as to Dr. Hasan's motivations, and never once mentioned the word terrorism since the event. Yet that is exactly what Congressmen like Rep. Peter Hoekstra and Sen. Joe Lieberman are calling it, going so far as to demand Congressional hearings on the incident. Rep. Hoekstra has even complained that the White House has been blocking his preliminary investigations into the matter. So who is right? Who is wrong? Who is telling the truth? Who is not?
And that is why it is a good thing Dr. Hasan is alive and talking, and likely to recover and stand trial or court-martial for the crimes he has been accused of. And it really doesn't matter how he answers under oath. Whether he is remorseful and cooperative as he lists a catalog of internal and external torments that would drive any sane person mad, or chooses irrational defiance and attempts to justify the Fort Hood slaughter through the prism of his alleged Islamist extremist beliefs, we will get some answers as to his motivations. Yet that is not even the main benefit of a trial. Had Dr. Hasan died, there would be no trial.
I would even prefer Dr. Hasan pursue an insanity defense. In that case, DHS, the FBI, the CIA, and the faculty and administration members at Walter Reed who knew of Dr. Hasan would have to answer all the troubling questions that linger, in court and under oath. Did Dr. Hasan's colleagues at Walter Reed really hold a conference to determine if Dr. Hasan was possibly psychotic? What did the FBI know about radical imam and suspected Al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki at the time Dr. Hasan contacted him on numerous occasions, and who has since praised Dr. Hasan's atrocity at Fort Hood as a bold and honorable act?
Will those emails from Dr. Hasan to al-Awlaki be entered into the record at trail for all to see? What did the Army and DoD know about all this, and when did they know it? Who in the CIA, DHS and other investigative agencies knew about Dr. Hasan, and when? And why didn't anyone connect the dots? Were there failures of inter-agency communications similar to those preceding the 9/11 attacks? If so, why do we still have this problem eight years on? Are politically correct government policies partly to blame, as some of Dr. Hasan's colleagues have indicated in responding to confidentially sourced press inquiries like those posted at NPR?
In many ways, Dr. Hasan's trial will be a 9/11 Commission Report-scale investigation. Only the perpetrator survived the ordeal, so now we'll get some answers under oath. All involved may not be telling the whole truth in order to protect themselves today, but during the trial they must tell the truth or face loss of careers and possibly their freedom if they suborn perjury. And that is why Dr. Hasan's trial will be a very good thing. It is also why that trial should be open to the media and not take place behind closed doors.
We Americans have suffered a great tragedy. We deserve to know the whole truth. Let the chips fall where they may. And that, perhaps, is the greatest asset we Americans possess: a robust and no-holds-barred justice system where the truth is laid bare, be you peasant or President. Even Nixon couldn't fix things his way with a US Supreme Court he had nominated four appointees to. In fact, in United States v. Nixon, the ruling was unanimous against him 8-0. He was forced to resign. That is the power of the American law and justice system. No one with dirty hands is safe. It is not as common around the world as one might think.
And maybe, if we're lucky, we'll extract perhaps the only good that may come from the Fort Hood tragedy, to wit enough information from the trail of Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan to draw reasoned conclusions, then implement reforms and procedures throughout government, the Armed Forces and the mental health professions to correct mistakes and make changes that may prevent future tragedies like Fort Hood before they happen. That outcome alone would be worth every minute spent in court forcing the truth of the matter out. As Michelle Malkin is so fond of saying, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." I second that emotion.
As a most relevant aside, I would highly recommend fellow DJ Carol Forsloff's most recent and remarkable post, "Muslim Community Responds to the Fort Hood Killings." I must confess that since 9/11 I have had enduring suspicions of the entire religion of Islam and those who practice it, given the damage extremist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamist regimes like Iran have inflicted on the world. That is misdirection at its worst. Just as Scott Roeder and Fred Phelps' WBC are not representative of Christianity, radical Islamist extremists are not representative of Islam. Muslims are warring with them, too. Once someone begins promoting wanton violence upon the innocent, they are no longer within the realm of any religion. They leave their religion behind to pursue an extremist ideology and defile their religion with bloody acts in its name.
As so profoundly expressed in Ms. Forsloff's great report, a key tenet of Mr. Khurshid Khan's interview is this: "He who saves one life saves the world entire." I now believe most Muslims like Mr. Khan, who is US-born and a 21-year Army veteran, live by that credo as I do, and I am not even religious. As a veteran myself, Mr. Khan is a member of my Band of Brothers. I respect his words. The real problem in this world, regardless of Dr. Hasan's testimony in court, is extremism of any stripe that practices and preaches wanton violence, be it an individual, group or state. Let's focus our efforts in confronting and eradicating murderous extremism, and not persecuting innocent Muslims who suffer the worst of it through terror attacks, bloodstained apostates violating their religion, and lingering suspicions that all Muslims are like Osama bin Laden. They are not. If they were, we would be suffering Fort Hoods and 9/11s on a daily basis.
Food for thought. Bon appetit!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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