By now, the trial of Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal Hasan should have concluded with him beginning a life sentence—or awaiting a more appropriate sentence—at Fort Leavenworth. As this issue goes to press, the court martial is in full swing. Some quite remarkable statements have been heard in the courtroom that should push Army leadership toward the correct decision regarding the victims of the horrific events of 5 November 2009.
Immediately after the shooting that claimed the lives of 13 soldiers and wounded more than 30 others, the incident was classified by Department of Defense and administration officials as workplace violence. According to several media outlets, this resulted in survivors being ineligible for thousands of dollars in benefits they would have received had the shooting been classified an act of terrorism.
Determining exactly what took place would have been difficult immediately after the attack, but eyewitness accounts quickly revealed the shooter, before he began firing on defenseless soldiers, yelled an Arabic/Islamic phrase common among terrorists. Giving DOD and administration officials the benefit of the doubt—something I hesitate to do in such a clear-cut situation—this phrase is recited by Muslims in many situations and is not itself an indication of violent intent. Uttering it immediately before committing mass murder, however, clearly indicated the intent to inflict terror.
DOD has long resisted awarding the Fort Hood victims the Purple Heart, arguing that to do so would require classifying the event as terrorism, which in turn would “materially and directly compromise . . . Hasan’s ability to receive a fair trial” (Department of Defense Language Position Paper, FY13 Defense Authorization Bill). That argument is invalid on its face and insulting to the victims. The DOD had no problem stating Hasan was merely a violent co-worker, an equally prejudicial statement. By that logic, classifying the attack as anything other than alleged murder was inappropriate. In spite of these arguments, the shooter himself removed all doubt about the events that day through his own comments while representing himself at court martial.
Hasan never denied being the shooter, so his guilt was never in question. But he has now stated that he is a mujahideen, an Islamic guerrilla fighter. He did not commit workplace violence, but rather an intentional act of terror against American soldiers with the explicit purpose of using “dead bodies [to] show that war is an ugly thing” and to prevent those troops from deploying to the Middle East. These are the words of a terrorist—a combatant and enemy of the United States—not a disgruntled employee.
The shooter brought the war against radical Islamic fundamentalism to our shores. He committed an act of terrorism and levied war against his own country. In doing so, he did not just commit murder and terrorism; he committed an act of treason for which he should have been tried.
Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution defines treason, in part, as levying war against or adhering to enemies of the United States. Hasan did both that fateful day. He was and is a self-professed adherent to radical Islamic fundamentalism in general and to the teachings of a specific enemy, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by an American drone strike in 2011.
The victims of the Fort Hood shooting were killed and wounded by an enemy of the United States. It is difficult to comprehend how a soldier could attack other soldiers, but it is clear the shooter did exactly that, and his motivation for doing so is unambiguous.
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh must, in the face of such clear evidence, fulfill his responsibility and declare the actions of Nidal Hasan an act as terrorism. The victims deserve all the benefits for which such designation would make them eligible.
The court martial soon will be over, and no statement from the Department of the Army could now influence the fairness of those proceedings. The service must draft Purple Heart citations for those killed and wounded in the Fort Hood shooting. Ceremonies to present the medals to the survivors and family members of those lost must take place without delay. Our soldiers, lost and wounded in action, on our shores as overseas, deserve no less.