A trial is finally underway just north of here for an incident of “workplace violence” that occurred at Ft. Hood Military Base in Texas on November 5, 2009.
That day, Army Major Nidal Hasan killed thirteen soldiers, including a pregnant soldier, and wounded 30 others. At the time of the shooting and since then, he has made clear that his intentions were to kill as many U.S. service members as he could in support of the Taliban. A report provided to the court evaluating his sanity notes that he’d even considered Ft. Benning, Georgia, as the venue for his rampage. Evidently, his particular “workplace” wasn’t as much concern to him as the fact that he carry out the murder of as many members of the American military as he could.
Since he’s elected to represent himself, as the trial began, he gave a brief opening statement in which he described himself as “mujahedeen” and stated that the “evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.”
Yesterday, an attorney appointed to monitor the trial in the event he requests intervention of counsel later complained to the court that he appears by his actions to be trying to get the death penalty. In the meantime, the Pentagon is bending over backwards to assure that Hasan gets a fair trial.
For example, they assert that it is because they do not want to presume him “criminally culpable” prior to trial that they are refusing to give the soldiers killed and wounded in the rampage the Purple Heart. Supposedly, it is also the reason his actions are being referred to as “workplace violence.” To refer to this as terrorism would supposedly unfairly prejudice his trial.
Funny, but if this trial is about workplace violence, it’s like no other similar trial in our history. The courtroom where this is all taking place is fortified against missile attacks. I can’t remember another trial where an individual gunned down his co-workers in such a way that the entire proceedings required actual military protection.
Twisting themselves into knots to pretend this is workplace violence so as not to jeopardize the rights of a confessed killer who appears bent on getting the death penalty anyway is hard to swallow. It’s like seeing a country’s military take out an elected government and not call it a coup. Oh wait, we did that, too. Well, we have our reasons just as we appear to have developed some legal rationale for calling this act “workplace violence.”
While all of this may meet some legal requirement (and given Hasan’s behavior so far at trial, I’m not sure it does), it utterly fails ethically and morally because of the impact this is all having on the victims who, by the way, are part of our volunteer army.
This is because this entire charade is essentially victimizing those who were killed or injured on that day all over again.
For starters, victims and their relatives have repeatedly been denied awarding of the Purple Heart for their heroism. According to the Pentagon, to give these individuals the Purple Heart would “irrevocably alter the fundamental character of this time-honored decoration.” They also argue that to provide such an award for “domestic criminal acts or domestic terror attacks would be a dramatic departure.”
What’s interesting about this is that the members of the military killed and injured in the Pentagon attack on September 11th received the Purple Heart. Evidently, a law passed in the 1980’s makes an exception if one is the victim of a foreign initiated attack.
By denying these soldiers the Purple Heart, the Pentagon is also preventing them access to the types of funding and medical treatment they would otherwise receive if their injuries were deemed combat related.
To add insult to injury, the circus that is the Hasan trial leaves open the possibility that each of the surviving soldiers called upon to tell their story in open court are now subject to cross examination by none other than Major Hassan himself acting as his own attorney. It’s bad enough they have to even look at him much less be subject to his questioning.
When it comes to the law, facts can make a huge difference. So let’s consider an example.
What if it wasn’t one but a group of U.S. soldiers who decided to support a terrorist organization and what if this same group carried out an assault at a United States army base killing hundreds of brave service members? Would this be deemed workplace violence? I highly doubt it, and if so, then the law needs to change.
Let’s hope justice is finally done in this case, and let’s also hope that for the remainder of this trial the true victims in this case are treated with far more care and compassion than has been exhibited thus far.
Finally, if there is a legal way to make it happen, let’s see each of those brave soldiers finally receive a much deserved Purple Heart.