Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan deserves the death penalty for perpetrating the Nov. 5, 2009, Fort Hood massacre. He has earned this penalty not only for the scale of his crime - the worst domestic attack on a military installation in American history, killing 13 and wounding 32 - but also for the purposeful way he planned and executed the assault, his jihadist motives and for the fundamental betrayal of the trust placed in him as an officer in the United States Army.
Witness testimony at the ongoing Article 32 hearings in a military court at Fort Hood paints a harrowing picture of Hasan as a heartless, ideologically motivated killer. The judge, Col. James Pohl, has asked for testimony from all the wounded survivors of the attack. Hasan was heavily armed, with over 300 rounds of ammunition, of which he expended at least 146. He did not fire randomly but carefully chose targets with a laser sight before firing multiple rounds into his panicked, unarmed victims. He showed no mercy to them, and deserves none himself.
Maj. Steven Richter, who testified via webcam from his current post in South Korea, recalled telling the police, “He’s one of us.” But more accurately, Hasan is one of them, an al Qaeda-inspired Islamic extremist who prefaced his assault with the jihadist war cry “Allahu Akbar!” His fateful moment was facilitated by a string of intelligence failures and oversights motivated by an overweening and persistent sense of political correctness in the military establishment.
It was known before the attack that Hasan had been in contact with al Qaeda religious leader Anwar al-Awlaki, asking his advice about the finer points of jihad. He had expressed extremist views to fellow soldiers, even including them in a briefing he gave on Islam. This dangerous Islamist perspective was reported but ignored. The Obama administration’s “force protection review” of the Fort Hood massacre glosses over these critical facts, but the attack cannot be understood without them.
Hasan is being hailed by al Qaeda as a hero, not just for perpetrating mass murder but for his example of the kind of low-tech, spontaneous, individual violence al Qaeda believes would be more effective against America than spectacular attacks. The fall 2010 issue of Inspire, al Qaeda’s English-language glossy magazine, praises Hasan’s killing spree as “heroic” and notes that, “whoever may add himself to this great list should do so and we ask Allah to grant them success.”
By the time he opened fire on his fellow troops, Hasan was indistinguishable from any other al Qaeda operative. In his mind, in his heart, in his blackened soul, he was our enemy. He deserves no mercy for this depth of betrayal, not just to the troops who worked beside him and trusted him, but to the country that nurtured him and placed him in such a high position of responsibility.