What exactly is the problem? Is it “politics” – which admittedly covers a lot of territory? Are national security secrets somehow implicated? Why has it taken nearly three years to bring Nidal Malik Hasan to trial for the 13 charges of murder and 32 charges of attempted murder at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009? It took a year to have the Article 32 proceeding that formally recommended charges. It took nearly that long for the general court martial to be convened and the trial date of March 2012 to be set. That trial date was continued to August 20.
Not being a fan of grand conspiracy, I tend to believe it is a combination of bureaucratic inefficiency and perhaps timidity, Hasan’s health as a result of being rendered permanently a paraplegic by police gunshots at the time of the incident, and of course, delays sought by defense lawyers (and I, of course, accept that they are doing their job). The fact that Eric Holder’s justice department declined to charge Hasan with terrorism could suggest a political angle, but perhaps the involvement of Justice might only have delayed the trial further. As far as national security goes, is it possible to get useful information from Hasan? What can he have had? If any of the bad guys killed by drones were targeted as a result of information received from him, it might have been worth the wait. But I doubt that.
Whatever Hasan’s defense might be, it would almost have to be some sort of diminished capacity: insanity, for example. After all, there is no question that he did the deed, or the circumstances of his acts. Dozens of people, saw him shoot and shoot at the victims. The gun he used was immediately recovered. He was shot and disabled by two police officer, one of whom Hasan seriously wounded. This is not a whodunit that depends upon analysis of circumstantial evidence or testimony from witnesses whose credibility, or ability to observe an isolated act in dim light, can reasonably be questioned. There is no claim or evidence of self defense.
One can argue that all of the legal wrangling and folderol is really beside the point. Hasan received a punishment many would consider worse than death at the scene. The court martial he might finally face on August 20 is authorized to consider a death penalty. He’ll probably be so sentenced, but, even though I support the death penalty for certain crimes and criminals, I am not sure he should be. For believing Christians, he could still be forgiven, even for his heinous crimes on earth if he accepts Jesus as his saviour and/or repents (depending on which version of Christianity is accepted) before he dies. If his professed Muslim beliefs are right, he’ll go to heaven as a reward for dispatching so many of the infidel. For those who believe physical death ends everything, the death penalty means he will be put out of his misery sooner than later. On the other hand, for those who wish Nidal to suffer, and I tend to be among them, spending the rest of his life as a paraplegic in a military prison, surely fills that bill.
As a practical person, though, I believe it is too bad the police officers who shot Hasan didn’t kill him on the spot, or the emergency medical care he received had been less efficient. That ongoing medical care is costly, and I understand that Hasan still receives his paycheck from the Army every month. Of course, the expenses of the court martial, including the defense costs are doubtless in the millions of dollars. Is spending all of the resources that represents worth it?