Monday, April 15, 2013

Army readies epic soldier-on-soldier murder trial

I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it... - Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms

Killeen – Old hands at the world's largest military installation are also old hands at waging war in the world's largest theater of operations – the Global War On Terrorism.

Most of them say not much has changed at Ft. Hood since the day when an Army psychiatrist the Jewish Defense Organization called “the all-American Palestinian” gunned down and murdered 13 unarmed people right outside his office door at the Soldier Readiness Center.

Located in a sprawling complex once used as a sports complex, the center is an assembly line operation that clears combatants for takeoff, making sure their inoculations are up to date, their wills are up to date and on file, their group life insurance beneficiary information forms are accurate, and their pay records are in order.

Major Abu Nidal Malik Hasan is also charged with the attempted murder of 32 other people as they worked or waited in line at the Soldier Readiness Center to be deployed, or re-deployed, to the war in Afghanistan – or Iraq.

One thing to which everyone you talk to has long ago agreed is that it's taking far too long for justice to reach out and touch Major Hasan. Most cannot contain themselves; they blurt out murderous intentions toward him as casually as they would express a fond desire for the Rangers to make it all the way to the World Series this season.

It's a given.

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday, April 16, a new judge will rule on a battery of defense pre-trial motions, including the hair on the shrink's chinny chin chin, a personal grooming choice he says he adopted for religious purposes – or preferences.


The former judge said it is disruptive for a soldier to break Army regulations by wearing a beard. He got overruled, finally, after many months during which the case languished in the Army Court of Appeals, and the new judge, Col. Tara Osborn, has decided it's not that big a deal.

Colonel Osborn turned down defense motions for special sentencing due to Major Hasan's religious proclivities.

Murder by religious fatwa is no affirmative defense in the American military's law books.

She will also hear arguments from defense counsel regarding suppression of evidence after ruling that not only is the Army appeals court's stricture against the forcible shaving of the beard a matter of constitutional law, but the military law that allows either a death sentence, or life imprisonment without possibility of parole is up to constitutional scrutiny, as well.

She has scheduled seating a jury in the General Court Martial by May 29, and a beginning of testimony in the case in chief on July 1 as the government examines some 300 witnesses, many of whom testified in pretrial hearings that they locked eyes with the accused murderer as he mowed people down with one of the world's most powerful semiautomatic handguns.

So, what's really on trial?

From a power point presentation Hasan made on Jihad
America's ability to defend herself against a gnawing, insidious onslaught of terror.

This is the war that not only saddled up and came riding roughshod into your living room on a daily basis; it also invaded your kids' consciousness in a myriad of video games designed to reduce the novelty of anything rare or unique, startling, or in the slightest way unusual about the kind of nerve-shattering, mind-blowing violence with which the war of terror and counter terror is fought.

Operant conditioning on the grand scale is an art and science aimed at reducing the incidence of mind-numbing, reflex-destroying post traumatic stress disorder that can render a battle-hardened trooper useless after repeated deployments.

After all, there are few among us who have not boarded a jetliner for a jaunt or junket to home, school, grandma's house, or a stint at fighting in some war or the other. Almost no one in our nation has never boarded an express elevator for a quick trip to the lofty perches that top our cities' skyscrapers.

After you sat there on your couch and watched the twin towers topple and the people leaping into space to escape the flames, there is nothing all that surprising about what comes afterward.

There you have it. Major Hasan's access to means and opportunity to commit the crimes for which he is accused are foregone conclusions.

His motives, on the other hand, are the stuff of Kipling's day, the one in which east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet - minus the romance.

In this story, no noble war lord of the Islamic jihad will come forward to detail his son to fight alongside the noble young westerners bent on revenge.

They are diametrically opposed, no doubt. The Army is calling it violence in the work place.

Raised in a Palestinian family from the West Bank town of Ramallah, Major Hasan spent his entire adult life in the U.S. Army. He went to school most of the time following his enlistment in 1988, when he served as a Private First Class at The National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California, a desert outpost located in a Mojave hell hole between Vegas and Barstow.
The National Training Center at Ft. Irwin

He studied science at an on-post community college while he served his time there.

They trained the Rangers who routed Saddam Hussein's Army at Baghdad in mock-up cities complete with mosques and outdoor markets at Ft. Irwin. Here they proved out unmanned aerial vehicle strike capabilities in real time and under actual combat conditions.

When he finished his hitch in California, he kept at his education at a community college back in his home town, the District of Columbia and its suburbs. Then he split for Roanoke and got a B.S. with honors in biochemistry at Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences before getting a medical degree at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Silver Spring, Maryland. He did a residency in psychiatry at Walter Reed.

During that 10-year odyssey, he attended local mosques as a devout follower of the Islamic faith. According to a fatwa issued by the Islamic Graduate School of Social Sciences, “We abide by every law of this country except those laws that are contradictory to Islamic law.”

During the six months prior to his attack, Maj. Hasan posted numerous articles on-line in which he constantly affirmed his jihadist belief that a suicide bomber is like a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save his comrades' lives.

It's a doctrine readily taught and absorbed by Al Qaeda's fighters.

Maj. Hasan sent numerous e-mails to Anwar al-Awlaki, the former Imam of the Dar al Hijal Mosque at Falls Church, Virginia, with whom he studied in 2001, a time when al-Awlaki similarly preached to and taught three of the Arabic suicide jockeys who piloted the jetliners into the twin towers of New York and the Pentagon of D.C.

He wrote an impassioned e-mail to al-Awlaki, saying that he could hardly wait to join him in eternity. The gum shoes concluded it was code for something much deeper, that perhaps he had already crossed some dividing line in his mind.

It's a valid point in the social psychology on the subject, in which most researchers believe the primary Islamic resentment is directed against puppet dictator governments enabled by American interests, and that Muslims' rage is only secondarily aimed at Americans.

At any rate, Maj. Hasan was conducting research into a Master's thesis in public health on “Disaster and Preventive Psychiatry.”

The Army, seeing no sinister plot, failed to investigate. In the aftermath, nearly a dozen top officers faced disciplinary hearings over the matter.

Command and Control Vehicle tested at Ft. Irwin
Following Maj. Hasan's attack, al-Awlaki wrote on his website, “Nidal Hassan is a hero.... The U.S. is leading the war against terrorism, which in reality is a war against Islam..... Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the U.S. army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.”

The CIA targeted al-Awlaki, a native American citizen, in a drone attack last September. They killed him with rockets as he rode in a convoy of pickup trucks. Two weeks later, they got his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman in a similar desert attack in their native Yemen.

Maj. Hasan had a job to do at the Soldier Readiness Center. He certified those who complained of PTSD from their combat experiences to be ready to go back into battle, regardless of their complaints of shot nerves and fits of rage, sleepless nights, chronic alcoholism and drug abuse, and a growing dependence on serotonin reuptake inhibitors, muscle relaxers, and other psychotropic cocktails he and other Army doctors prescribe to keep the front line fit and fighting.

But he was on his way to a deployment in Afghanistan, something against which he protested – to no avail – when he drove to his office and opened up with the pistol.

He would have been one of 1.64 million deployed since 9/11 – a group among whom those who enlisted prior to age 25 are seven times more likely to develop PTSD and in whom 97% who suffered childhood trauma and violence against civilians and prisoners are likely to succumb to the lifelong affliction, according to studies by the Rand Corporation(click) and psychological journals(click).

So it goes.

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