Cliff May

At Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009, 13 American military men and women were killed and more than 30 wounded by a man who proudly regarded himself as a “Soldier of Allah” and shouted “Allahu Akbar!” as he pulled the trigger over and over.

The military trial of Major Nidal Malik Hasan finally began last week. As Mark Steyn has pointed out, it took the U.S. less time to defeat the Japanese following the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor than it has taken to bring Hasan to court following the surprise attack at Fort Hood.

New York Times, for example, ran its story on the opening of the Hasan trial on page 13. The headline: “Lawyer Says Fort Hood Defendant’s Goal Is Death.”

“This has got to be torture,” the Times quotes law professor Geoffrey S. Corn as saying. He is not speaking about the victims or their families. He is not speaking about any emotion the attorneys might feel about defending an admitted and unrepentant mass murderer. He is speaking about how tough it is for lawyers who oppose capital punishment to have failed to persuade Hasan that it would be in his best interest to refrain from telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“Any lawyer who’s dismissed by his client and ordered to stay on the case as a standby counsel, it is probably one of the hardest things imaginable for a lawyer to do,” Corn added. “You have to sit there and watch your client make what you know are potentially mortal mistakes, and that’s agonizing.”

Speaking of agonizing mortal mistakes: Hasan, the 42-year-old American-born son of Palestinian immigrants, was educated as a psychiatrist (at the expense of U.S. taxpayers) and rose steadily through Army ranks (he continues to draw a salary to this day). Early and ample evidence that he was embracing radical religious doctrines was ignored by his superior officers, evidently because they feared being accused of Islamophobia.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.