Jeff Jacoby

When the US government's National Counterterrorism Center compiled its annual report for 2009, it didn't overlook the deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11.

"On 5 November 2009, at 1:30 PM, in Fort Hood, Texas," the report notes in its chronology of "high-fatality terrorist attacks" — those that took at least 10 lives — "an armed assailant entered the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center and opened fire, killing one civilian and 12 soldiers, wounding seven civilians, 17 soldiers, and 18 [other] people, and damaging the facility.… No group claimed responsibility, although authorities believed an unaffiliated Sunni extremist was responsible."

That "armed assailant" was Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who bluntly admits perpetrating that day's massacre as an act of war against the United States. On the first day of his court-martial this month, Hasan told jurors: "The evidence will clearly show I am the shooter." Military rules bar the accused in a court-martial from pleading guilty to a capital crime even if he wants to, so a plea of not guilty was entered on Hasan's behalf by the judge, Colonel Tara Osborne. But Hasan, who is representing himself, has consistently maintained that he slaughtered his Fort Hood comrades out of loyalty to jihadists in Afghanistan.

"I was on the wrong side of America's war, and I later switched sides," Hasan said in his opening statement. "We in the mujahideen are imperfect beings trying to establish a perfect religion." A few days before the court-martial got underway, Hasan disavowed his US citizenship and the oath he took as an Army officer. During a pretrial proceeding in June, Hasan told the judge he wished to mount a "defense of others" strategy in responding to the charges he faces. When Osborn asked whom he was defending, Hasan replied: "The leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — the Taliban."

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for