The Associated Press reports from Fort Hood, Texas, that Maj. Nidal Hasan has been sentenced to death for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood.
My opposition to that sentence is not just because I oppose the death penalty – which I witnessed as a chaplain’s assistant at California’s San Quentin State Prison.
The AP also reported: “The sentence was one that Hasan also appeared to seek in a self-proclaimed effort to become a martyr. The American-born Muslim, who said he acted to protect Islamic insurgents abroad from American aggression, never denied killing 13 people at the Texas military base. In opening statements, he acknowledged that evidence would show he was the shooter. …”
That satisfaction, on the part of this Muslim extremist who in an earlier monumental scandal was awarded his M.D. and a U.S. Army commission, should be one reason why President Obama should commute this sentence to life, without possibility of parole.
And the president ought to move rapidly, given the fact that this virtual open-and-shut case of admitted mass murder has been in process for nearly four outrageous years.
Hasan could become the first American soldier executed in more than half a century. That this is what he so obviously desires – to be a Muslim sacrificial lamb – is all the more reason why he should be denied this aspiration and kept for life at Fort Leavenworth, to which he has been flown from Fort Hood.
Because of capital punishment, the military justice system requires a lengthy appeals process, which the AP estimates could be “‘years or even decades before he is put to death. … Hasan leaked documents to journalists that revealed he told military mental health workers in 2010 that he could ‘still be a martyr’ if executed by the government.”
Currently, the U.S. military has just five other prisoners on death row. No U.S. armed forces member has been executed since 1961. That is blessed news in that this means no U.S. service member has possibly been executed by mistake.
That is an inevitable possibility in the hands of fallible human beings who make up our courts’ prosecutors and prison wardens – who are obliged to preside over capital punishment’s absurd contention: that the way to show how much we oppose killing in cold blood is to do exactly that in front of witnesses.
But almost all of today’s comparatively few executions are done in the night – with none at all televised.
While there seems to be no doubt that Hasan is a mass murderer, it would also seem highly questionable to award him the martyrdom he so obviously longs for.