By Colbert I. King
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" (Arabic for "God is great") before shooting his fellow service members at Fort Hood, Tex., woke up in his hospital bed with the presence of mind to suspend his personal jihad long enough to get lawyered up. No fool he.
Better to rest religiosity for a while and embrace the right to remain silent until your mouthpiece reaches your bedside. After all, they can't get you for what you don't say.
But the day will come, as it must, when Maj. Hasan will have to account for the premeditated murder of 13 people, as the Army has charged, and his alleged wounding of more than 30 others. There have been other mass murderers, but Hasan's rampage at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Nov. 5 sets him apart.
To be sure, Cleveland's suspected serial killer and registered sex offender Anthony Sowell has lived up to his monster label, with the remains of 10 women having been found around his home.
Seung Hui Cho's massacre of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech in 2007 rightly earned him the title of the America's worst mass murderer of the year.
But Nidal Malik Hasan's alleged killing spree gives him special status simply because his actions involved not only violence: His was an act of unforgivable betrayal.
What Hasan unleashed at the shooting scene was tantamount to a teacher opening fire on the classroom, a cop shooting down fellow officers at roll call, a church deacon blasting away during communion.
Hasan, trained and called upon to help relieve suffering, instead heaped suffering upon the unsuspecting. He was an assassin in place.
Driven by what?
Pat Robertson, to no one's surprise, got it wrong when he blamed the Fort Hood rampage on Islam. He declared on his show, "The 700 Club," that Hasan's religion is a "violent political system bent on the overthrow of governments of the world and world domination."
If Robertson had his way, America would treat Muslims as "members of the Communist Party, members of some fascist group."
That makes about as much sense as condemning Christianity because some leaders of anti-Jewish pogroms in Europe were Christians, or because defenders of slavery and racial segregation could be found in church on Sunday mornings.
Yes, probe the extent to which Hasan was motivated by his religious beliefs-- "twisted logic," President Obama called it. Find out if he was influenced to pull the trigger by Islamic spiritual leaders who preached that the United States is at war with Muslims. Determine the extent to which Hasan trucked with religious extremists. Bring him before the bar of justice.
But even without a trial, some judgments can be made about him without fear of contradiction. That's certainly true for those of us who served in the armed forces.
Measure Maj. Hasan against the standards of the Army's Seven Core Values. Do that, and it becomes clear that, a jury's verdict notwithstanding, Hasan has failed on every score that matters most to those with whom he served.
Loyalty? Hasan wore the uniform but he did not bear true faith and allegiance to his fellow soldiers. His devotion was to himself and his version of his beliefs. He had no loyalty to the Army.
Duty? He wanted to renege on his obligations and abandon his responsibilities. He said yes to medical training, but no to being part of a team deployed overseas.
Respect? He claimed not to get any, even as he failed to treat others with the dignity and respect due them. Thirteen caskets and 38 victims with bullet wounds tell the tale.
Selfless service? "Go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how you can add to the effort" is the way the Army puts it. The country's welfare matters. Hasan put his own above that of the Army or his comrades.
Honor? There was no honor in what he did. Hasan sat in the readiness center, deceiving others into believing he was one of them.
Integrity? His piety was demolished by his immoral, criminal and hate-filled behavior.
Personal courage? It took no physical courage to open fire on the unprotected. Where is the moral courage in seeking refuge in Miranda protection after a murderous rampage?
For the formal charges, Hasan will be tried in a court of law. But a verdict on him as a sworn military officer already can be rendered.
"We're never so vulnerable," wrote artist and author Walter Anderson, "than when we trust someone."
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan betrayed that trust. That is his unforgivable sin.