On Wednesday, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who had opened fire in Fort Hood four years ago and admitted to killing 13 unarmed people was sentenced to death by a jury.
Even though Hasan was in touch with Al Qaeda top brass, and had asked them whether jihadists went to heaven, and even though he himself admitted he switched sides in the war of US against Islam, his rampage has been classified as workplace violence and not a terror attack.
This has allowed the army to save a huge amount of money, and deprive victims and their families of the just compensation and other benefits they would have received, had the attack been recognized as a terror attack.
And for now, you have a death penalty for workplace violence.
Fort Hood victims had been categorically denied a status of being victims of a terrorist attack in April when the Pentagon said that they could not be given Purple Hearts as it would “irrevocably alter the fundamental character of this time-honored decoration.”
Considering that the story does not end here and there is a long and tortuous process, ultimately leading to the desk of the President of America, who has to give his assent on the death penalty of a soldier on active duty, – death for Hasan seems unlikely – and for engaging in workplace violence, remote.
When Hasan tried to plead that he had acted to protect Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, the judge barred him from making such an argument – that would have created a situation where denying the terror connection would have become impossible for the authorities.
It is a little bit difficult to understand why this was not a terrorist attack at par with what happened in 9/11. The scale is different, but the malicious intention is not much different in nature.
The entire concept of crime revolves around mens rea or criminal intention – and Hasan was not allowed to argue and establish the intention for which he committed the crimes (for Islamic jihad and to protect Taliban leaders), because that would have aligned his actions incontrovertibly with that of a terrorist.
And that would have meant Purple Hearts for the victims (including a pregnant soldier) and greater compensation and benfits for them and their families.