The sham trial of U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan goes on at the sprawling Fort Hood Army base in central Texas. Located near the city of Killeen in the Edwards Plateau geographical area of Texas, Fort Hood sits in an arid, sparsely settled, region that is suitable mostly for grazing.
So along with the domesticated animals that populate the region, the Army, too, was forced by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to go grazing. Grazing that is for a judge in Hasan’s trial, one who would bow to political correctness.
The first judge assigned to the trial, Col. Gregory Gross, was removed by the military appeals court because he was demanding Maj. Hasan — who had been permitted by the Army to grow a beard during the unconscionably-long, four-year delay in going to trial — comply with Army grooming and appearance standards and shave. Hasan was refusing to shave and Gross, rightfully, threatened to have him forcibly shaved.
It’s pretty simple. If you want to join our volunteer armed forces, you agree to comply with the military’s grooming standards regardless of any personal, religious, or cultural idiosyncrasies you may desire to display. In the Army (or the Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Navy for that matter) beards are not permitted. Col. Tara Osborn, apparently more pliable than Judge Gross and appointed to replace him as Hasan’s judge, ruled in pre-trial hearings late last year that Hasan could continue to disregard appropriate military standards and disobey legal military orders and keep his beard.
While photographs of Hasan in his ongoing trial have not been published, courtroom artists have penned accurate drawings of a scraggly, unkempt, and unmilitary Hasan permitted to wear an Army uniform along with his illegal and illogical beard. Osborn’s submissive refusal to force him to square himself away, comply with Army grooming standards, and look like a soldier during his trial both disrespect the Army uniform and dishonor the millions of soldiers that preceded and will follow Hasan in U.S. Army service.
This display of political correctness by the Army is at best cowardly and at worst sets a precedent for any number of soldiers to use the "Hasan Defense" in deciding that their individualistic personal desires transcend that which is good for the whole Army.
And there’s another problem with the Army’s show of weakness in this matter. By permitting Hasan to sport a beard, his appearance mocks the uniform and the Army’s traditions of being well-turned out, organized, and "STRAC" — as the Army calls being sharp and squared away. And regardless of the instructions to the jury by Osborn to disregard Hasan’s appearance in deciding the verdict, the reality is that his appearance, permitted to remain as such by Osborn and like it or not, invokes that of a "typical" Muslim terrorist. Profiling shmofiling. That’s exactly what Hasan is: a typical Muslim terrorist.
This fact and the likelihood that the jurors will be influenced by Hasan’s appearance notwithstanding Osborn’s flaccid instructions, could be used by the defense in what is sure to be a long process of appeals should he be found guilty of murder and awarded the death penalty. The Hasan defense team: "My client was found guilty due to his appearance. The jury was biased. The Army should have made sure he looked like a STRAC soldier vice a terrorist in uniform."
Last week 40 eyewitnesses in his trial described Hasan randomly shooting, killing 13 and injuring scores of his fellow soldiers. Hasan himself admitted to the crimes.
Why did I write that this is sham trial at the beginning of this column? In addition to the fiasco of Hasan’s beard, the dismissal of a judge with some guts, the grazing for and appointment by the Army of a compliant judge, and Hasan being permitted to defend himself (but not being allowed to offer a plea of guilty) does anybody really think Hasan could possibly be found innocent?
If there has ever been a case in the history of the U.S. military that deserved the accused being forced to comply with military orders, and one deserving of a guilty verdict and being awarded the punishment of death, this is such a case. Regardless of the challenges of imposing the death penalty in the U.S. military (the last military execution was 52 years ago in 1961) and regardless of his possibly personal wishes to be awarded death, Hasan deserves to die.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist with the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.