Not quite four years ago and not long after I joined Atheist Nexus, the incident with Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood happened.  I wrote about it then and wondered at what motivated Hasan to do what he did.  As the discovery process and the trial unfolded, we learned, about Anwar al-Awlaki and Hasan’s communications with him, about Hasan’s radicalization, at least in part from that association and his decision to become a jihadi agent against his own country.

Initially I was somewhat surprised at Hasan’s behavior during the trial: representing himself, his near lack of any meaningful opening statement, a total absence of defense and closing statement.  Then it became clear – Hasan was falling on his sword.  He wanted to lose the trial, wanted to be found guilty, and while the decision hasn’t been reached yet, there is no doubt in my mind but that he wants the death penalty levied against him.  Nidal Malik Hasan wants to be a martyr.

He may get his wish, too.  The evidence against him is overwhelming, I seriously doubt he’s shown the least bit of remorse or contrition, and those in the US Army, the wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters of the victims will very likely demand the death penalty for Hasan, on the basis of their losses and the heinousness of the crime.  They want blood for blood and they are hardly to be blamed.  The problem is that they’re playing directly into his hands.  They are giving him precisely what he wants: to be a martyr for his cause.

It is for that reason that under no circumstances should Nidal Malik Hasan get the death penalty.  His punishment should be life imprisonment, with absolutely no chance of parole.  Rather than having his way, rather than being able to take the easy way out, the coward’s way out, he should be forced to live out his life, confronted each day with the people he plotted against, placed in a situation where he is utterly impotent and powerless against them, and forced to live a long life in that confrontation.  For Hasan, living is a far worse punishment than death, and it is the utter antithesis of his aspiration to die the martyr’s death, the grandest goal Islam offers its faithful.

I realize this goes against the instinct of those who have had to face the dreadful harm Hasan has brought to those who lost loved ones, comrades and companions.  I fully understand and respect their desire to see the same fate meted out to him as he arrogantly delivered to those they lost.  In this case, though, there is a fate worse than death – the fate of having to live with what you’ve done and face that day after day, helplessly, and in the very hands of those he sought to undo.

Do not give Nidal Malik Hasan what he wants.  Give him what he deserves.

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Comment by Pat on August 25, 2013 at 10:18am

I tend to agree with Loren on this one. I do agree with Joan and SB that he should not be allowed to radicalize others. And, there is a way to do that.  There's currently an example of this in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. His name is Thomas Silverstein. In 1983, the federal prison in Marion, Illinois, was considered THE maximum security prison in the US; having replaced Alcatraz. In that year, Silverstein murdered a guard named Merle Clutts. (As an aside, Mr. Clutt's son Mike is a good friend of mine). At the time of the murder, SIlverstein was serving multiple life sentences for murders committed while in prison. In 1983, there was no federal death penalty. Silverstein was convicted of the murder, and in an effort to make an example out of hi, his is now serving the rest of life at the Federal Super Max in Colorado. There's a twist. He's the only prisoner I am aware of where there's a standing order that he is to have "no human contact." He's 60 years old, has already done 26 years under the "no human contact" order which constitutes complete isolation, and has a projected release date of 2095. Let's face it, his parole  officer hasn't been born.  Maybe Hasan should be the next candidate.

Comment by Loren Miller on August 25, 2013 at 10:18am

An intriguing thought, Pat ... and worthy of consideration.  Thanks for putting it out there.

Comment by Daniel W on August 25, 2013 at 10:12am

Is he an "enemy combatant"?  There's Guantanamo.....   where they are already radicalized. 

Not advocating for that - no one with the power to do something about it. would care what I suggest anyway.

I understand what you are saying, Loren. 

Comment by Loren Miller on August 25, 2013 at 10:05am

Frankly, if they do give Hasan life imprisonment, I doubt they would put him in the general population.  I don't think he would last two seconds there.  It would have to be solitary confinement or something very similar.

Certainly what he did was a highly provocative act, though whether it rises to the level of an act of war may be debatable.  The problem in levying the death penalty on Hasan is that the US justice system would, in his eyes, be REWARDING him for that act.  That I cannot countenance.

As for enlightening him to the lie of Islam ... no, I don't see it.  Hasan is a true believer, or something very close to that.  Whether he can think critically about his own beliefs any more or not is, again, a subject for conjecture.  My sense is that he committed himself to the path he was on when he entered that gathering area at Fort Hood with a gun and ammunition.

He's made his bed.  He can damned well sleep in it.

Comment by Daniel W on August 25, 2013 at 9:28am

Loren, you sentiment is well thought out and I hope it sees further light.

I am also against the death penalty in principle.  So it's odd that I should disagree with this point.

Joan, your statement is an important added nuance.  How do we imprison someone without allowing them to "contaminate" the prison population with radical Islam?  Solitary would be a practical solution.

And tempering our thoughts about retribution, what is humane? What, in a world of Catch-22's, imperfect human systems and decisions, and in light of this man's heinous crime, is the "right" thing to do?  If there is a "right" thing.

I lean towards the death penalty for him.  What he did is an at of war.  The war may not be between an establish govt and the US.  But it's hard to say, there isn't a war going on between Islamic radicals and our country and our way of life.  And, what he did was a crime against humanity.  Planned and executed with malice. 

Solitary confinement seems to me, a kind of hell.  We might want him to live 40 years in a kind of hell.  It's an understandable sentiment, and I cant argue with it.  But I would rather just erase him from life, turn off the switch between existence and nonexistence, and let his memory fade into oblivion.  It's very rare that I would look at death as humane, but in this case, given the options, I would let him have is wish.

If only there was a way to enlighten him about the lie of islam before he died.  So that he knows his crime was futile and meaningless, without purpose and destroyed his own life in the process.  But I suspect that is not possible.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 24, 2013 at 10:57pm

I agree with you wholeheartedly, in spite of my dislike for government sanctioned executions. In this case, and in such actions based on primitive beliefs, life in solitary would be my choice. He should not be in the prison population because if he has been radicalized, he can radicalize other inmates. All some prisoners need is a leader to whom they can pledge their allegiance and and organize their furies. 

I hope Cleveland Plain Dealer prints it, and that others see your point. 

Comment by Loren Miller on August 24, 2013 at 9:20pm

Postscript: the above text, with slight modifications, has been submitted to the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, my local newspaper.  I guess we'll see what they do with it.


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