Purple Hearts for Ft Hood victims resurfaces
We’ve talked about this issue several times before, and it seems to be coming back, so at least a quick post on it is warranted.
Now, since this will end up in our American Legion Online Update today, and because folks seldom read everything I write before commenting, let’s start with things I agree with all of you on. Major Hasan will get his just punishment from both the military, and whatever deity one believes in. Even he doesn’t allege apparently that he wasn’t the shooter. Further, in years past, he probably would have been shot already after a court martial. I’m not even going to try to justify how long this trial has taken. Remember that the Sixth Amendment gives a right to a speedy trial, but the Constitution also gives a right to a thorough defense. Taken together this means a defendant can pretty much set the speed of the trial.
In WWII, it was more an imminent threat, and the trials went fast. Eddie Slovik was charged with desertion on Veterans Day in 1944. He was executed in January, only three months later. With Hasan, the military and his defense lawyers have been fighting for eight months on whether he has to shave or not. So believe me, I get the frustration.
Also, I believe that the soldiers at Ft Hood should get everything to which they are entitled. We might differ on whether that is the Purple Heart, or some other disposition that allows them a higher status at the VA and such, but we all agree on that. So no need to comment below on those issues.
The problem is this however, the DoD is fighting against the Purple Hearts not because they don’t like the troops or anything of the sort, it is strictly for legal reasons. I get that some of the lawyers disagree with the DoD’s thinking on this, but I think it is unfair to suggest they have some other reason, absent some sort of proof.
Legislation that would award the injured from the 2009 Fort Hood shooting the Purple Heart would adversely affect the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan by labeling the attack terrorism, according to a Defense Department document obtained by Fox News…
"Passage of this legislation could directly and indirectly influence potential court-martial panel members, witnesses, or the chain of command, all of whom exercise a critical role under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Defense counsel will argue that Major Hasan cannot receive a fair trial because a branch of government has indirectly declared that Major Hasan is a terrorist -- that he is criminally culpable."
But Neal Sher, counsel for the Fort Hood families involved in a federal lawsuit against the department, told Fox News that the document -- an "official Army response" to the request for Purple Heart status -- is "an utter outrage" and that it was not surprising given it comes from the same department which labeled the attack "workplace violence."
Now, most of you will likely agree with Mr. Sher, and I don’t know that I disagree with him either. But I don’t disagree with the DoD on this one either.
Just for a reminder of the issues involved here, recall what happened with the Haditha case, and the comments of Representative Murtha, who (absent any apparent proof or certainly any legal reasoning) claimed that:
"There was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."
Now, those comments ended up playing a pretty significant part in the trial of LTC Chessani later on, as this WND article makes clear:
Courts consider unlawful command influence the “mortal enemy of military justice” because it signifies that at some point during the development or prosecution of the case, decisions were made based on a commander’s opinion or desire, rather than the facts themselves.
“Although the case is far from over, yesterday’s ruling now forces prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) the facts upon which the unlawful command influence is based are untrue; (2) those facts do not constitute unlawful command influence; or (3) the unlawful command influence will not affect the proceedings,” the Law Center said.
“The taint of unlawful command influence started from the inception of the investigation, when high-ranking Pentagon officials decided to make Lt. Col. Chessani a political scapegoat to appease a liberal anti-war press and politicians,” Thompson continued.
Now, if you think Murtha’s comments were WAY out of bounds in terms of how it prejudiced the military trial, imagine how the Government would be viewed if it came out and ruled that the Ft Hood shooting was Terrorism, when they didn’t actually charge Hasan with Terrorism.
Now, the question comes up, “Well, why didn’t they charge him with Terrorism?” And it is a very valid question. And the answer is again legal. If you charge someone with a host of crimes, you have to prove each element of each individual crime. So, if you charge a guy with Murder, Rape, and possession of stolen property for an unreturned library book, then the Defendant gets to present a defense with regards to each element of each charge. In this hypothetical, the guy could call in librarians, tax specialists etc, and argue that the book was technically his since his tax money paid for the book, and librarians to talk about how many others have overdue books etc.
With Hasan, charging him with Terrorism means that Hasan has the right to defend himself on those grounds. Now, the 13 murder charges and various attempted murder charges will already put him in the electric chair. But if they ALSO charged him with terrorism related charges, he would get to defend on that one. And since he’s already proven he wants to be a martyr, the first thing he would do is put the entire War on Terrorism on trial itself. He’d call hundreds of witnesses to say that the United States Government is actively trying to kill Muslims, that the military is trying to exterminate people etc. It would turn into an absolute circus. If you think the case now is taking too long, just imagine a scene where he starts bring in Muslim Scholars and Gitmo detainees to talk about the War. The military is trying to assiduously avoid that.
Now, is it right? Is it wrong of the DoD not to charge him with that? I don’t know. Each person must make that decision on their own. But I do know that the lawyers trying Hasan REALLY don’t want to blow this case. And if “Command Influence” would give Hasan a 1 in a million chance of avoiding what will be his just desserts, they want to make sure he doesn’t get that lifeline.
Either way, The American Legion will be weighing in on this issue later, once the issue of how to properly address it has been looked at by the appropriate Commission.