Representing himself, as is his constitutional right, Hasan told jurors that he was indeed responsible for the slaughter: “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.” He said that during the years he spent as an American soldier, he was “on the wrong side,” so he “switched sides” and became a “mujahedeen” fighting America.
Witnesses testified that he targeted men and women in uniform, rather than civilians, and that he did not hesitate to shoot the wounded as they lay bleeding on the floor. One of his victims, Pvt. Francheska Velez, 21, was pregnant. She pleaded: “Please don’t, please don’t, my baby, my baby.” Both she and her unborn child were among the dead.
Following all this, Lt. Col. Kris R. Poppe, appointed “standby counsel” after Hasan fired him as head defense lawyer, complained to the judge that his client wants to be sentenced to death, and that helping him reach that goal would violate his “ethical obligations.” He found that goal “repugnant,” he added.
Allow me to be the first to accuse Poppe of insensitivity. He is clearly disparaging Hasan’s religious beliefs, his interpretation of his religious obligations — an interpretation not shared by most of the world’s Muslims but one shared by a substantial minority including members of al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose motto includes the phrase: “Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
Anwar Al-Awlaki, the late American-born al-Qaida leader, once the imam of a Virginia mosque, called Hasan a “hero” and a “man of conscience” who “opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done?” Hasan now wants what Awlaki achieved with the help of an American missile fired from a drone in Yemen: martyrdom.