FORT HOOD, Texas — The prosecutors pursuing the death penalty against the Army psychiatrist accused in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage will soon begin trying to answer a difficult but key question: Why did Maj. Nidal Hasan attack his fellow soldiers in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base?
Both sides offered a few hints so far. Although he’s been mostly silent in the courtroom, Hasan used his brief opening statement to tell jurors he had “switched sides” in what he called America’s war with Islam; he later leaked documents to the media showing he believed he could be a martyr.
Military prosecutors opened the trial by saying they would show that Hasan felt he had a “jihad duty,” referring to a Muslim term for a religious war or struggle. After calling almost 80 witnesses over two weeks, prosecutors said Friday they would begin tackling the question this week.
Hasan — who is acting as his own attorney — told jurors during a barely one-minute opening statement that evidence “will clearly show that I am the shooter,” but he said it wouldn’t tell the whole story.
Since then, his defense has been nearly non-existent. He questioned only two of prosecutors’ witnesses and didn’t object to hundreds of pieces of evidence.
Among those likely to pay especially close attention are victims pressing the federal government to formally acknowledge the Fort Hood shootings as an act of terror, not workplace violence, and provide more benefits.
“We’re very interested to see whether and to what extent the government pursues Hasan’s jihadism,” said Reed Rubinstein, an attorney for the victims. “It would be welcome if the prosecutor would make very explicit the fact that this was a jihadist attack. This was terrorism.”
Rubinstein is much less interested in what Hasan has to say.
“He’s certainly said and done enough, thank you,” he said.
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The number of inmates on hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison has dropped to 75 from a peak of 106 last week, and even most of the men still listed as strikers ate a meal in the last day, the U.S. military said Thursday in its latest tally of the protest that began in February.
Army Lt. Col. Sam House said in a phone interview from Guantanamo that 67 of those 75 inmates had eaten a meal during the previous 24 hours at the prison, which is currently serving food at night during the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, which lasts through early August.
The 67 detainees are still listed as hunger strikers because the U.S. military requires a minimum of three days of sustained eating and a minimal caloric intake before they can be removed from the tally. But House said the main factor must be that a prisoner wishes to be removed from the hunger strike list.
The strike has prompted President Barack Obama to criticize the force-feedings and renew his efforts to close the prison, which houses 166 inmates.
On Tuesday, a U.S. federal judge turned down a bid by three Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike to stop authorities from force-feeding them. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled she didn’t have jurisdiction in the case because Congress removed Guantanamo detainees’ treatment and conditions of confinement from the purview of federal courts. She also said there was “nothing so shocking or inhumane in the treatment” that would raise a constitutional concern.
The US military has agreed to remove targets depicting a Muslim woman and verses from the Qur’an from shooting ranges, it was announced at the weekend, where they were being used for target practice.
“We have removed this particular target and Arabic writing in question from the range in the near term, and will explore other options for future training,” Lt David Lloyd, a Navy spokesperson, said in a statement.
The move comes after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Muslim advocacy group, sent a letter to US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta on Friday asking for the targets and religious text to be removed from a military facility based at Joint Base Fort Story on the east coast of the US.
“We welcome the Navy’s prompt action to address community concerns and hope this incident serves as a reminder that credible scholars and experts need to be consulted when designing training materials relating to Islam and Muslims for our nation’s military personnel,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement.
Al Jazeera has obtained exclusive material of a course taught on a US military base implying that Hamas has influenced the US government at the highest levels.
The course is called “Understanding the Threat to America.” And in it are hundreds of slides that claim to link the Muslim Civil Liberties Advocacy Organisation (CAIR) and other American Muslim groups to the Palestinian group Hamas.
It was taught to senior military officers at a base in the state of Virginia.
The US military is conducting a review of all material taught to its officers after the website Wired.com exposed another course teaching anti-Islam material.
One of the slides presented by Army Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley says the model he is presenting presumes that the Geneva Conventions are “no longer relevant,” when fighting Muslims.
It goes on to say that historical precendents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are applicable to “Mecca and Medina’s destruction.”
Dooley’s 31-page presentation entitled “So What Can We Do?” A Counter – Jihad Op Design Model, comes to some startling conclusions: “Given the factual basis of what “Islamists” say they seek to impose on the world, the United States has come to accept that radical “true Islam” is both a political and military enemy to free people throughout the world…. It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self destruction.”
Both the courses obtained by Al Jazeera and Wired.com were voluntary courses and it is not clear if similar material has been taught in other military colleges.
17 April 2012
A Dutch-Pakistani man under suspicion for planning an attack against US military personnel in Afghanistan has lost an extradition appeal to the US. The 25 year old was arrested in 2011 in Pakistan and sent to the Netherlands, and a Rotterdam court found in favour of the extradition. The latest appeal was to the supreme court: a final decision on extradition will be taken by the Netherlands’ justice minister. The US accuses him of working with al-Qaeda in planning the attacks.
4 March 2011
Although German and US investigators are still looking into the shooting at Frankfurt Airport that left two US airmen dead, German officials have played down the need for more security at US installations and public places. American officials cautioned military personnel and civilians to remain vigilant, and published a self-help antiterrorism guide online.
Two days after two US airmen were killed and two others wounded by a lone gunman at Frankfurt Airport, German authorities said Friday that the incident had not prompted an increase in security at most of the country’s airports and train stations.
On Thursday, the US Army Garrison Stuttgart posted “A Self-Help Guide to Antiterrorism” online that was produced by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in September 2010. The 60-page manual gives US military personnel and their families instructions on how to avoid being the victim of terrorist attacks. In one section it describes “Indicators of a Potential Active Shooter,” such as making “anti-American statements asserting that US police and authority is illegitimate.” It advises the Americans on how to evacuate, or to find shelter “out of the active shooter’s view.”
The Michigan firm Trijicon, who holds a $660 million weapons contract with the US military adds biblical inscriptions to the weapons they provide for the Afghanistan war.
The company’s vision statement published on their website reads: “Guided by our values, we endeavor to have our products used wherever precision aiming solutions are required to protect individual freedom.” And one of their values reads: “Morality: We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals.”
Al Jazeera found troops in Afghanistan using guns with the inscriptions.
While a US military spokesman said that as long as the weapons continue to serve the needs of US troops they will continue using them, General Petraus criticized the inscriptions.
Trijicon has since sent 100 removal kits to scrape off the words and vowed to end the practice.
Attempted Nigerian terrorist Abdulmutallab told authorities he was the first of many al-Qaida linked terrorists in training in Yemen. The group al-Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula, comprised of Yemeni and Saudi operatives, claims the attack and cites recent US-backed airstrikes on Yemen as their motivation.
A closer look into Yemen reveals a recent increase in US military aid, as well a significant increases in refugees, extremists, and Saudi Arabian al-Qaida operatives, the result of President Ali Abdulaah Saleh’s inability to prevent members from training and organizing.
Major Hasan, perpetrator of this year’s earlier shooting at Fort Hood, TX, also had contact with a Yemeni cleric.
Security expert Shannon Rossmiller, who helped conduct a study that would recognize the signs of extremism amongst US troops, says the Department of Defense failed to use it and thus may have contributed to the loss at Fort Hood.
There is also concern that the US has not learned as much as it could have from Europe and other countries who have thoroughly studied radicalization processes.
American Muslim soldiers who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan find themselves caught between two worlds. On one hand they want to serve their nation, and on another they are criticized for fighting what fellow Muslims perceive as an unjust war against Muslims. One Christian group asserts they should be prohibited from serving.
But soldiers in this article reject extremism from any side. “We love this country,” said Shelton Hasan, 54, of Detroit, an Army veteran, “and want to protect it like anyone else.”