Dare we call it treason?

It appears that no one knows quite what to make of the vicious attack at Fort Hood allegedly committed by US Army Major Nidal Hasan, resulting in the deaths of at least 13 individuals. The main debate appears to be between two camps: (1) those who see this as an act of mass murder, possibly due to mental illness of some kind or to a mind confused and corrupted by extreme Islam; and (2) others who see this as an act of Islamic terrorism. As a random philosophizer, I'm not real happy with either of these analyses, and I want to give my reasoning as to why Hasan should not be charged either with terrorism or with murder, but instead should be charged with treason.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted. -- US Constitution (1791), Article III, Section 3.
The key element of treason (which is the only crime actually defined in our constitution) is levying war against the United States. Let that resonate in your mind.

A critical element in deciding what crime, if any, to charge someone with has to do with the concept of intent. What was Hasan trying to accomplish by authoring the attack? I believe that at least partially, he was fulfilling a key admonition of the Quran, the sacred text of his religion of which he was a devoted adherent. As I understand this admonition, Islam distinguishes between violence toward fellow Muslims versus violence toward non-Muslims. (For comparison, there are several traditional Jewish laws and a host of obsolete Christian ones that make a similar distinction.) In particular, a Muslim is not to attack another Muslim (he may defend himself). In the case where there is a conflict between Muslims, it is the duty of other Muslims to intervene in an attempt to restore peace. However, in the event of a conflict where non-Muslims attack or invade a Muslim land, it is the duty of other Muslims to fight against the infidel aggressors. It is this last admonition that was causing (I think) extreme conflict for Hasan: he was wearing the uniform of the US Army, a group actively involved in aggression against two Muslim countries, yet, as a Muslim, he had a duty to fight *against* the aggressors, against himself. In the case of Afghanistan, it is much easier than for Iraq to make the case that we were defending ourselves in some way against an attack, and this probably accounts for why Hasan was apparently more willing to serve there than in Iraq. As long as he was willing to use the argument of defense against aggression, I believe that he was willing to continue to serve loyally in the Army at a distance. However, two things have happened since the two wars began in 2001 and 2003: (1) It has become less and less clear that we are engaged in response to an attack. Instead, our involvement has become more of a "nation building" exercise in which we are attempting to impose at least some aspects of our culture on the native culture. (2) Hasan was about to be sent right into the combat zone, and he would then be much more directly involved in the fighting, much more of an actual combatant rather than a purely noncombatant sitting in a doctor's office thousands of miles away. If you read about what he said, wrote, and did during the latter part of the period leading up to the attacks, I believe that you will see ample evidence of an inner conflict between two paths of warfare: to continue to fight with the Americans and to suppress the religious admonitions or to ignore his oath and allegiance to the US Army, and fight on the side of the Islamic resistance to the invaders.

Basically what happened in Fort Hood was that he finally made up his mind that his true loyalty was to his fellow Muslims who were combatting the army whose uniform he wore. At that point (and not before, I believe), he began to consider what kind of military action he could take against the Americans, and he decided on the attack that he actually made, very successfully.

So why wasn't this murder? Well, if we accept that idea that he was acting as a mujahideen, an Islamic soldier, then the attack was an act of war. Homocides resulting from acts of war are not considered murder. If they were, then every soldier who kills an enemy would be a murderer. Although some would accept this principle, the law does not: killing an enemy soldier in war is not murder.

Well, why wasn't it terrorism? Primarily because acts of war committed against enemy combatants, as opposed to civilians, are not considered terrorism. This is clearly a purely military attack, on (mostly) uniformed soldiers on a military installation. If such an act is terrorism simply because it was sneaky and resulted in numerous deaths, then a large number of acts of war, for example the famous drone attacks we are conducting right now, would be terrorism. This is a much murkier matter, because people seem to make up definitions of "terrorism" to suit their needs and prejudices, but I assert that since this was an act of war carried out against uniformed combatants, it does not qualify as terrorism.

On the other hand, Hasan is a US citizen and a member of the US Army. Both of these factors reinforce the constitutional rule that it is clear, unmitigated treason for him to make war against the US, which I am saying he did, both overtly by the attacks and covertly by the chain of reasoning that led him to it. Hasan is, above all, a traitor to the land in which he was born and which nurtured him and supported him, and to the uniform and the oath of allegiance that he swore in the Army.

Therefore, I believe that the best way to deal with Hasan is by not trivializing his offense by calling it murder, or politicizing it by calling it terrorism, but to invoke the full weight of the consitution against him and charging and convicting him of the most serious offense it is possible for one of our own to make against us all: treason.

This doesn't let him off easy, by the way. Current federal law says this about treason: whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States (United States Code at 18 U.S.C. § 2381). That is, although the laws regarding terrorism and murder are somewhat variable, federal law has clearly defined treason as a capital offense, with the possibility of the death penalty. In fact, in this random philosopher's view, treason is an even more serious offense (especially overt treason involving explicit "levying of war" against us) than murder or terrorism.

By the way, for those individuals that think it treasonous for President Obama to have bowed during the ceremony in Japan with the emperor, compare that to the actual treason Hasan did. See the difference?
Greg Shenaut


Patrick said...

Greg: Ton argument de haute trahison est interessant…certainement sur un bateau de guerre ca serait le cas…nous ne pouvons pas (pour l’instant) dit qu’il etait envoye par quelqu’un et lui meme, dit que il est soldat d’Allah mais je ne crois pas que Allah est en guerre avec nous.
Donc, je ne voit pas pour l’instant un combattant de enemie…mais il ne faut pas laisser tomber l’aspect terrifiant de son acte qui est pour moi evident dans son choix de moyenne technique a accomplir son decision.

Pour moi, j’accept ton raisonment… donc coupable de HAUTE TRAHAISON dans un acte de TERREUR ET MEURTRE PREMEDITE.

Important pour moi est de savoir s’il avait fait tous ca dans en uniform.

Concernant ton argument BIEN mais une detaille, je crois qu’il etait destinee pour Afghanistan et pas Iraq et il faut que tu tiens compte et change quelques remarques en tenant ca en consideration.

patrick said...

Greg: Je propose que vos lecteurs lisent ceci en Anglais ecrit par ton atheiste 'fellow traveler'...c'est tres bien philosophized...


Greg Shenaut said...

Patrick, merci beaucoup pour les commentaires, c'est un peu inusuel que qui que ce soit les fait ici.

Quant à sa destination, oui, c'est vrai qu'il allait à l'Afghanistan, je référais simplement au fait qu'il s'était plaint plus de l'Irak que de l'Afghanistan pendant les semaines et mois avant Ft Hood.