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Fort Hood Shooting
On November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, a military base close to the city of Killeen Texas, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist opened fire on the people. Thirteen people were murdered and thirty-two other people were injured (Kenber 2013). One of the victims was pregnant and the baby was lost when she died, so some put the figure of murder victims at fourteen. Nidal Malik Hasan has since been convicted of those shootings and has been sentenced to death by a military court. Hasan has never denied being the killer, nor has he wavered in the explanation of his motives behind the actions. He has stated repeatedly that he is a Muslim and that the United States is at war with Islam. His actions, he claims, are a direct result of his Muslim extremism. Hasan was due to be shipped to Afghanistan where he would have had to fight against terrorists, people with whom he chose to identify. Since this was an intolerable option to him, he chose to attack Americans instead. This was not a spur of the moment decision, but premeditated murders which were planned out far ahead of their commission. Many people, including the family members of his victims, have requested that the case be classified as a terrorist attack instead of a mass shooting, but those in positions of authority in the matter have thus far not agreed to term the shooting in this way. According to the United States Defense Department, the Fort Hood massacre is a case of "workplace violence" (Jonsson 2013). Based on the information available, particularly the attitude of the perpetrator himself, it is clear that this should be considered an act of terrorism by a militant Islamist rather than a mass casualty shooting.
The legal definitions of acts of terrorism in the United States are separated into international or domestic terror. In both forms, the U.S. code defines terrorism as acts which are violent and dangerous to human life and which violate U.S. law. Further, they must "appear to intend (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping" (Definitions 2013). The purpose of a terrorist attack is rarely one of simple revenge or anger, but to convey a political message intended to alter the policies of the enemy government. Islamist terrorists have attacked the United States in the past for political reasons including the U.S. support of Israel, the United States' perceived imposition of western culture on Islamist nations, and for the United States' efforts in combating international terrorism in other countries (Lieberman 2011). This is very different from a mass shooting as defined by state and federal criminal codes in the United States. According to those definitions, the acts of violence are numerous and within a specific time frame. They have a motive, which is usually based on desires for revenge or feelings of anger by the perpetrator. Mass shootings or episodes of workplace violence do not have a political motive. Acts of terror are "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct" (Definitions 2013). If the actions are politically-based, as Hasan himself attests, then the crimes at Fort Hood, Texas should be classified by the government as acts of terrorism.
During his trial, Nidal Malik Hasan fired his attorneys and chose to defend himself, but did not testify nor did he question any of the eighty-nine witnesses for the prosecution or call any himself. However, he has been quite vocal about why he perpetrated this crime. Witnesses reported that while he was carrying out the shootings, Hasan shouted "Allahu akbar!" which translates to mean "God is great" (Esposito 2009). It is a common mantra yelled by Islamist extremists during their attacks, as witnessed by military personnel during campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq among other documented incidents. Hasan chose to defend himself after his intended plea was denied by the trial's judge. According to court documents, Hasan wanted to enter a plea that his actions were justified as they were in "defense of others" (Jonsson 2013). He stated that by killing the people at…[continue]
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