The Contradictions Of Military Justice

by Tracy R. Walsh

Nadal Hasan was sentenced to death for killing 13 soldiers in Texas just days after Robert Bales was sentenced to life for killing 16 civilians in Kandahar. Hendrik Hertzberg wonders how the Muslim world will respond:

Consider: One member of the U.S. Army is an apple-pie American (white, Catholic, high-school football captain, Ohio State student, married father of two) with a slightly shady past (he was implicated in a financial-fraud case when he worked as a broker, before joining the Army, in 2001). He kills 16 unarmed Afghan Muslim civilians, including four women and nine children. He gets life.

The other member of the U.S. Army is a Muslim, the eldest son of Palestinian immigrants, a medical doctor, an Army officer, unmarried. He kills 13 uniformed American soldiers, unarmed. He gets death.

A third case hovers in the background.

In 2003, in Kuwait, an Army sergeant used hand grenades and a rifle to kill two of his comrades and injure fourteen more. In 2005, a military court sentenced the sergeant to death. Last year – on July 13, 2012 – the Army’s court of appeals affirmed the sentence. While appeals continue, the sergeant remains on death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This third member of the U.S. Army, Sergeant Hasan Karim Akbar, né Mark Fidel Kools, is also Muslim. He is an African-American whose parents changed his name when they converted to Islam. He kills two American soldiers. He gets death.

Hertzberg hopes Obama will stop the executions:

If he declines to sign a death warrant in one of these cases, he will, of course, be subject to unrestrained demagogic attack from the Republican right. But if he does sign, and if the execution or executions are carried out, he will have essentially confirmed the suspicion that the United States places significantly less value on the lives of Muslims, regardless of nationality, than on the lives of Christians and other non-Muslims, also regardless of nationality. One can only hope that he will have the fortitude to reject that choice – a choice that, besides being morally abhorrent, would be grievously damaging to the national interest.