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Fine Steyn

10:48 AM, Aug 10, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
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Back in January 2012, Bill Kristol wrote, “Cancel the competition. Mark Steyn has already won the 'best-article-not-in-THE-WEEKLY-STANDARD-to-appear-in-2012' award” for a piece called "The Sinking of the West."

May I nominate this article for the 2013 competition?

On December 7, 1941, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked. Three years, eight months, and eight days later, the Japanese surrendered. These days, America’s military moves at a more leisurely pace. On November 5, 2009, another U.S. base, Fort Hood, was attacked — by one man standing on a table, screaming “Allahu akbar!” and opening fire. Three years, nine months, and one day later, his court-martial finally got under way.

The intervening third-of-a-decade-and-more has apparently been taken up by such vital legal questions as the fullness of beard Major Hasan is permitted to sport in court. This is not a joke: See “Judge Ousted in Fort Hood Shooting Case amid Beard Debacle” (CBS News). Army regulations require soldiers to be clean-shaven. The judge, Colonel Gregory Gross, ruled Hasan’s beard in contempt, fined him $1,000, and said he would be forcibly shaved if he showed up that hirsute next time. At which point Hasan went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which ruled that Colonel Gross’s pogonophobia raised questions about his impartiality, and removed him. He’s the first judge in the history of American jurisprudence to be kicked off a trial because of a “beard debacle.” The new judge, Colonel Tara Osborn, agreed that Hasan’s beard was a violation of regulations, but “said she won’t hold it against him.”

The U.S. Army seems disinclined to hold anything against him, especially the 13 corpses plus an unborn baby. Major Hasan fired his lawyers, presumably because they were trying to get him off — on the grounds that he’d had a Twinkie beforehand, or his beard don’t fit so you must acquit, or some such. As a self-respecting jihadist, Major Hasan quite reasonably resented being portrayed as just another all-American loon gone postal. So he sacked his defense team, only to have the court appoint a standby defense team just in case there were any arcane precedents and obscure case law he needed clarification on. I know that’s the way your big-time F. Lee Bailey types would play it, but it doesn’t seem to be Major Hasan’s style. On the very first day of the trial, he stood up and told the jury that “the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.” Later, in one of his few courtroom interventions, he insisted that it be put on the record that “the alleged murder weapon” was, in fact, his. The trial then came to a halt when the standby defense team objected to the judge that Major Hasan’s defense strategy (yes, I did it; gimme a blindfold, cigarette, and tell the virgins here I come) would result in his conviction and execution. 

It’s the kind of article that, were the subject not so somber, would make you stand up and cheer. Read the whole thing here.

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