If you’re a movie buff of a certain age, you’ll remember a film called The Mouse That Roared, in which a tiny, debt-ridden country declares war against the United States in order to gain all the benefits that would be showered their way as the losers. It was a sharp little satire that unfortunately persists in ringing true to this day. It comes to mind not only with respect to foreign policy, but also with how we deal with criminals and terrorists. In today’s paper we learned that the state of New Jersey continued to pay 23 million dollars of entitlements and benefits to incarcerated people who were not entitled to any of it while in jail. This should aptly be considered “criminal negligence” and heads should roll all the way to the diminishing hulk of the governor. More disturbing in today’s news is the ongoing saga of Nidal Hasan, the Muslim army psychiatrist who shot 45 people at Fort Hood in 2009, killing 12 and severely injuring the rest. It is four years later and though Hasan is incarcerated, he has still not been tried for this heinous act of terrorism. During the past years of legal stalling, he has collected $280,000 of salary, because according to our American system of justice and the vagaries of military protocol, he is entitled to his money until proven guilty. No matter that there is no disputing who pulled the trigger each time during his rampage – the only thing to be determined at trial is what degree of murder this fits and what the appropriate sentence will be. If common sense prevailed, would a terrorist still get paid?
Further adding to the head-scratching wonder of this case, Hasan has won the right to grow and sport a bushy beard though that is against army regulations. Now a hemiplegic and wheelchair-bound, he has petitioned the court to allow him to represent himself in his upcoming trial in July. To determine whether he would be physically competent to handle this, the judge ordered a medical examination. In another questionable accommodation, the judge agreed to Hasan’s request to not be examined by the chief of medicine where he used to work. In short, Hasan first killed and maimed the soldiers of Fort Hood and now demands that his trial not be compromised by the judgment of the medical officer under whom he served. This used to be the classic definition of chutzpah – the murderer who shoots his parents and begs the mercy of the court because he is now an orphan. Does this make sense?