The sickening saga of a jihadist military psychiatrist has been bizarre from beginning to end.
It came as no great surprise Wednesday when a military jury ordered the death sentence for U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, the officer-turned-terrorist who killed 13 people during a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas.
The 42-year-old Maj. Hasan insisted in representing himself and freely admitted that he planned and carried out the attack to strike a blow for the Muslim cause.
After his conviction, Hasan continued to eschew legal representation and made no statements in an effort to persuade jurors not to order the death penalty. Indeed, in statements he made outside the courtroom, Hasan indicated that he preferred a sentence of death as a means of making him a martyr to the jihadist cause.
The military lawyer prosecuting the case went out of his way to warn jurors not to spare Hasan's life because Hasan prefers death and martyrdom.
"Do not be fooled. He is not giving his life. We are taking his life. This is not his gift to God. This is his debt to society," said the prosecutor, Col. Michael Mulligan.
Hasan's life is not a pleasant one. Paralyzed from being shot in the course of his murderous rampage, he has nothing to look forward to but martyrdom and the promised rewards of his faith, including 72 virgins and other heavenly repast.
But it will not come soon. News reports indicate that it could be anywhere from 10 to 15 years before Hasan is executed. President Obama or his successors could commute the penalty to life in prison. The last military execution occurred in 1961. So death by lethal injection is, at best, a long way off.
Hasan inflicted a terrible human toll on his many victims and their families and friends. But this is more than a tragedy; it is a scandal.
Hasan, a military psychiatrist and apparently not a very good one, should never have been allowed to be where he was. His military overseers repeatedly ignored signs of his increased interest in jihad, instead burying him under an avalanche of undeserved flattering fitness reports.
Further, Hasan's numerous email inquiries to the now-deceased terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki set off further warning signs about his intentions. But intelligence analysts and the FBI conducted only superficial inquiries into Hasan, never bothering to interview him.
A U.S. Senate report released by now-retired Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman blamed the military and the FBI for ignoring information that, "with the clarity of hindsight just shouts out: 'Stop this guy before he kills somebody.'"
A subsequent special investigative report released in July 2012 and overseen by former FBI/CIA Director William Webster laid the institutional failures out in sorry detail and made recommendations on how to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
In response, the FBI's top brass said it "concurs with the principles underlying all the recommendations and has already taken action to implement them."
What's clear in this case is that Hasan's increasingly zealous embrace of jihad that served as a prelude to his shooting rampage was ignored by his military superiors because of their concern that they not be seen as hostile to a military environment welcoming to all people, including Muslims.
That craven and cowardly approach was compounded by the FBI's lax approach to intelligence reports linking Hasan to a known terrorist plotting attacks on Americans. After the worst happened, those in charge have tried without success to argue that the incident wasn't what it clearly was.
That politically convenient approach continues; that's why Hasan's killing spree has been officially categorized by the Obama administration as an act of "workplace violence" rather than the bloody act of terrorism it was.