Army Maj. Nidal Hasan went on trial in a military court at Fort Hood, Texas, this week, with his life on the line.
Hasan killed 13 people and wounded dozens more in a 2009 shooting rampage at the post. He is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, and faces the death penalty if convicted. He has attempted to plead guilty to murder and attempted murder, but the military rules do not allow guilty pleas in death penalty cases, meaning the Army court martial's purpose amounts to determining whether he should be sentenced to death.
More than a formality may be involved, however.
This was an incident that should not have happened. It already is known that Hasan, a fanatical Muslim and supporter of Islamic terrorists, displayed many warning signs during a very troubled career as an Army psychiatrist. Yet military authorities did virtually nothing about him until it was too late. They even refuse to label the incident as terrorism, a decision many of the survivors are now challenging in court.
Of course, Army officers in charge of the court martial will not want testimony about that fatal neglect to be heard.
But more needs to be known about Hasan, if for no other reason than because there may be others like him in the military. Perhaps the trial will offer an opportunity for the American people to hear such testimony - and then to ask whether the Pentagon has changed anything in the way potential killers like Hasan are dealt with - or if some politically correct leaders civilian and military officials will continue to look the other way because they are afraid of offending someone.