Hasan May Remain His Own Counsel

They say a person who represents himself in court has a terrorist killer for a client, or something like that:

The military judge presiding over the court-martial of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan ruled Thursday that he can continue to represent himself, denying a bid from his legal advisors to take over his defense amid concerns the former Army psychologist is trying to sink his own case to get the death penalty.

The lawyers assisting Hasan, called "standby attorneys," claim he is trying to get the death penalty and have said it would be "morally repugnant" to help him achieve such a sentence. Hasan admitted in his opening statement that he was the shooter, appearing to be trying to get himself convicted.

If Hasan really wants the death penalty, he ought to be able to simply cop a plea, and I'm sure the UCMJ would be happy to oblige him. No, what he wants is to put on some fancy legal theater and then get put to death. Which is more important? Probably the theater.

I'm reminded of Lee Harris's classic 2002 essay, "Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology." Here's the relevant bit:

The terror attack of 9-11 was not designed to make us alter our policy, but was crafted for its effect on the terrorists themselves: It was a spectacular piece of theater. The targets were chosen by al Qaeda not through military calculation — in contrast, for example, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — but entirely because they stood as symbols of American power universally recognized by the Arab street. They were gigantic props in a grandiose spectacle in which the collective fantasy of radical Islam was brought vividly to life: A mere handful of Muslims, men whose will was absolutely pure, as proven by their martyrdom, brought down the haughty towers erected by the Great Satan. What better proof could there possibly be that God was on the side of radical Islam and that the end of the reign of the Great Satan was at hand?

In order to play up his own part in this fantasy, Hasan must be seen -- in his eyes and in the eyes of his al-Qaeda comrades -- to be the master, the conductor of his own trial. He will put on a glorious show, culminating in a glorious death for Allah. This has little to do with suicide-by-courtroom, and everything to do with an agent of radical Islam bending a Western institution to his will. Again.

My completely unsolicited advice to the judge is to keep a tight rein on Hasan's antics, and to order a media blackout on the trial.