May 05, 2006

Another Take on the Moussaoui Verdict

An interesting column from Daniel Henninger at

Defenders of Moussaoui's life sentence say he will "rot in prison." Perhaps in a better world Zacarias Moussaoui would share a cell with Hannibal Lecter. But if our moral betters aren't going to let Saddam's torturers rot in Abu Ghraib, if they aren't going to let the CIA's most important al Qaeda captives rot in "secret" foreign prisons, they certainly aren't going to let Moussaoui rot in Florence, Colo. He will be treated more than well.

Not to mention the Moussaoui trial itself. We arrive at the end of these interminable trial circuses of procedural delay and then claim "the system works" and "justice" has been done. No, it has done damage to the normal idea of justice. He saw the game early on and made a mockery of it. Moussaoui achieved a two-year delay in his trial by demanding to interview al Qaeda detainees. But our moral betters insist that the whole lot of Guantanamo detainees be given access to this same system of justice. They would diminish and crush it.

The odds were strong, as Moussaoui's lawyers knew and the government's should have known, that 9 of 12 jurors would vote that Moussaoui's childhood was "dysfunctional" and "mitigating." This is the therapeutic vocabulary that the West has developed to explain anything in the years from the postwar period to, say, September 11.

For quite awhile after September 11, we were a people united in the war on terror. By now we have let the adrenal pleasures of political fighting over the presidency dissipate the difficult emotions of staying united against a real enemy. The war in Iraq has contributed, but you can't lay it all off on Iraq. The ambiguity of the Moussaoui jury is a portent. See "United 93." It is very difficult. It should be.

Good point.
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