Thursday, May 04, 2006

No Closure in the Zacarias Moussaoui Case

If Zacarias Moussaoui had been sentenced to death, the families of the victims of 9/11 and all the people that got depressed from watching it on television would have finally had a sense of closure with one final death added to the toll. They would never have had to think of these events again, except on the anniversary every September 11 or during elections. Unfortunately, by sentencing Moussaoui to life in prison without the possibility of parole, this jury has denied a sense of closure to all Americans.

Hollywood movies usually end with the bad guy getting killed because moviemakers realize that the best way to achieve closure is through revenge. Without an outlet for their desire for retribution Americans get angry and depressed and they begin to lash out and throw around blame indiscriminately. They start to ask unhelpful questions like why didn't the FBI investigate Moussaoui more thoroughly before 9/11, why didn't the Bush Administration pay more attention to warnings that al Qaeda was planning something, why is Osama Bin Laden still on the loose, and why did we invade Iraq? This kind of finger pointing divides us and distracts us from the important issues, while executing Moussaoui would have given us something we could have all focussed on and would have dissipated our feelings of helplessness. This case represented a unique opportunity to get the payback we so desperately needed. Although the jury found that Moussaoui had limited knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and it appeared that even al Qaeda thought he was too crazy to be kept in the loop, he was the last best chance we had satisfy our hunger for vengeance, especially since it looks like we'll never capture Osama Bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri. I, for one, feel cheated.

What kind of message does it send to the rest of the world that we cannot carry out the death penalty in what seemed like a slam-dunk case? This verdict will only encourage other suicide bombers now that they know they probably won't receive the death penalty for their crimes. The death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent but it doesn't deter anything if it is not carried out often to remind people that it is there. Our system of justice looks incompetent next to those of China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which carry out death sentences quickly and efficiently with very little thought for going through the motions of due process. As a result there is very little crime in these societies. By not executing Moussaoui it gives the impression to the rest of the world that we do not value the sanctity of life by letting the deaths of 3,000 of our citizens go unanswered. And America is certainly less safe now that we appear so weak, not to mention the possibility we will all have to live with that Moussaoui could escape from prison, hijack a plane and fly it into a building at any time.

It's hard to believe that a jury could reach this conclusion with all the safeguards we have built into the system to make it more likely that a jury would sentence someone to death, for example, by screening out people who are soft on the capital punishment and by allowing for the possibility that someone like Moussaoui is sane enough to stand trial in the first place. It is no wonder that President Bush has tried to by-pass the criminal justice system for people he has designated enemy combatants including American citizens like Jose Padilla. He has also resisted trials for Guantanamo detainees, including at least two who were even closer to the 9/11 plotting, apparently fearing that activist juries and justices will make a mockery of our system of justice by bringing up allegations of torture and insisting that we follow the letter of the law even for people who do not deserve it. This verdict should convince Bush that he must redouble his efforts to circumvent the judiciary.

It is enough to make you wonder what we are fighting for in Iraq if we cannot hold someone accountable for breaking the law. While our judiciary is still in the grip of a pre-9/11 mentality, this verdict made me feel like it was September 11 all over again, only with one life saved instead of 3,000 lost.

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benmerc said...

I suppose if this were Bush’s re-election cycle coming up November…there would be a torrent of spin. That not being the case we are safe from the “must kill all terrorist” mantra (real or perceived). Of course everything this administration does is finely calculated for efficient return. Frankly they have enough problems presently…there is no stock in pandering to 911 victims/survivors, besides it would be quite out of their character to really do something for someone, even if it entailed what they enjoy the most: killing “folks” (and then "praying" for them).

I for one think an execution could be a missed opportunity for this neo-con cabal.
It could have been yet another benchmark of incompetence achieved by this administration: executing the only person to have been caught ( but not really involved ) in the three years since the 911 attack, while he rambles on about martyrdom and virgins, etc., etc… ( Moussaoui is certifiable, lets face it…when you are rejected by your local terrorist cell you may have achieved that final degree of instability) and our Administration could have at this point earned the Keystone Cop Award , yet again. Not to mention six more generations of retributions, vendetta with mulitable curse’s upon our shores, and that’s just from the pacifists. Allah only knows what Koran abiding Middle Easterners would be thinking if we were to execute someone to crazy for his terrorist cell.

So, the “mentally ill” guy wins out for now…BTW: “…only with one life saved instead of 3,000 lost” ….you do breech character at times, don’t you…

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