Tuesday, April 26, 2005

No Fry Zone

Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty April 22 to six felonies, four of which carry the death penalty. Executing Moussaoui would be satisfying on a gut-level to a lot of people.

He's a classic al-Qaida thug who proudly pledges allegiance to Osama bin-Laden. The difference between him and the Sept. 11 killers, all now beyond the reach of earthly justice, is merely circumstantial. They completed their missions; he, through a mix of incompetence and luck, did not. But in his guilty plea to Judge Leonie Brinkema, Moussaoui acknowledged he lied to federal agents to cover up the Sept. 11 plot a month before it erupted.

He is utterly without remorse. In his motions, Moussaoui refers to himself as a "Natural Born Terrorist." After his guilty plea, he left the courtroom, shouting "Allah akhbar! God curse America!" Hey, Zac, same to you, buddy. But with all that in mind, we don't wish to see the U.S. government succeed in its bid to give Moussaoui a one-way ride on the lethal injection gurney.

Here's three reasons to make him wait a little longer for those 72 virgins.

1. Moussaoui, even if he was part of the conspiracy, didn't kill anyone. He never even got the chance to try. He did not smash planes into buildings, or direct those who did or slit throats with boxcutters. He insists he was not part of that plot but was going to participate in a later one. Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged mastermind of the attacks, confirms this; he told American investigators he met Moussaoui but didn't choose him for the Sept. 11 team.

2. Moussaoui is a French citizen. The European Union condemns the death penalty for foreign nationals in the United States. France wants Moussaoui spared, and Germany says it will not release evidence against Moussaoui unless the U.S. promises not to seek the death penalty.

Carp at the unpleasant prospect of letting the European "soft power" appeasers dictate American judicial policy against terrorists. And then listen.

The intelligence-gathering in Europe is formidable, and in many cases more aggressive and less regulation-hampered than its equivalent in the U.S. The Sept. 11 plot was hatched there, in Hamburg, and future threats likely will be, too. We need Europe's quiet cooperation, in the long haul. Given that the death penalty isn't a clear call in Moussaoui's case anyhow, better to let it go now for the sake of later catching a bigger, and more fry-able, fish.

3. Moussaoui spouts typical Wahhabi world-view nonsense. He believes America is doomed, bin Laden will triumph and decent women should stay at home velied in black robes, at the mercy of men. He's only 36. What better punishment than to let him live out his days watching America work through its challenges, democracy advance in the Middle East and bin Ladin's medievalism tossed in history's dustbin? Add it to our list of incentives that Moussaoui's watching and rooting for our failure.

Best of all, he'd have to deal daily with the commands of female prison officials and the orders of women in black robes – like Leonie Brinkema.