From today’s Opinion Journal:
Need an antidote to the Moussaoui verdict? Go out this weekend to see “United 93.”
Zacarias Moussaoui is lucky the jurors at his sentencing trial weren’t allowed to see the movie “United 93” the day before reaching a verdict. If they had, rather than handing him life in prison, it is likely that one or more of the jurors would have come out of the box to deliver the death sentence himself–just as the four doomed men on Flight 93 charged their hijackers to stop its fanatic pilots from flying the airliner into another American building.
I wonder if Peggy Noonan still believes that Americans are ambivalent about the death penalty?
Some will say the Moussaoui life sentence merely proves that we in the U.S. are beyond biblical justice, beyond an eye for an eye, even if our Islamic enemies do not bother to claim any grievance larger than resentment to justify the most startling slaughter of innocents all over the world. This argument–that the refusal to impose the death penalty on Moussaoui shows “we are not like them”–might have been entertainable before September 11. It may no longer be.
Guilty, I guess, but it’ll take more than saying that the world changed on September 11th to convince me my viewpoint is wrong. It’s the same excuse used for why we must give up some of our liberties in the pursuit of safety. The argument doesn’t work there, either.
… But perhaps you no longer know September 11 as well as you think. In this week of the Moussaoui life sentence, it is pertinent to ask whether the days and seasons we’ve traveled from the time of September 11 have returned the people of America to a routine that feels more normal than perhaps it should. Our sense of normalcy may not be in our best interest.
As an example, one thought that occurred in the hour after seeing “United 93” had to do with the recent debate in the U.S. over the warrantless wiretapping of suspected phone calls between terrorists. In that hour, this “debate” seemed quite otherworldly. It is unlikely that in the first six months after September 11 Sen. Arlen Specter would ever have thought to intone that the wiretapping program was “in flat violation” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But he does now. Times change.
I’m blogging the essay as I’m reading it, so my response here is a mix of laughter and defeat. Can the Wall Street Journal’s editors become any more apologetic for the Bush Administration’s desecration of the Constitution?
There is reason to believe that pre-9/11 thinking will in time return and prevail.
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.
I used the word “rot” this morning, so I’ll the criticism. But perhaps the editors should research the definition of “rot”. It is not synonymous with “torture”. So, again, I refer back to Ms. Noonan’s words I quoted this morning. People who deplore Moussaoui’s life sentence as a lack of testicular fortitude by the jury aren’t what I’d term “ambivalent” about the death penalty.
Not to mention the Moussaoui trial itself. … 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.
How weak is our justice system, really, if it keeps someone like Moussaoui from attacking America during the four years of his trial? Him making clearly ludicrous statements, proving that he’s a psychopath more than anything, is a threat to our country? I guess this is the part where I remember that words are dangerous, our Republic can’t withstand criticism, and might is right.