"Burn in the U.S.A."?
April 07, 2006
"Burn in the U.S.A."?
Very funny, Zacarias. I am assuming that Mr. Moussaoui regards himself as the Bruce Springsteen of terror. What next? Will he leap to the defense table and air guitar his way into oblivion?
The 37-year-old has been found responsible for the death of the victims of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. A jury has determined that he is eligible for death. Now the grisly work of balancing mitigants against aggravants is taking place. Should the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors, the jury is free to vote for death.
But is this trial really about justice? Yesterday's testimony, as reported in The New York Times, was macabre. Rudolph Guiliani took the stand for two hours to describe the events of the day from his perspective as Mayor of New York City. Ordinary folks who lost loved ones told touching vignettes about their losses.
And when Moussaoui's lawyers have their turn, they will put on evidence that their client drifts in and out of mental illness, and has at times believed his own lawyers were conspiring to kill him. Moussaoui, they will argue, was an easy mark for radical Islamic propaganda.
The death penalty is a pointless act of vengeance. Watch the penalty phases of these trials and realized the limits of what our courts can accomplish. Was 9-11 devastating? Yes. Does Moussaoui have a few screws loose? Certainly.
Yet in this case I can't muster much passion in opposition to the death penalty. Somehow killing Moussaoui seems less like justice than mercy.
Moussaoui is playing us all for fools. His is not a principled decision to die, as was the case in that of Connecticut serial killer Michael Ross, who abandoned his appeals and let the needle take him. Moussaoui is fighting death while playing at martyr. Oddly, we will most likely give him what he wants, a public death, a death that makes him a hero to those who hate us.
"Burn in the U.S.A.?" The man plays us like a fiddle. We'd be better served simply locking him and throwing away the key. In a world of suicide bombers do we really want to give death-bent fools a stage to mock us day by day?