The mark of Zorro

Zorro’s trademark was a nicely sliced “Z”, usually in the clothing of an opponent. This was always accompanied by the “szwits-szwits-szwits” of his sword’s rapid movement.

In the present case, the “Z” is for Zacharias, and there was no “szwits-szwits-szwits”. Moussaoui just stood there holding the epee steady while someone slowly moved the United States against its tip in a reverse “Z” pattern.

It took four and a half years to determine that Zacharias Moussaoui will not be put to death by the state for withholding information that might have prevented the deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

I don’t much care about the verdict. On the whole I think he deserved the death penalty. But, whatever. Let him rot in solitary. The “free Mumia” crowd won’t get much leverage from Moussaoui’s incarceration.

I am more troubled by the idea that American jurors accepted childhood psychological trauma as a mitigating factor, not only for what he planned to do on 9-11, not only for what he said during his trail, but as a de-facto justification for Jihad. Why does Moussaoui hate us? Poverty. Racism practiced by the French and British. A nasty family life. So? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a psychopath is just a mass murderer in waiting. Hannibal Lecter would have been a more sympathetic figure if his I.Q. had been 75 and he’d been tortured as a child, but so what? We wouldn’t feel any collective Western guilt about putting Mr. Lecter to death.

Opposing the death penalty on principle, by the way, is a different matter than collective guilt about the white man’s burden. This was a decision made by people who all said they could, at least in principle, find for the death penalty for a crime that merited it in a jurisdiction where it is legal. They forgave Mr. Moussaoui because “the West” had discriminated against him. Possibly, therefore, this is the worst example of affirmative action we have ever seen.

Four and a half years it took to reach this denouement; and what do we hear? We hear about the terrorists, who were not apprehended on US soil, not yet being given their day in court. A parsed summary: “Moussaoui is a minor player compared to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, but Khalid’s been held for three years without trial. This proves the United States is as incompetent as it is evil. Why aren’t these others being tried in a court of law?”

Well, the Constitutional argument against supporting full criminal due-process for the mastermind of an act of war, and the largest mass-murder in our history, and who was captured on foreign soil in wartime, has been made and is strong. However, it has also been largely ineffective with a certain segment of Americans, so let’s just look at some practical questions.

Taking the Moussaoui trial as our example, can our courts bear the load of criminally prosecuting all these hapless jihadists? Can we afford it? Moussaoui’s case cost $20 million in public funds. Ten more such trials would finance a bridge in Alaska. What kind of evidence would come out of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s defense discovery requests that would damage national security?

These are not all questions one would normally ask of a system of justice. Due process is a key element of why we think of ourselves as a free people; the burden should be borne by the state. But for those who despise the very foundation of the law being used to protect them and who wish it utterly destroyed, I think the question is entirely different. We do not owe them such consideration at such great risk to ourselves.

That Zacharias Moussaoui committed a capital crime against the United States and yet is not going to die because he was treated badly in Europe and came from a dysfunctional family is an admission of moral incapacity. In wartime.