The Moussaoui Verdict

So I'm completely in a tither about the outcome of the Moussaoui trial. I am on the one hand pleased that they decided not to execute him, and on the other fairly vexed that the whole country--even the judge who sentenced him--seems to regard this as some kind of failure. I'm apalled by the fact that people across the nation seem to be comforting themselves with the thought that he's going to spend the rest of his life in supermax custody, which is by many accounts a fate worse than death. There were jeers in one editorial to the effect of "he'll rot in a cell before he burns in Hell." Shame on all of us.

To cap it off, there have been noises about how he's going to be denied even the 5 monthly non-contact visits afforded to other prisoners in this most extreme manifestation of solitary confinement, although I really don't see how they're going to get that one by the ACLU. The sentencing judge wagged her finger at him and said he would never get to speak publicly again, but that seems incredibly naive to me as I really doubt they're going to be able to hold him completely incommunicado, in which case lines from his letters and/or interviews will (probably sooner rather than later) find their way into various "true crime" and other exploitative books, copies of which will probably end up in the Library of Congress for indefinite historical preservation on the federal dollar. I would also point out to the scolding judge that, although most people in the English-speaking world today know Moussaoui's name, very few of those same people could produce hers if they were offered money to do so.

I really wish the media had paid more attention to exactly what crimes he was convicted of, rather than focusing almost exclusively on the outrageous things he said and did in the courtroom. The impression I get is that he was mostly convicted of vocally supporting Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 attacks, and Islamic jihad in general which, as distasteful as it may be to most of us, is not a crime. Considering that he was actually in federal custody as the 9/11 attacks took place, it would seem that the worst they could possibly get him on would be conspiracy, and although there's a long legal tradition of taking conspiracy very seriously I have had a problem with it since law school. Conspiracy is a charge that's relatively difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (especially when, as in this case, the defendent wants you to believe he was involved) and relatively easy to trump up with courtroom theatrics and propaganda (again, much easier when the accused does his best to help you out). Although the federal prosecutors have produced long lists of Moussaoui's alleged crimes and he was obviously found guilty on some particular charge, we all know, deep down, that his was mostly a show trial. 9/11 happened, the people most directly responsible for it died in the act, Osama bin Laden slipped through our fingers, and the Iraq war proved to be about something else altogether: SOMEBODY STILL OWES US AN EYE! So it's politically expedient to barbecue this guy who's obliquely connected and who, guess what, wants to be a martyr anyway, so why don't we give him his chance?

Well, they had to try somebody for it, right?