On April 6, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani became the first witness to testify in the penalty phase of admitted al-Qaida member and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. This is the last part of the trial, to determine his punishment after being convicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit terrorism, conspiracy to destroy aircraft and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
Each of these crimes carries a possible death sentence. Prosecutors are, of course, pressing for the death penalty, using videotaped images of the day as well as recordings of calls placed from inside the towers and on board the aircraft. Moussaoui’s defense centers around his possible inherited mental instability, and that al-Qaida extremism took advantage of him as a troubled youth.
Giuliani described watching a man hit the pavement after falling from one of the towers that day, and then a couple holding hands as they jumped to their deaths. Family members present wept at Giuliani’s account of the ‘vaporization’ of civilians inside the World Trade Center as it collapsed, and of the ‘horrid’ smell of burning flesh while the area burned for three months. Moussaoui smiled at some of the descriptions, and seemed somewhat bored throughout the proceeding.
Several times Moussaoui has bragged about his involvement in the attacks of Sept. 11, now claiming that he was to have crashed a plane into the White House. It is now generally accepted that he was most likely the missing terrorist on the undermanned hijack crew that died when their plane crashed in Pennsylvania after an attempt by the passengers to regain control. It is also believed that the flight was headed for the U.S. Capitol building.
The jury in the case has found Moussaoui responsible for some of the Sept. 11 deaths, saying that his lies after being arrested a month earlier were intended to distract the investigators and keep them away from the current al-Qaida operation aimed at New York and Washington, D.C.
Alice Hoagland, the mother of Mark Bingham, one of the passengers killed on that flight, will actually testify on behalf of Moussaoui. In a CNN interview on April 4, she claimed, ‘We should set a higher example than he, and preserve the sanctity of life. We should offer him what he did not: mercy.’ She is voicing what she believes on a matter much more personal to her than most Americans, including myself, and that is admirable.
Whether you are opposed to the death penalty or not, it exists in the United States. Despite being labeled as less progressive than the rest of the Western industrialized world because of it, it is an illustration of the state of American society. If it were not, it would not still be in existence.
I consider myself a liberal. I did not vote for George W. Bush, and I do not support the current war in Iraq. But I am in favor of capital punishment, especially in this case, and part of me is proud that in my country, you won’t spend the rest of your life watching television in prison after murdering someone.
Yes, I have heard that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, but when I think it through, it really just makes two people half blind, the retaliator probably feeling a little lenient, and the instigator discontent with the outcome in general.
Are you or your parents willing to divert taxes toward the fund that will be required to keep this man alive and praying for the next several decades? I am not. And yes, I have also read that is it more expensive to execute a prisoner than to keep one alive in prison for life. But if that is actually true, it is worth the investment to be rid of him. Maybe the government could reallocate a few of the billions of dollars being spent every month in Iraq toward a more substantive step forward in this war.
Moussaoui has been convicted by a fair, civilian American court of what are basically war crimes and crimes against humanity. If you asked Moussaoui, he would most likely say that only his God can judge his actions. Let’s arrange the meeting.