May 4, 2006

Keeping The Virgins Waiting

Peggy Noonan makes the case for killing Moussaoui:

It is as if we've become sophisticated beyond our intelligence, savvy beyond wisdom. Some might say we are showing a great and careful generosity, as befits a great nation. But maybe we're just, or also, rolling in our high-mindedness like a puppy in the grass. Maybe we are losing some crude old grit. Maybe it's not good we lose it.

No one wants to say, "They should have killed him." This is understandable, for no one wants to be called vengeful, angry or, far worse, unenlightened. But we should have put him to death, and for one big reason.

This is what Moussaoui did: He was in jail on a visa violation in August 2001. He knew of the upcoming attacks. In fact, he had taken flight lessons to take part in them. He told no one what was coming. He lied to the FBI so the attacks could go forward. He pled guilty last year to conspiring with al Qaeda; at his trial he bragged to the court that he had intended to be on the fifth aircraft, which was supposed to destroy the White House.

He knew the trigger was about to be pulled. He knew innocent people had been targeted, and were about to meet gruesome, unjust deaths.

He could have stopped it. He did nothing. And so 2,700 people died...

...I happen, as most adults do, to feel a general ambivalence toward the death penalty. But I know why it exists. It is the expression of a certitude, of a shared national conviction, about the value of a human life. It says the deliberate and planned taking of a human life is so serious, such a wound to justice, such a tearing at the human fabric, that there is only one price that is justly paid for it, and that is the forfeiting of the life of the perpetrator. It is society's way of saying that murder is serious, dreadfully serious, the most serious of all human transgressions.

It is not a matter of vengeance. Murder can never be avenged, it can only be answered.

If Moussaoui didn't deserve the death penalty, who does? Who ever did?

And if he didn't receive it, do we still have it?

I too am largely ambivalent about the death penalty, unconvinced as I am that it serves as a deterrent to capital crime. And even though I think the jury spared his life for the wrong reasons (he had a dysfunctional, abusive family?), in this case I think denying him the martyrdom he wanted is perhaps a more fitting punishment. It gives a whole new meaning to "life in America". To hear him tell it, it's Moussaoui's worst nightmare.

UPDATE: John McIntyre at RCP Blog comments.

Posted by dan at May 4, 2006 9:15 PM