Home / The U.S. Shouldn’t Execute Zacarias Moussaoui

The U.S. Shouldn’t Execute Zacarias Moussaoui

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I’ve got my ambiguities about capital punishment in the first place. Sometimes it seems like justice; other times it seems like hypocrisy; most of the time, just or not, it seems like the hardest possible thing a judge or jury can decide to have done to anther person. There is nothing simple about the death penalty.

On the surface, the case of Zacarias Moussaoui would seem to be the most unambiguous, easiest, most cut-and-dried death penalty decision imaginable in the United States. I’m sure a huge number of people see it that way. But I would argue that, if anything, Moussaoui’s death penalty eligibility is even MORE complicated than most.

For one thing, this is not Nuremberg, the Moussaoui trial. This is a show trial. America so desperately needs to find and punish a 9/11 perpetrator that we are potentially executing someone who WASN’T on a plane, WASN’T in New York or Washington or Pennsylvania, wasn’t even selected as a second-string terrorist hijacker, and at best, might (MIGHT) have prevented 9/11 if he had told what he knew. That last is a serious crime, of course, but it’s technically closer to perjury. We do not put people to death for perjury in this country.

Much of the case for death, of course, is predicated on Moussaoui’s confession. However, Moussaoui has made and contradicted so many statements, changed his story so many times, and done so much grandstanding and propagandizing and flat-out demonstrable lying… well, at this point how can we take ANYTHING he says seriously? The answer, in this case, seems to be that he is saying what we want to hear, so we want to believe it. But I frankly don’t trust a freakin’ word that Moussaoui says, even if he’s taking responsibility for something so big.

The man clearly wants to make huge statements about jihad against the United States, and how can we be convinced that his guilty plea and his sudden “I was going to be part of 9/11” admission isn’t some extension of that? Does anything the man has said establish credibility on his part? (For that matter, does anything he’s said establish SANITY on his part?)

That last presents yet another dilemma, the idea of executing a possibly insane man. It stands on its own. Yes, he was deemed competent to stand trial; but if you’ll remember, once upon a time he was also deemed competent to defend himself. Look how that panned out. (This is actually the weakest of arguments I’m presenting, and I’m well aware of it given the judge’s repeated decisions of competency… it’s just something to think about given Moussaoui’s behavior patterns.)

But all of these things are secondary to the major concern in my book. We are dealing with a member of an extremist group to whom martyrdom is an honor, seen as courageous, even divine. Those are the same people we are punishing by proxy with Moussaoui; those are the people to whom we are sending a message; those are the people who will be watching most closely if he is executed. Do we really want to give them more fuel for the fire?

Do we want so badly to make an example and a scapegoat of a man who was, at best, tangentially part of the 9/11 crimes, that we’re willing to give Al Qaeda and other extreme elements one more battle cry and rallying point? Many of us Americans aren’t particularly concerned about this, but I’m asking this:

Even if you don’t worry about the harm that can be done, what good does it do?

Will we have executed somebody who actually had a direct hand in 9/11?

Will we be a safer country because Zacarias Moussaoui is dead?

Will we even have vented our rage over 9/11 by administering a lethal injection to this guy?

I’m not sure we will. So what’s the upside of making Moussaoui a martyr?

Let him rot in jail for the rest of his life. Solitary confinement and round-the-clock suicide watch. He won’t be a martyr, he won’t be a danger, and his idiotic rantings will be muted anyway.

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About Michael J. West

  • Joey


    But I have no qualms about capital punishment, I think in this instance life would suit. He wants to die, don’t let him.

  • Yeah, even those who are in favor of capital punishment must realize that killing him plays right into his hands. I wonder if his acting wild is to make SURE he gets executed.

  • RedTard

    Good point, I don’t think it should be a capital offense to not talk about the plan. Although he seems like a complete scumbag I don’t see what he did that warrants death, except of course by the thought police.

    As for the insanity defense, I have always viewed it as completely inappropriate hogwash.

    Committing outrageous crimes = Crazy.
    Crazy = Not Guilty.
    Commit outrageous crimes = Not guilty.

    It’s moronic logic to me. I get digusted every time a mother cuts her babies arms off and gets 1 month mimimum “treatment” while some poor, black kid gets 10 years or life for some stupid drug offense.

  • I think it depends, the insanity defense. I don’t want to get too heavily into that, but let’s say I think it’s probably just as well to put John Hinckley Jr. into the nut house for the rest of his life.

    As for Moussaoui, like I said…I think he’s a complete scumbag but yes, the real reason he’s facing capital punishment is because America so badly needs someone to punish for 9/11, that we’re willing to punish even the most marginally involved person.

  • While I get the arguement, I disagree. If we mix pigs blood into the lethal injection and make it known that he will loose his martyrdom, there will be no problem.

    When he is executed, he can’t kill anyone else, he can’t escape. We have had plenty prison breaks the last six months that make it a possibility. Then there’s the possibility that he could recruit others, which would be the worst possible scenerio.

    I just don’t care if he is insane or not. He admitted he was a part of the plan and we could have had more info. He wants to kill more let’s not give him the possibility.

    Is it going to solve all our problems no. It’s called capital punishment for a reason, if we do it in such a way to “steal” his martyrdom the problem goes away.

  • Capital Punishment, though it’s called “punishment,” is supposed to be about justice. And if you think mixing pig blood into his lethal injection is NOT going to recruit others — at least in the sense that it will cause others to be furious with America — I’ve got a bridge I’ll sell you.

  • Nancy

    I fully support capital punishment – I have no problems, moral or otherwise with the state taking any convicted criminal’s life, and I have no problem with executing the insane, retarded, or those traumatized by their mothers who refused to let them eat chocolate bunnies for breakfast at Eastertime. But I do think in this case that giving him the death sentence might indeed be playing into his hands. Muslim or not, I think there are a lot of guys in jail who are gonna want a piece of him, whatever facility we house him in, so he’s more or less going to spend the rest of his life in solitary. Which is also fine with me, as long as it isn’t DELUXE solitary, where the prisoner gets premium facilities, food, medical treatment, access to amusements, spa equipment, unlimited internet, etc. etc. etc. … which of course is exactly what will happen, since they can’t exactly put him on a roadside chain gang working out of Angola. The sonofabitch is going to spend the rest of his life living the easy gratis courtesy of the taxpayers, while he ties up the courts with endless appeals & other bullshit, including bitching (no doubt) about his living facilities, privileges, how someone looked at him with their eyes crossed, etc.

    Actually, there was an editorial cartoon showing Moussaoui taped into a pilot’s chair of a plane full of explosives, and a departing US official saying, “the plane’s set to crash land at the Iranian nuclear facility. Have a nice trip.” Good idea, that.

  • A little simplistic, Nancy. First of all, I’ve never heard of DELUXE solitary. “Solitary” means you’re in a room by yourself with no windows or furnishings or access to anything, 23 hours a day. Ever been to Alcatraz? Seen what solitary confinement looks like there? That’s what we’re dealing with here.

    Second of all, even if he wasn’t in solitary, it’s flat-out ludicrous to say he’ll be “living the easy gratis.” They’re still subject to strip-searches, miltary discipline, confined space, and food you wouldn’t let your dog eat off the ground. If it was “easy gratis” don’t you think mroe prisoners would express their wish to stay there forever?

    Third of all, he’s not going to tie up the courts with endless appeals. He pled guilty.

  • SpazzCat

    I believe that if he ever goes to an American prison, he’s eventually going to have to face American prisoners. Even prisoners are patriotic.

  • Nancy

    I saw a photo recently of a ‘solitary’ cell in one of the federal facilities. While it did have the toilet/sink out in the open, it also had a quite comfy bed with 2 fat mattresses – certainly better than the screeching chain-link base & thin travesty I had in college, and larger, too: the one in the prison was a full, mine (which I had to PAY for) was a very scant twin – and its own refrigerator, desk with shelving, computer, a TV & VCR/DVD machine, cupboards – in fact, the thing looked more like a fucking well-furnished college single room than a prison cell. Added to that the prisoners’ “entitlements” of exercise time complete with a fully furnished line of gym machines, meals tailored not to offend their religious or dietary needs, a good-sized library with tapes & movies as well, plus mandated by law top of the line medical treatment for any dental, medical, or psychiatric problems (including organ transplants, substance abuse programs, et al) and I’d say that’s a helluva lot cushier than the average taxpayer has it, whether you’re ‘confined’ to it 23/7 or not. Free of charge; they can’t force you to do any work to ‘earn’ it or contribute to your own upkeep; they can’t even make you clean it (!), and this is supposed to be punishment?!

  • steve

    They should definitely let him live. In doing so, they should also bring back corporal punishment

  • heather deoreo

    Zacarias Moussaoui is a hero to all Americans. I only wish he could have kept his sanity enough to carry out his mission. When will Americans realize that we are hated and that some people are motivated to do something about it.

    Heather deoreo
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Heather – Way to portray yourself as a lunatic!

    Dr. Evil – Way to throw out critical thinking!

  • Whether on not he was responsible, I’d kill him just for being so disrespectful and heartless.

    So you’d get pleasure from seeing his suffering. Pretty much makes you just like him, doesn’t it?

  • Tony_Q

    Who in thier right mind wouldn’t.Anyone with such disreguard for human life even thier own should be subjected to death from a big Harley Davidson motorcycle.And we could shash his poptarts.

  • If your comments are any indication you don’t have much more respect for human life than he does.

  • I’m going to assume a number of these will be deleted, so I won’t address by number, but Tony: we’re not talking about right and wrong here. We’re talking about respect for human life. you think humans that show disrespect for human life should be killed, then that shows a disrespect for human life on your part. Should you be killed too?

  • KYS

    I’m not at all swayed by the “we don’t want to play into his hands and make him a martyr” argument.

    Whether or not the guy wants to die to serve his religion isn’t my concern; whether or not he receives justice, as defined by our laws, concerns me a great deal. The crazies will continue do crazy things no matter what his fate.

    We don’t need to sabotage his martyrdom. It just. doesn’t. matter.

  • Good point, KYS. Very good point.

    So if we take martyrdom and its implications out of the equation, there’s still that other pesky question: is it justice to kill a man for something he had no direct involvement in? Is it justice to kill a man for not telling what he knew about ANOTHER person’s crime?

    Since we’re talking about justice as defined by our laws, it should be noted that Federal statutes for perjury call for a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

  • KYS


    I agree with your concerns. I don’t want him punished for crimes he didn’t commit, but I want him to answer for his involvement. How involved was he? It’s not all that clear from the media coverage I’ve seen…hopefully the trial produced enough evidence to make a determination. I wouldn’t have a problem with the death penalty if he had direct involvement planning the attacks.

    I just have a general problem with the idea that we should allow a person’s religion to influence his sentence.

  • You’re right, his religion shouldn’t influence his sentence. But I’m not sure if this is as much about his religion as it is his political ideology (although they’re one and the same)…but let’s not argue that.

    How involved was he? It’s hard to tell. He’s made several statements, each one contradicting the last. At this point it’s hard to trust a word of it. But bear in mind that the trial didn’t produce evidence, since he pled guilty.

  • Joey

    My heartfelt thanks goes out to all those who side with terrorists… now go read Mao by Jung Chang and see what a dear hearted communist can do you his countrymen… killed 70 million +.

    That’s more murders than Stalin, Hilter, Pol Pot, and Pinochet combined.

    There are people in this world who can justify anything… including stuffing pork sausages up Zacarias Moussaoui’s rectum whilst drawing and quartering him on cable t.v., I mean come on. We all have are dark sides, but playing into the hands of a dire fanatical fringe who is waiting with baited breath to have yet another martyr handed to them on a silver platter. No way.

    Another subject brought to light here is the fact that prisoners in this country have luxery items in their cells. Gee, who thought of that? Not only do they have items of “comfort” but they can get Pell grants and go to college. I had to work 2 jobs, drive junkers, go hungry, go in debt to get mine… perhaps I should have pulled a failed convenience store heist instead.

    I’m getting off track. Zacarias Moussaoui deserves our undivided attention. He needs solitary, he doesn’t need reading material, or tv, or weight lifting, or Yoga, or any of that stuff. Remember Papillon? French Guyana would’ve suited his ilk. Hmmm, come to think of it, while the French take so much heat for everything they do and don’t do… they did run a particulary brutal prison system… and they did teach the Native Americans various and effective torture techniques.

    I’m off track again.

  • Joey

    Oh yeah… and the death penalty in this country is far from suffering. A quick bullet in the back of the skull is far from suffering. A guillotine lopping off your head is far from suffering. Those are quick ways to die.

    Injecting microbes into your bloodstream and watching for months while various, painful things happen to the body is a painful way to die.

    Burying someone up to their neck in a honey saturated sand hill and watching ants consume them, would be painful.

    Granted… marching to the table, being strapped down, watching a surgeon stick sterile medical needles into your arm and start a drip, may be a significant emotional event. But it’s far from painful. Heck, if you go into the hospital for surgery you sign all kinds of disclaimer statements in the “event” of your death. People die on in the O.R., routinely. Those deaths aren’t’ painful either, you are unconscious and don’t recognize your passing. I know, I was almost there once. Don’t remember squat about it, just woke up 3 days after the event. By the way, dying in a catastrophic motorcycle accident is very painful. I didn’t die, but the recovery and physical therapy was quite the trial and tribulation.

    So the arguments surrounding painful death by injection are plain and simply idiotic. We (as a society) take great precautions against hurting any mass murderer facing lethal injection… despite the claims by civil libertarians to the contrary.

    Now crucifixions must have really hurt. Especially when there was drinking to be done and the Romans broke your legs with a beadle to hurry things along.

  • Joey

    I know… let’s feed him to death… grow him to a 1000 pounds and watch him die slowly through glutany.

  • Joey – #23 Post. Ilove you man. Exactly.

  • KYS

    I’m beginning to think of these martyrs as Daffy Duck in the old cartoon…..

    “I know, I know, it’s a great trick, but I can only do it once….”


  • Bliffle

    Red: “…I get digusted every time a mother cuts her babies arms off and gets 1 month mimimum “treatment”…”

    Does this happen a lot in your town?

  • Joey (#23), I assume when you mention suffering you’re responding to me in #14…that was in response to a comment that has since been deleted, but the author of it wasn’t talking about capital punhisment by our government. He was talking about doing the job himself and making it hurt.

  • Nancy

    I have to say that what does bother me about the Moussaoui trial is that prosecutors admit they have NO evidence (except his say-so) whatsoever linking him to any of the 911 attacks or to Reid. What evidence they DO have indicates that he’s a sort of fringe hanger-on who never had the guts to actually get involved, he just stuck around the edges enjoying whatever notoriety he could get by playing ‘pretend’ conspirator, name-dropping, etc. – which, aside from the nature of the crowd he was emulating, is common behavior to a helluva lot of normal people who like to pretend they’re badder than they are by talking a lot of hot air. But even the government concedes, he wasn’t actually involved, except perhaps in his daydreams.

    So, the question is, did he know anything, and if he did, did not telling anybody qualify as a death-penalty-level situation? If not telling authorities what you know is a crime, then there are a helluva lot of people in the administration – especially the current WH – who also ought to get the death penalty, by that figuring. However, there is considerable evidence to indicate that even if he HAD gone screaming to the FBI, CIA, or whomever, they would have ignored him & gone their merry way, just like they did with their own employees who tried repeatedly to warn higher-up Suits that there was danger afoot here, to no avail. IMO that qualifies the Suits to be subject to the death penalty, even more than Moussaoui.

    What about people who know something but are just too fucking stupid to connect the dots & pass it on? Unfortunately, stupidity is still not a crime in this country, more’s the pity.

    I think in this case, what we have here is a high profile wannabe braggart who maybe knew something but didn’t spill. Is this a crime? In the case of other, previous criminal cases of varying subjects, it was/is, because failure to try to stop a criminal act from occurring makes that person a co-conspirator, but to a lesser degree than if they were a full participant.

    I have to reluctantly conclude that on these grounds, I think Moussaoui should get major jail time w/hard labor (unlikely in the US where prisoners’ rights supercede victims’, as well as justice, as well as the public interest). The line demarking just where mental knowledge begins & how far it extends is far too nebulous to be able to know, let alone prove in a court.

    It will be interesting to see how the jury decides and what their reasoning is.

  • Joey

    MJW, I wasn’t really responding to your reply, but I have noted in this country the sense that capital punishment could be discontinued. That really doesn’t bother me, and neither does capital punishment. What bothers me is the lavish treatment prisoners get. I understand rehabilitation etc… but come on, Pell grants? There are poor, disadvantaged people in our country who are keeping their noses clean, who have a hard time securing a Pell Grant. They are virtually handed out to convicts! That’s so wrong. Why cable? Why not a library? Oh, they can defend themselves against knife attacks with hardback books? Don’t want that. Take away the knives. Feed them finger food, porridge, oatmeal let them use their fingers, they don’t need to make shivs out of utensils. Guards furnish weapons and other contraband… put the guards in their with them, then.

    Now, about Moussaoui, he’ll do some time, stab someone in the eyeball with a sharpened comb (why do prisoners have hair?), get confinement and therefore protection, and won’t be allowed to perform any kind of physical labor. Only trustee’s perform physical labor. Chain gangs laying railroad track are non-existant today.

    Chain gangs? Wow, what a novel concept. Probably cruel and unusual punishment and therefore outlawed.

    I don’t know what to say. Guantanamo Bay? Someplace hot and humid with terrible environmental control? I don’t know what to say.

    How about having him write a book. Sell it on a global scale, take the gross (not profits) and buy bibles and air drop them into muslim countries, now that would spin them up.
    “But Joey, you have to separate church and state”

    I’m out of ideas. He can clean toilets and wash guard dogs for the rest of his life…

  • Michael, Late to this discussion, but you make a very compelling point. I’m personally against capital punishment, but, in this case, all the more because of confusion around his real involvement–but more important, despite the nonsense about how cushy it is in prison, I’d rather seem him spend the rest of life life locked up and forgotten than martyred.

    Prison sucks. And it should. It’s just where he belongs. Ignored, forgotten, and perhaps welcomed warmly by his fellow inmates.

    And that’s the truth.

  • Nancy

    The problem is prison doesn’t suck as much as it should.