Monday, March 06, 2006

Who's Really on Trial

Andrew Cohen's excellent review of the Moussaoui trial serves up a lumpy gruel in the form of yet more Justice Department bungling. As Cohen points out, government lawyers, in choosing to prosecute Moussaoui and seek the death penalty for his alleged sideways complicity in 9/11, have painted themselves into a corner by arguing that Moussaoui could have saved American from 9/11 had he not lied about his activities in the pre-9/11 month of August. In other words and despite receiving warnings from their own intelligence agencies, like the Aug. 6 Presidential Daily Brief, surely, surely the White House would have heeded the warnings of a reportedly schizophrenic Muslim madman and saved the day. Screw the CIA! what do they know? But Moussaoui? Now, there's a man we can believe and trust.

Yes, that is what the government is now arguing as it seeks the death penalty:
When the shouting is over, no matter what happens to Moussaoui, the trial will lay bare only two immutable truths about this story: 1) that the feds have tried disingenuously to make Moussaoui pay for the crimes committed by the real hijackers and Osama bin Laden, and; 2) that if Moussaoui's deceptive answers to authorities in August, 2001 "resulted" in the terror attacks of 9/11 than [sic] we were back then a nation that had to rely upon a sworn enemy like Moussaoui to deliver us from the evil of that day. Neither of these truths is pretty.
What is more curious than the odd legal position government lawyers have taken in the case, is that it is a case at all. After arguing for years that the administration has the executive authority to detain "enemy combatants" indefinitely, even American citizens so designated, why bring to trial this man? It was certainly known that Moussaoui was an unstable nut whose trial would simply expose the weaknesses of the government's arguments as it inadvisably sought the death penalty. Either accept his guilty plea and lock him away, trumpeting truth, justice and the American way or lock the lunatic away just as they have all those other hapless Gitmo souls.

I suspect that the real reason is less than uplifting and it has more to do with George Bush's endless, mean-spirited desire for vengence than any notion of justice. In Bush's world, those two concepts are, in fact, one and same. Seeking the death penalty for Moussaoui, as ridiculous as it now appears, was the only viable solution to a weltanschauung that views vengence as the only possible retaliation. It, quite literally, overwhelmed the rational course.

But then, when hasn't that been true of this White House?


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