John Rosenthal has an important piece in Policy Review that reveals the hidden truths about the Zacarias Moussaoui trial gleaned from never-before-published transcripts of his testimony. Rosenthal e-mails: “The transcripts reveal that on numerous issues — charges of prosecutorial misconduct, Moussaoui’s supposedly “troubled” childhood, and above all his supposed “desire for martyrdom” — the media completely distorted the evidence that was available to the jury in the courtroom. The actual record of the case provides clear insights into the 9/11 attacks and the nature of Jihadism more generally that were obscured in the sort of “parallel reality” created by the coverage in the major media.”
Here’s a choice excerpt. Read the whole thing:
…the most fundamental lesson to be learned from Moussaoui’s testimony is one that ought to have been perfectly obvious even without it: The 9/11 attacks were precisely attacks. They were not banal crimes actuated by banal criminal motives, as the trying of Moussaoui before an ordinary civilian jurisdiction would suggest. They were acts of war undertaken with the express purpose of inflicting damage upon a designated enemy: the United States.
Moussaoui laid out numerous particular grounds for accusing the court-appointed defense lawyers of what he styled “criminal non-assistance” (April 13, 2006; 3602), but the fundamental fact of his being at war with the United States was, as he made unmistakably clear, the single overriding reason for his refusing their representation. “What on earth is the problem for the jurors to know that this defense doesn’t belong to me?” he exclaimed, in defending his attempts to alert them to this fact during jury selection. “You own everything. You are America — the defense, the judge, the attackers. These people are American. I’m al Qaeda. I’m a sworn enemy of you. You, you, you, you, for me you are enemy” (February 14, 2006; 6). Apparently hoping to convince the jury that his client was delusional, Zerkin repeatedly asked Moussaoui whether he thought that Zerkin himself and the other defense lawyers were part of a “conspiracy” to kill him. “In a broad sense, yes,” Moussaoui responded during his March testimony, “because you are American, and I consider every American to be my enemy, so for me any American is meant to want my death because I want their death ” ( 2377–78). When Zerkin attempted to press the point, asking whether the judge and jury were also part of the “conspiracy,” Moussaoui interrupted him and insisted that he did not mean to refer to a conspiracy in the literal legal sense in which he himself had been charged. “When I refer to your conspiracy,” he explained, “it refer to you being an American . . . so, therefore, people like me are your enemy. I ’m an enemy combatant. So, in the broad sense, you are a part of this nation, so I assume that you are an enemy to me ” ( 2379). “I want to kill American people,” Moussaoui noted matter-of-factly when he took the stand again on April 13. “I believe that every American want to kill me, somehow. . . . You don’t like people like me out in the street. You can’t say that. You don’t want somebody like me out in the street. You want me either in jail or dead” (3654).
Anyone reading Moussaoui’s testimony — especially the transcript of his second appearance on the stand — could hardly doubt the wisdom of this assessment. His second appearance came on the heels of several days of emotional testimony by survivors of the 9/11 attacks and family members of victims. Asked by Zerkin whether he felt any regret for the suffering the attacks had caused them, Moussaoui answered “not whatsoever” and bluntly stated “we done it for this”:
We wanted to inflict pain on your country. . . . I’m glad they have received pain, I’m glad their family are suffering pain, and I wish there would be more pain, because I already can forecast, after tomorrow, next week, the week after, the children of Palestine will be in pain. The children of Chechnya will be in pain. . . . I want you to share in the pain. (3664–65)
Asked by prosecutor Robert Spencer on cross-examination whether he remained prepared to kill Americans even in prison, Moussaoui answered “any time, anywhere” (3689). “No regret, no remorse, right, Mr. Moussaoui?” Spencer asked, alluding to his earlier reply to Zerkin. “No regret, no remorse,” Moussaoui confirmed. “Like it all to happen again, right?” Spencer asked. “Every day until we get here to you,” Moussaoui replied (3693). Having explained that according to chapter 9, verse 29 of the Quran, Muslims, as he put it, “have the obligation to be the super power” (3657) and hence to “subdue” the United States, Moussaoui also managed to invoke what the consequences for Americans would be if this goal was ever reached. “For the . . . American Jewish, we will exterminate them,” he specified. “For the Christian, it is different. . . . We have a way to accommodate them if they don ’t fight us” (3661).
Although Moussaoui was unquestionably a part of the “broader” 9/11 plot, there is no evidence of his having made any material contribution to the attacks that occurred. His only contribution was negative. All that he did — and all that prosecutors accused him of doing — was to lie to fbi investigators about his activities in order to protect the plot from being exposed. Not having had the benefit of the obvious organizational skills of Mohammed Atta, moreover, his own operation was so ill-prepared that there is serious reason to doubt that it would have come off even if he had not been arrested. There is even some evidence that Moussaoui himself doubted that it would happen. (He is known, for instance, in early 2001 to have asked an Oklahoma City Imam for help in finding a wife.) It is likely this fleeting, intangible quality of Moussaoui ’s role — and not the tricks of the defense lawyers — that finally convinced at least one juror to refuse the death penalty. Indeed, under ordinary circumstances — and if Moussaoui had not himself foreclosed the option by pleading guilty — acquittal ought to have been a real possibility.
But as Moussaoui’s own words underscore — “I want to kill American people. . . . You don’t want somebody like me out in the street” — even if innocent of specific charges, how could such a man be set free? A further derivative lesson of his testimony is thus the inappropriateness of a civilian jurisdiction for handling cases like that of Moussaoui. As far as al Qaeda and al Qaeda members are concerned, the 9/11 attacks were merely one “operation” in a broader and longer war on America that is ongoing. “It is a long way before we reach [get] you,” Moussaoui predicted, “but we will reach you” (3688). Yet even as al Qaeda remains at war with the United States, a large part of the American political and media elite — to say nothing of their European counterparts — appear dedicated to preventing the United States from being at war with al Qaeda and taking effective action in its defense.
Criminal prosecution of al Qaeda leaders or operatives before civilian jurisdictions is clearly not effective action in this connection. Al Qaeda members are sworn to fight against America literally to the death. As Moussaoui explained, the preparedness to die in service to one ’s “emir” is the very meaning of the oath of allegiance or bayat that al Qaeda members have sworn to Osama bin Laden. It is, he said, a “death allegiance” (3672). Criminal prosecutions, even on death penalty charges, can have no dissuasive impact in this context. Especially if they are to be conducted according to the normal due process safeguards of American law, moreover, such trials involve major national security risks, the most obvious being that sworn enemies of the United States — “enemy combatants,” as Moussaoui called them, willingly assuming the mantle — will go free.
If there is a category of crime under which atrocities like the 9/11 attacks could be meaningfully prosecuted, it is precisely that of war crimes or — per the specification for mass crimes against a civilian population introduced by the Nuremburg Tribunal — “crimes against humanity”…
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