Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Half Measures

So. Za mous gets to live.

It seems his crime was not sufficiently unusually cruel or heinous to merit the death penalty. Let’s examine the reasoning. If one person is killed with, say, a knife across the throat, well that’s not “unusual.” After all, that’s what throat cuttings are for. So obviously, no death penalty. If a bazillion people are killed with a throat cutting, that’s unusual enough to be "unusual." Za mous’s crime fell somewhere between one and a bazillion homicides. It seems that the nearly- three- thousand number isn’t unusual enough, according to this particular jury. I beg to differ.

As for heinous, well, consider the aim, and the outcome. The aim was to cripple the American economy and government. The aim was to spread immobilizing terror – actual terror ... not just the word terror, but the reality. Like, horror movie, slasher movie terror, only for real. And there were some slashings, if you recall. Lots and lots of blood, before all the fires. As for the outcome, well, a trillion dollar hit to the economy. That’s the recession the dems were celebrating, before Bush’s re-election. Oh, and this thing over in Iraq – that’s a direct outcome of 9/11. All in all, I think za mous’s crime contained a significant degree of heinousity.

The jurors were right in understanding za mous was not insane. His culture is insane, but in his insane culture he is sane. And that Islamism is insane does not mitigate against his crime. The jury maintained, it seems, that za mous’s own desire – to be “martyred” for his “jihad” – did not influence the, uh, deliberations. But of course it did. They didn’t want to reward him with what he wanted. Let’s look at the three possible outcomes of his death. If there is no sort of “afterlife,” then za mous would become entirely extinct, and the world would be free of his pernicious presence; that up to the moment of his extinction he should enjoy the false satisfaction of “winning” would be abnegated by the irony and futility of his false belief. And justice would have been done. If za mous’s whole worldview is correct, then his execution would indeed usher him into the Oasis of his Virgins. But that would mean his cause is just, and we are working against the will of Allah. Well, vile infidels that we are, it is yet only fitting that we should work, even unwillingly, toward Allah’s will - acting as instruments for za mous’s just and glorious reward. That would make his "martyrdom" a good thing. The third outcome would be that executing za mous would hasten his arrival in Hell. The perfect solution – perfect justice. (In this Us vs. Them formulation, there’s no need to consider the option of reincarnation and the like.)

But now za mous will be supported for the next two generations (if his natural lifespan should extend so far) in some federal prison. I will not lament the cost of it. He will be supplied his Q’uran and prayer rug and halal food stuffs. I will not call this “coddling” – it is humane, and what we would wish for ourselves. He will be given viewing privileges to CNN and the Oxygen Network. This doesn’t seem right to me, but the injustice of it is petty.

There would have been justice, in his execution. What is justice? It is an equal and appropriate response. What would have been appropriate? Well, what is not appropriate is being sent to his room for the next half-century. As for equal, on the face of it, a life for a life would be justice. Not mercy, certainly, but every real object must have at least two sides (moebius strip, you slyly say? Two sides, one surface.) Point being, mercy complements justice, it doesn't replace or supercede it. And we mustn't flinch away from justice because it might look like vengence. Alas, his death cannot be equal to his crime. He participated, such as he could, in the deaths of thousands, and plotted the deaths of tens of thousands. And the war in Iraq? A direct result of his 9/11, as noted. The deaths of our soldiers are on him as much as are the deaths of that cold clear Tuesday morning. He doesn't possess some thousands of lives to have executed, that justice may reach its sum. But one would have been enough. In any case, even the lack of justice, here, is not really distressing. What ... you expect justice? Wrong universe, mate.

There is however a material problem. He will act, given the nature of human nature, as a powerful missionary and recruiting officer to the troubled and unanchored prison population - which unlike za mous, will not be imprisoned for life, but rather released back into the general population … having been exposed for multiple hours every day for months and years to za mous’s peculiar and powerful vision of Islamic jihad. This, this seems to be a very real and ugly problem.

When you wish to neutralize some virulent pathogen, it is not enough to place it in some large confined area filled with many potential carriers who will soon be released again onto the public. The pathogen must be isolated – given no chance to expose victims or carriers to its harmful influence. The jury, today, has failed in this very fundamental principle of public hygiene. Za mous’s potential for evil was simply not actualized - he was a failed terrorist, and his crime was merely in the conspiracy, not in the, um, execution of 9/11. But over the next 40 years or so, he will become the great imam, the Sheikh of whatever federal prison he finds himself in.

We have not felt the last effect of za mous’s malarial inspiration. Rather, we have given Islamism another prophet. And in the meantime, our restless vigil over the graves of the fallen has become that much more a mere and hollow gesture.


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