Thinking of Zacharias Moussaoui
Consider the statement at this website. Note that the writer feels life imprisonment was a more appropriate sentence than death, but note also the reasons:.
Second, by sentencing Moussaoui to life in prison at the federal Supermax facility in Colorado, we have done far worse than put him to death. He will be in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. He will have no visitors. He will have no contact with other inmates. He will be locked in his cell 23 hours a day. The only persons he will see will be the guards who will deliver his meals three times a day or escort him to a room for his daily 60 minute exercise period. That is it. He may, on occasion, be visited by some law enforcement or governmental official, but that's all. No friends. No relatives. No imams. Nobody.
To reiterate, we have done far worse than kill him. We have made him a non-entity, a living ghost who will quickly fade out of the the public's memory. And then he will die, as the presiding judge said, quoting T.S.Eliot, “with a whimper.” I can think of no better fate for him.
I am not an expert on the facts of Moussaoui's case. I don't know whether he actually had a role in 9/11, or whether he actually knew when and where it would take place. The jury heard the evidence and concluded that he did, so I tentatively assume that they are correct. I also don't know whether Moussaoui was mentally ill - though some of his actions and statements suggest that to a non-medical person like me. I certainly acknowledge, based on things he said in court, that he was a person filled with rage and that he directed that rage at all Americans (among others) - presumably including (not to be personal about it) ... me. So I have no problem seeing that innocent people should be protected from him, even if this means confining him for life.
If the above description of conditions for his confinement are accurate, I find them absolutely horrifying and absolutely unjustified. What could motivate such treatment except society's rage at his crime? How does this cruelty in any way redeem the suffering of the victims of 9/11? How does it advance justice? Or peace?
Jesus urged his followers to 'love your enemies and do good to those who hate you' (Luke 6:27-28). I have not taken this to mean that we necessarily have to feel warm and tender emotions toward specific people, but that we should intend (and act for) their good rather than their harm. Jesus modelled this attitude himself, even on the cross. Millions of people who think of themselves as followers of Jesus do not seem to want to apply this teaching in cases like Moussaoui's, but it seems to me that if we really become His Friends we will become able to do so: not only in the case of big and public and 'political' cases like Moussaoui's but in our daily interactions with "enemies" whose actions are merely inconvenient or annoying rather than evil.
I claim no great acheivement on this score, but I at least feel clear about what the direction should be.
I also wonder whether in fact Moussaoui is permitted visitors and whether he gets any? Is there anyone anywhere still looking out for his welfare, able to communicate with him and listen to him? Are Friends or others concerned for his rights and willing to believe that he is capable of growth?
These are sobering questions. I have been pondering them from some time and feel no clearness at all about what can be done.
- - Rich