Thursday, May 04, 2006

Zacarias Moussaoui "will die with a whimper."

The jury spoke twice. Once to find him guilty, and again to sentence him to life without parole instead of receiving the death penalty. Reactions are all over the map. One of the first things I heard on the radio this morning was a man who had lost his wife in WTC attack saying that he wanted revenge, that he was deply disappointed that Moussaoui had not received a death penalty. Peggy Noonan was also disappointed, saying I'm not sure this is progress. It feels not like the higher compassion but the lower evasion. It feels dainty in a way that speaks not of gentleness but fear.

But Judge Leonie Brinkema ended the case with grace and finality.

Brinkema firmly refused to be interrupted by the 37-year-old defendant as she disputed his claim that his life sentence meant America had lost and he had won.

"Mr. Moussaoui, when this proceeding is over, everyone else in this room will leave to see the sun ... hear the birds ... and they can associate with whomever they want," she said.

She went on: "You will spend the rest of your life in a supermax prison. It's absolutely clear who won."And she said it was proper he will be kept away from outsiders, unable to speak publicly again.

"Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory," she said, "but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper."

At that point, Moussaoui tried again to interrupt her, but she raised her voice and spoke over him.

"You will never get a chance to speak again and that's an appropriate ending."

Brinkema sentenced Moussaoui to six life terms without the chance of parole.

Moussaoui is still a young man, and appears to be in good health. Barring unforeseen circumstances he may spend sixty or seventy years in a maximum security environment, twenty-three hours a day in isolation. During that time he will long to die again and again. He will have to be guarded against committing suicide. Being disallowed from dying before "your time" is a far more devastating sentence than dying right away, as swiftly and painlessly as we can arrange.

Everyone dies. Death is the reward for living.

Dying well, even for those who die young, is the reward for living well.
This man will neither live nor die well. And he will have no one to blame other than himself.

Here is a link to T.S.Eliot's The Hollow Men (1925). And this is the last stanza...

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Life is, indeed, very long.
Tom Smith at The Right Coast links to a description of the prison to which Moussaoui is being sent.

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