Friday, May 05, 2006

A small victory against terrorism?

In an interesting turn of events, Zacharias Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison. After deliberating for a week, the jury was unable to unanimously decide on the death penalty, leaving life imprisonment as the only other option.

It's likely that Moussaoui will spend the rest of his life in the Florence Maximum Security Prison in Colorado; dubbed the "Alcatrez of the Rockies". Initially, I was a little unnerved by this, mostly because of how cruel and unusual the punishment is at this instution. At this facility, prisoners spend 23 hours a day in their small, cold and damp cells; with concrete furniture, a small TV, and none of the amenities that most country club prisons have these days. The other hour of their day is used for solitary exercise (under strict supervision, of course). The conditions of this prision are virtually uninhabitable.

Other opponents of his life imprisonment (i.e. Nancy Grace, the nutcase that she is) use a skewed manipulation of numbers and dollars as justification in support of the death penalty. According to their uncalculated numbers, it will cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $50,000 a year to keep Moussaoui incarcerated. Being a numbers man myself, I'll have to actually see those figures first before I buy into that argument.

But, after thinking about it for a moment, this is a perfect punishment for sending the right message. For one, lifelong incarceration is effective. Studies have shown that people who serve life sentences are much more likely to develop pyschological complications than convicts with limited and parolable sentences. At the outset, this sounds like a pretty mean and cruel thing to impose on another person. But, if you think about it, although the prison system is allegedly designed to punish for the purpose of rehabilitating, that's not necessarily the case with lifelong convicts. Chances are, those who are condemned to life imprisonment have done something so horrible, that they forgo their rights to live happy and normal lives themselves. What better way to ensure this than by locking them up until they die (versus being barbarians and killing them ourselves)? The slow decay of time, lonliness, and diminishing sanity is a fate far worse than death.

Secondly, (and what many pro-death penalty people don't seem to get) life imprisonment robs the 'bad guy' of the opportunity of being a hero in their own eyes. For many Islam extremists (for that matter, most terrorists), their own death is the perfect conclusion to their work. They want to "go out" in a blaze of glory by making the ultimate sacrifice for their cause. By robbing them of that instant death, they are left to settle for -- what they believe -- is a prolonged, less-than-honorable death. For instance, I once read that a Japanese kamikaze actually lived through his suicide attempt and was so depressed about it, that he later killed himself anyway. The point is: some people are so convinced that they have a higher calling to die for a cause, that living through it is almost unbearable for them.

Finally, and perhaps most notable, were the interviews with two women who had lost loved ones on 9/11. Interestingly, both women praised the jury for their decision not to execute Moussaoui . I have to say that I share in their sentiments. The last thing we need to do -- in this "war on terror" -- is to create a martyr for Al Qaeda. To me, this jury has single-handedly done more for our security and international reputation than Bush or any of his buddies have ever done. There is no better way to slap the Bush Administration, Fox News, or Al Qaeda in the face than by fighting terrorism with means other than incompetence, lies, and violence. Above all, this event -- I think -- shows the entire world that not all of us have subscribed to the archaic and brute practice of the death penalty.

Are we allowing an evil terrorist to live on? Yes. Are we better off because of it? I believe we are.


5 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

mmem said...

Nice post, Andre. I agree with you. I was hoping for a life sentence so that ZM would not be made a martyr.

This isn't about being for or against the death penalty, because I see good argument for both sides. This is about the fact that BushCo will not get to rejoice in the death of a terrorist.

Can you imagine living the next 50-60 years totally alone? In a cell with concrete furniture? ZM will soon be forgotten by his comrades, and he will die a lonely death and not get his 50 virgins in heaven.

josh said...

Although I'm Republican to the bone, I'm a little amazed at the interesting points you raise here. When I saw how deranged this guy got when he found out he was going to stay alive, that got me thinking that he really DID want to die a martyr.

This still won't convince me that the death penalty is wrong...especially when you think about ALL the innocent victims. I'm with Nancy on this one (BTW, she's not as much a "nutcase" as you make her out to be)

joanne said...

This is very interesting view on the death penalty and about this case. Thanks for sharing it.

Andre said...

@ mmem: I agree wholeheartedly. I wish that the rest of the country could have the same idea. What disturbs me is when they use the "eye for an eye" argument. I mean, if you think about it, the person (or persons) who excute prisoners should be exectued themselves, right?! Or how 'bout the person who executes the excutioner and so on...?

Ghandi was right when he said that and eye for an eye "makes the whole world blind".

@ Josh: The major point of this whole post was cited in your first paragraph. Sometimes life can be more punishable than death.

@ Joanne: Thanks for your comments!

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