No mercy

If Zacarias Moussaoui’s intent this past week was to portray himself as a thoroughly loathsome and repellent individual, he succeeded brilliantly.

He testified in his own behalf at the phase of his trial where jurors are weighing execution or life imprisonment. After Moussaoui spent the day mocking the relatives of 9/11 victims _ their grief and loss, he said, “make my day” _ it’s hard to care what happens to him as long as it is something really bad.

There is a theory, not all that far-fetched, that he’s trying to goad the jury into giving him the death penalty. He’s had enough experience with the American prison system to know he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life there, most certainly in solitary, because incarceration with the open population would surely be a death sentence of a different kind.

As the same time, he shared with the court his fantasy, revealed to him in a dream, that he will be freed in some kind of exchange of prisoners. Aside from the fact that’s simply not going to happen, his reverie has two insurmountable obstacles. No one wants him. His own al Qaeda operatives thought he was dim, erratic and unreliable. And there’s no place he can go. He’s a French citizen, but France doesn’t want him, nor does any other civilized country.

At the outset of his trial, it was widely charged that America’s civilian court system could not try a major terrorist case. True, Moussaoui’s trial was long, presented novel legal challenges and strained the patience of a very patient and talented federal district judge, Leonie Brinkema. But as the proceedings near an end, is anybody unconvinced of his guilt or that he’s deserving of whatever’s coming to him?

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 9/11. His own testimony shows that he credibly might have prevented that attack if he had spoken out. And if he was not to be a pilot in a fifth hijacking that day _ with the White House his target, he says _ then he was arguably training for a later suicide attack.

One reporter portrayed the trial as the defense trying to prove Moussaoui is crazy and the prosecution trying to prove he is evil. As his bravura performance on the stand proved, the two are not mutually exclusive.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)