A miserable life

March 29, 2006

When Zacarias Moussaoui switched his story and declared in court that he was supposed to have piloted a fifth plane on 9/11 and crashed it into the White House, he wasn't doing his legal defense any good and he may not have been telling the truth. (A middling amount of evidence suggests that al-Qaida had a different role planned for him before his arrest in August 2001.) But what was he up to? He may have been trying to confound his captors, perhaps throw them off the scent of something else. Or maybe he's nuts. He certainly has a history of unreliability, even in his dealings with his al-Qaida bosses.

Suppose he has decided that he'd rather be a martyr than spend a lifetime in an American prison. Besides getting him a quick ticket to an Islamist heaven, martyrdom could cement his name as a hero among jihadists and give his America-hating cohorts a figure to be inspired by. He may have calculated that death by execution is in his, and their, best interest; putting justice aside for a moment, is it in America's best interest to give this terrorist what he wants?

Osama bin Laden's fondest wish before 9/11 was to embroil the U.S. in a war in the Middle East, and thanks to President Bush's foolhardy assault on Iraq, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. America took the bait once; it should think long and hard before doing it again.

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