Last week, a United States Federal jury decided against giving the death penalty to Zacharias Moussaoui, the terror suspect arrested a few weeks before 9/11, and the poster child for Homeland Security and the Patriot Act. Moussaoui's laptop computer contained critical information about Al Qaeda operatives working in the US, including several terrorists who would go on to play a part in the 9/11 hijackings, but government red tape prevented the FBI from searching Moussaoui's laptop until after 9/11.
Conservatives were outraged at the jury's decision. Undoubtedly there is a large number of people (including myself at times) who wish to see someone held accountable for the death and destruction of 9/11. But apparently Moussaoui's jury felt that they had insufficient evidence to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Moussaoui had accurate foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and could have prevented them, had he cooperated with authorities. That was the centerpiece of the charges against him.
Many have argued that Moussaoui's trial actually served a higher purpose by allowing him to betray the "warrior" image commonly ascribed to jihadis in favor of his own personality -- a shallow, loudmouth punk unworthy of a "martyr's" death. But whatever the circumstances, I can live with the jury's decision.
Conservatives argue that once again, the jury's verdict causes the United States to appear "soft" and "uncomitted" in our efforts to fight terrorism. But I don't think a Moussaoui death sentence would have in any way affected the image of the US in the eyes of radical Islamists, who have considered us to be soft and cowardly ever since Jimmy Carter ran from a direct confrontation with the Iranians over twenty five years ago.
Rather, I am pleased to live in a nation that routinely chooses to deal with the problem of evil in ways other than death. The same thing can't be said for radical Islamists.
We now know that it was not that swift for Bahjat. First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but particularly so for a pious Muslim who concealed her hair, arms and legs from men other than her father and brother.
Then her arms were bound behind her back ... By the time filming begins, the condemned woman has been blindfolded with a white bandage.
It is stained with blood that trickles from a wound on the left side of her head. She is moaning, although whether from the pain of what has already been done to her or from the fear of what is about to be inflicted is unclear.
... A large man dressed in military fatigues, boots and cap approaches from behind and covers her mouth with his left hand. In his right hand, he clutches a large knife with a black handle and an 8in blade. He proceeds to cut her throat from the middle, slicing from side to side.
Her cries — “Ah, ah, ah” — can be heard above the “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) intoned by the holder of the mobile phone.
Even then, there is no quick release for Bahjat. Her executioner suddenly stands up, his job only half done. A second man in a dark T-shirt and camouflage trousers places his right khaki boot on her abdomen and pushes down hard eight times, forcing a rush of blood from her wounds as she moves her head from right to left.
Only now does the executioner return to finish the task. He hacks off her head and drops it to the ground, then picks it up again and perches it on her bare chest so that it faces the film-maker in a grotesque parody of one of her pieces to camera.
... [A] friend, who cannot be identified, knew nothing of her beheading but had been guarding other horrifying details of Bahjat’s ordeal. She had nine drill holes in her right arm and 10 in her left, he said. The drill had also been applied to her legs, her navel and her right eye. One can only hope that these mutilations were made after her death.
Bahjat met her end at the hands of men completely immersed in a culture of death, one that sees death as the only way of dealing with anything that threatens it. Bahjat was probably killed in part because she was a woman who refused to submit to the complete authority of men, and dared to speak her mind on national television. Ilan Halimi, a victim of Hamas-sympathyzing Islamists who was found murdered Paris a few months ago, was tortured and killed simply for being Jewish.
American civilization trumps that of Islamism because we have the right to choose rationally between life and death. Sometimes we make the wrong choices, but these errors do not alter our fundamental ability to choose. Islamists, on the other hand, are victims of a cultural and religious brainwashing that replaces an appreciation for the sanctity of life with a religion whose means of salvation is centered around the act of killing, thus fulfilling a corrupted understanding of the will of their god. In their world, there is no such thing as choice, for any other course of action other than death is an act of blasphemy.
My only fear is that one day America will lose the ability to choose to kill. That choice must be made carefully, prayerfully, and sparingly, but there are circumstances for which it is the right one. Let us hope that we do not forget what those circumstances are.
UPDATE: The video referenced by the Times may not be video of Bahjat's death; apparently she was shot to death in February. Regardless, the cruel execution of the victim in the video speaks volumes about extreme Islamism.