The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

100° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Lessons from Moussaoui

    The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui has brought back some eerie feelings. For me, the strongest of these surfaced last week after I read the transcript of the cockpit recording from United Airlines Flight 93. In the final minutes of that tape, passengers are heard pleading for their lives: “”Please don’t hurt me,”” “”I don’t want to die.”” A struggle is recorded as a few brave passengers try to enter the cockpit. One hijacker tells another to put the plane down. The last sentence heard as the plane screams toward the ground: “”Allah is the greatest.”” Then silence.

    It does not seem that long ago that I was sitting in a dingy Boston dorm room, a sophomore in shock and disbelief on a Tuesday morning. It did not take long for the confusion of that morning to be replaced by grief and anger. And then, after some time, another feeling surfaced, one that I seemed to share with everyone around me – moral clarity. Whoever did this was evil. Those innocent people did not deserve to die. And those responsible would pay.

    That day, and in the weeks that followed, the country was united, and although we had just endured the worst attack in our nation’s history, we were stronger because of it.

    The death penalty trial of would-be hijacker Moussaoui has prompted a reliving of many of the same emotions experienced on Sept. 11, 2001. Hearing testimony from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as he described the horrors of that day, I was reminded of my own shock and disbelief. Although Mayor Giuliani had heard reports of people jumping from the World Trade Center towers, he did not want to believe them until he saw people falling with his own eyes. Giuliani testified: “”I froze. I realized in that couple of seconds, it switched my thinking and emotions. I said, ‘We’re in uncharted territory.'”” I remember having a similar revelation as I watched the second plane smash into the south tower live on television.

    After the confusion and disbelief came grief for the victims of Sept. 11. Those feelings have surfaced many times throughout Moussaoui’s trial, particularly while watching the victims’ families tell their stories on the news.

    And of course there is anger. There was anger on Sept. 11, when it felt like the whole world was under attack, and there has been plenty of anger during Moussaoui’s trial. Some of this anger has come from watching Moussaoui make a circus out of the legal system that is trying to give him a fair trial.

    Indeed, Moussaoui has used his long, drawn-out case to advertise his crazy fundamentalist ideas, while degrading the U.S. Some of the terrorist conspirator’s antics that have caught headlines include singing “”burn in the USA”” to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s “”Born in the USA,”” while yelling things like “”God bless Osama bin Laden”” and “”God curse America.””

    The most infuriating part about Moussaoui’s trial is that at no point has he shown remorse, and this behavior has been dismissed as the rantings of a sick and juvenile man. In fact, his only expressed regret is that he could not fly a plane into the White House on Sept. 11, as was his stated plan.

    Conspicuously absent from all of the emotions that Moussaoui’s trial has elicited, however, are the feelings of unity and clarity of purpose that came in the days following the attacks. The further we move away from Sept. 11, 2001, the easier it is to think of that day as a bad dream, a part of history that has come and gone. But the evil forces that carried their perverted ideology into a reality on Sept. 11 have not gone away. As I write, individuals from Egypt to Indonesia are planning the murders of innocent men, women and children as part of a violent and radical religious agenda. Pretending that they are not there will not make terrorists go away, and deciding that resisting terrorist violence is too difficult will never lead to its defeat.

    The most significant political division in the U.S. today is between those who recognize that Islamic terrorism is a genuine threat to American life and liberty and are willing to do what it takes to defeat it, and those who feel the threat is exaggerated and that it can either be ignored or appeased. Most of us fell into this second group before Sept. 11. Let’s not make the same mistake again.

    Jon Riches is a second-year law student. He can be reached at

    More to Discover
    Activate Search