It's official. 9/11 has driven America utterly bat-guano mad. Don't believe it? Consider the following:
American citizens, liberal and conservative alike, have become self-deluded, fervently certain of "facts" that are indisputably false. "By a margin of better than two to one," according to the May 9th New York Times poll, Democrats--who have become so ideologically invisible that they're meeting to decide what, if any, ideas they ought to develop for this fall's elections--"were seen as having more new ideas than Republicans." At the same time, most voters believe that Republicans--who are losing two catastrophic wars because they failed to send enough troops or supply them with adequate equipment--"would do a better job at maintaining a stronger military than Democrats."
Meanwhile, the CIA--whose mission is to sabotage popularly elected democracies and replace them with right-wing torture-dictatorships--has become the liberal branch of government. According to insiders, Porter Goss was fired as the agency's director because he failed to purge its "soft leakers and liberal Democrats." A former senior CIA official with continuing links to the Bush Administration and the agency told the Baltimore Sun upon Goss' appointment in 2004: "The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda." CIA liberals. Right.
Finally and most terrifyingly, George Orwell's "thoughtcrime"--the equating of mental disloyalty with actual sedition--has gone mainstream. Media discussion about the recent trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of possibly maybe thinking about becoming the "20th hijacker" on 9/11--or was it the second 20th hijacker?--spanned a vast spectrum of acceptable political discourse. The "conservatives" demanded that Moussaoui be executed, the "liberals" that he be sentenced to life in prison. Nowhere in the press or on the air could anyone be found who was willing to ask the most obvious question:
Why was the guy on trial at all?
Lest we forget, Moussaoui didn't do anything. He couldn't have. He was in jail on immigration charges; he had already been behind bars for nearly a month on 9/11. The government charged him with six counts--not of committing a crime, but of conspiring to participate in 9/11. Count Four, Conspiracy to Use Weapons of Mass Destruction, relied solely on Moussaoui's alleged membership in Al Qaeda. If Al Qaeda ever tried to acquire WMDs--evidence of this is sketchy to non-existent--it's absurd to imagine that Osama bin Laden might have involved a demented third-stringer like Moussaoui.
Moussaoui probably didn't know about 9/11, either. (Failing to notify the authorities about the terror plot formed the basis of his prosecution.) Neither Khalid Sheikh Mohammed nor any other Al Qaeda prisoner held in U.S. torture camps had heard of him. Even federal prosecutors admit that Moussaoui fabricated his claim that attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid was supposed to help him hijack a fifth plane and crash it into the White House on 9/11.
But innocence isn't Moussaoui's only defense. He's also insane. Only a loon would refuse to cooperate with his own lawyers, testify against himself and shout "You will never get my blood! God curse you all!," "God curse America and save Osama bin Laden! You'll never get him!" and "I am Al Qaeda! I'm the enemy! This trial is a circus!" while on trial for his life before a jury of 12 Americans. After the jury sentenced him to life, he filed a motion for a new trial--a right he waived when he plead guilty to the original trumped-up charges. The man needs Zoloft, not a prison cell.
Contrary to Bush's promises, it's beginning to look as if none of the criminals behind 9/11 will ever be brought to justice. Fortunately for him the American people seem to be satisfied with Soviet-style show trials of political patsies and scapegoats, of which Moussaoui is merely the most recent in U.S. history.
During World War I, Socialist Party general secretary Charles Schenck was arrested for passing out pamphlets opposing the draft. The Supreme Court affirmed his sentence of 15 years in prison for sedition, although he ended up serving only six months.
And in 2002 21-year-old "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh was jailed for 20 years after lengthy homoerotic torture at the hands of American soldiers. Lindh had joined the Taliban many months before 9/11, while the Bush Administration was financing the fanatical Afghan regime and conducting negotiations for an oil and gas pipeline with its officials, in order to fight the Northern Alliance. There is no evidence that he drew his weapon against U.S. forces.
Lindh and Moussaoui are clearly guilty of dumbassery. But if that's a crime worthy of life in prison, we're going to need to build millions of new cells.
Too many Americans seem to have been taken in by the present Administration's rhetorical strategy of blurring the general with the specific. "My brother had his throat slit with the very kind of knives that Moussaoui secreted on his person," said Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the flight that crashed into the Pentagon. "It is ridiculous to say that because he was sitting in jail that he was somehow not responsible."
How is it "ridiculous" to say that a man who couldn't commit a crime didn't do it? Shall we imprison everyone who owns the same type of knife? Whatever happened to common sense?
The trial and sentencing of Zacarias Moussaoui has been an embarrassment to the United States, unmasking both our disrespect for the rule of law and glaring disregard for the purpose of jurisprudence: the search for the truth. We have exposed our willingness to scapegoat anyone with a skullcap and a beard for crimes committed by men our government is too stupid, inept or corrupt to capture.
"America, you lost!" Moussaoui yelled when the verdict came down. The man is a lunatic, but he's not as far gone as our judges and juries.
Ted Rall is the editor of "Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists," a new anthology of webcartoons.
© 2006 Ted Rall