He's either the "20th hijacker," or he's a ridiculous al-Qaeda hanger-on. Either he was pegged to fly a plane into the White House on 9/11 but was stupid enough to draw too much attention to himself and wound up in jail on his big day; or he was just simply an incompetent, wannabe terrorist wrapped up in delusions of grandeur.

Whatever he is, Zacarias Moussaoui is putting on a show at his death penalty trial as the only person being tried for crimes on 9/11.

Though he claims to wants to avoid the death penalty, it sure seems as though he's angling for just that very result. You simply don't refer to the jurors that hold your life or death in your hand as "hated tyrants," and chuckle and smile while listening to the heart-wrenching and emotional testimony of the relatives of 9/11 victims if your ultimate goal is sympathy.

At one point during the trial, Moussaoui, who elected to attempt to defend himself in court, sought a change of venue, noting the court's proximity to the Pentagon. To bolster his case, he cited the change in venue for Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh. Well, according to Moussaoui, "The Greatest American ever" Timothy McVeigh. When the A&E cable network ran its "Greatest American" polls, McVeigh somehow was overlooked in favor of such lesser characters as Washington, Lincoln and Oprah. But he probably would have garnered only a few scattered votes anyway; probably from the Unabomber and some skinheads in Idaho. Though I don't suspect the former would have cable, and the latter probably wouldn't be watching A&E anyway.

Knowing that your life hangs in the balance, and you want to live, would you cheerfully announce that you had "no remorse, no regrets" over your failure to inform the FBI of all you knew about the 9/11 plot? Or that you are quite happy and pleased have inflicted pain on the families of Sept. 11 victims and would do it again "today" if he was able to participate in additional terrorist attacks?

Moussaoui has said that he thinks President Bush will free him before he leaves office; that he could be a valuable bargaining chip for hostage trades in the future. While this is his attempt to show he wants to live because he thinks he can get back to his hobby of international terrorism, is it likely that the president who authorizes the detention of suspected terrorists without charges is going to release one who is actually on trial? And really, flipping to the other side, chances are that al-Qaeda sees him as the guy whose incompetence and capture could very well have cost them their greatest success-the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world-and would prefer to ignore his existence than to work to free him.

According to testimony from FBI agent James Fitzgerald, Moussaoui told him - in a jailhouse meeting the defendant requested - that he did not want to die behind bars and it was "different to die in a battle ... than in a jail on a toilet."

Clearly, Moussaoui's greatest regret is that he didn't get to achieve martyrdom on 9/11. He thinks he'd get his 70 virgins with the death penalty, or would at least die feeling he was a martyr to the cause. We should force him to die on the toilet, alone, with nary a virgin in sight.

Bill Rudick isn't so sure how long Moussaoui would survive among the general population of inmates anyway. Rudick's email is brudick@epix.net

comments powered by Disqus