Zacarias Moussaoui: Lying for Jihad

Moussaoui's testimony is worthless - and yet his trial does tell us some important things about 9/11.

Moussaoui trial 88 (photo credit: AP)
Moussaoui trial 88
(photo credit: AP)
'You're allowed to lie for jihad. You're allowed any technique to defeat your enemy," Zacarias Moussaoui told a Virginia courtroom on March 27, trying to explain why he had changed his story about not being directly involved in the 9/11 plot. Now he wants to die a martyr, not rot in an American prison for the rest of his life, so he's claiming that he and the pathetically incompetent British shoe-bomber, Richard Reid, were scheduled to fly a fifth hijacked plane into the White House on September 11, 2001. That's not what he said before, but you're allowed to lie for jihad.
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Moussaoui initially denied knowledge of the 9/11 plot, but subsequently signed a confession that he was the missing "20th hijacker." Three of the four hijacked planes on that day had teams of five hijackers aboard, but one was a man short. Then Moussaoui repudiated his confession, explaining that it was only a joke; and now he has repudiated that repudiation, insisting that he was indeed part of the plot. You have to lie a lot for jihad. The main reason Moussaoui keeps changing his story is that he is a seriously disturbed individual: His court appearances have often been incoherent, abusive and even hysterical. To qualify for the death penalty he must show that he had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks and deliberately withheld it. Otherwise he wasn't responsible for any deaths, and cannot be executed even under US law. After 9/11, he happily signed a confession admitting that he had been part of the team, because he felt that would bring him honor. THE TRUTH is probably that Moussaoui was initially asked to take part in the plot, but had been excluded from it well before September 2001. The leaders of the attack, while not exactly paragons of stability themselves, were unlikely to have wanted him along as he was clearly a security risk. Since that is too humiliating a truth for Moussaoui to bear, he flops back and forth between claiming some role in the 9/11 operation and denying any connection with it, even as he veers between wanting to live and wishing for a martyr's death at the hands of American executioners. In his latest story, he and Richard Reid were to have had their very own hijacked plane to crash into the White House. Moussaoui's testimony is worthless - and yet his trial does tell us some important things about 9/11. It reminds us of the spectacular incompetence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: They did not seriously interrogate Moussaoui for almost a month after his arrest on immigration charges on August 16, 2001, so he was under minimal pressure to spill the beans about 9/11 (if he had any). It also reminds us that the White House wasn't paying attention to intelligence about terrorist threats anyway, so focused was it on building a case for invading Iraq. Above all, it reminds us of what sad sacks the terrorists were. Over the past four and a half years the Bush administration has constructed its entire foreign policy on a "war against terror" which presupposes a serious opponent on the other side. The imagery is straight out of an old James Bond movie: Super-villains in caves with plans for world conquest sending out legions of fanatical, hi-tech Islamist terrorists to murder innocent Americans. The reality, as Moussaoui amply demonstrates, is a bit less impressive. IN AN ALTERNATE universe where they had not come under the influence of Osama bin Laden, Moussaoui and his colleagues could have been the subjects of an Arabic-language sitcom about hopeless losers adrift in the West, lost between two cultures. The only reason they managed to pull off the 9/11 attacks, despite scattering clues around like confetti, was that nobody was looking. In four and a half years, it hasn't happened again. Indeed, thankfully, nobody has been killed by terrorists in North America since 9/11, the longest completely terrorism-free period since the 1960s. And none of the terrorist attacks elsewhere during this time (only two of which happened in Western countries, in Spain and Britain) were at all innovative or hi-tech. It's back to truck-bombs and backpacks stuffed with explosives. In all the terrorist attacks since 9/11 by people who are in some way linked with al-Qaida and its various clones and affiliates (apart from those in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are directly linked to foreign occupations), the total fatalities all around the world are well under 1,000. Less than one person a day worldwide is being killed in so-called Islamist terrorist attacks. More people than that are probably dying of dog-bites. This is not a global crisis, however much President George W. Bush strives to define it as such. From the start, the "war on terror" has served as a cover for various plans for asserting US military and political hegemony around the world that were already on the agenda of the neo-conservatives for years before they took control of US foreign and defense policy with the inauguration of Bush in January, 2001. It has been one of the longest and most successful hoaxes in history - but the strategies that hide behind it are still doomed to end in failure. The writer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.