You bet your bottom dollar convicted 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui was right when he crowed (after having just escaped the death sentence): "America you lost, I won." He may seem nuts to forward-thinking Americans but his horse-sense - barbaric though it be - is the sort by which al-Qaida, Hamas, et al. devise their rules of war - the very war they impose on broadminded sorts like us. Our choice is either to confront them on their battlefield or perish while deluding ourselves that genteel persuasion can moderate the world's Moussaouis. Their savage rationale - like it or not - is what the liberal West must contend with. Moussaoui was jubilant because the jury that spared his life demonstrated the failure to recognize the new conventions of combat. From his vantage point the jurors were suckers when they regarded him as a common criminal rather than a warrior enemy and when they factored personal extenuating circumstances into their sentencing logic. Nothing here was personal, not the degree of culpability, nor the indiscriminate targeting of victims. Treating war as felony is a potentially fatal denial of reality. THIS IS just one more presentation in the decent democracies' theater of the absurd. Consider this - Moussaoui was sentenced to as long a term as Jonathan Pollard, who has already served 21 years of his life sentence in a maximum-security US penal facility. It's inculcated into us that the punishment must fit the crime. So how is it that Moussaoui, who could have prevented the massacre of 3,000 innocents, is to do the same time as Pollard, who according to available information leaked classified material to America's ally (Israel) about an enemy's (Iraq's) genocidal preparations against it? American counter-espionage incontrovertibly apprehended bigger and more ferocious fish than Pollard - ones who had done their country real damage, unlike Pollard. Yet by comparison the truly dangerous agents weren't treated anywhere as harshly as the one who was on the same side as America and sought to expose the very Iraqi WMDs that the current Washington administration was purportedly after. Pollard and Moussaoui essentially participated in the same conflict - Pollard on the Free World's side and Moussaoui on the side of Islamic Jihadism. The American legal system failed to identify Moussaoui as the combatant he is, just as it refused to admit that Pollard wasn't inimical to American security. With such underlying cognitive malfunction, no wonder there's no differentiation in penalty. The preposterousness of it all, moreover, has bred a situation in which no leniency was shown Pollard but lots was extended to Moussaoui. Remember the ancient Jewish adage? "He who is merciful to the cruel is bound to be cruel to the merciful." Mind you, this is no cause for Israelis to deride American judicial foolishness. At least, as the injustice to Pollard evinces, the American penalty phase can be inflexibly stern. Moussaoui may end up rotting in Colorado's federal "Supermax," where he'll be kept in solitary, deprived of any contact other than with guards and officials. There will be no visitors - no family, friends or spiritual mentors. Nobody. The plan is to cut Moussaoui off from the world and make him a nonentity. NO WAY would he have been treated as severely in an Israeli Supermax. Just see how Fatah-Tanzim terror kingpin Marwan Barghouti actively conducts business via his very comfortable Israeli prison quarters, where he formulates - in concert with Hamas inmates - terms of surrender dictated jointly to Israel. Just the other day the convicted murderer, serving five life terms plus 40 years, granted yet another interview from behind bars, this time telling the Lebanese al-Shiraa weekly that the PA's Hamas overlords must continue fighting Israel until it submits to their "sacred Right of Return" - code terminology for overrunning Israel with millions of hostile Arabs, thereby terminating its existence as a Jewish state. Like Moussaoui, Barghouti was tried as a criminal and given all the breaks of ordinary due process. Like Moussaoui, he exploited the courtroom for propaganda antics. As in America, the press here hung on his every utterance and amplified it. But it's highly unlikely that Moussaoui will be able to run Barghouti-like for elected office from his American cell, issue operative commands and become a political headliner. Israeli prisons are indeed unique. Not only do the most dangerous terrorists therein get hold of phones, but recently Hamas overtly conducted a mass rally in a southern Israeli maximum-security penitentiary, where scores of convicts congregated in the courtyard, which they festooned with Hamas Islamic-green banners and Palestinian flags. A stage and speakers' rostrum were erected. The backdrop decor was a giant collage, displaying the Hamas emblem, portraits of Hamas leaders, slogans calling for Jihad against Israel and pictures of RPGs underscored by the motto "we'll continue." White plastic chairs were neatly arranged for the "audience," who cheered the invective hurled at the Zionist state and freely photographed the occasion - all under the disinterested eyes of passive Israeli wardens. The snapshots are available for viewing on the Web. Terrorist lifers in Israel don't expect to end their existence in captivity. They bank on Israel's gullibility and its revolving-door wrongheadedness, which has already released some of the world's worst villains regardless of what Israeli judges meted out. Indeed word is that, among its recent harebrained inanities, Israel is doing its darndest to rid itself of the voluble Barghouti and has already twice (unsuccessfully thus far) badgered the Americans that he be exchanged forâ€¦Pollard! Pollard is deeply offended by Israel's insulting equation. Barghouti swaggers on insolently.