I remember a phrase my father used to describe certain people. He would occasionally call someone who had done a foolish but well-intended deed, "a good-hearted slob." You know the type. They lend money to indigent, ne'er-do-well relatives with no hope of repayment, or, out of common courtesy, waste valuable time listening to the spiel of any pitchman who appears on their doorstep.
The United States of America is, to some extent, a nation of good-hearted slobs, displaying a tolerance that occasionally appears as softness. This disturbs those who are keenly aware that this may not be a prudent thing, especially in time of war. And they may be right.
Witness the way our most recent wars have been fought. Is there any doubt that the so-called Iraqi insurgency could have been put down in a matter of weeks had our military unleashed all the weaponry at its disposal? Were "collateral damage" not something to be avoided at any cost -- even the lives of our troops -- could not the much of the current suffering have been prevented?
After all, despite revisionist history, we are the same country that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to save lives. This concept was more easily understood at a time when war was not merely a political football but a constant, dreaded presence in our lives. Yet we quickly rebuilt the very same countries we devastated, at great emotional and monetary cost. Why?
Because America is and was founded as a nation of Christian peoples. Notice, I did not say as a Christian nation; because now as at its inception, our government was always intended to be a secular one, but one run by people of faith. This is a distinction often blurred by those on both sides of the church vs. state argument.
And as a nation of mostly Christian people who often cannot follow in the perfect footsteps of our savior, we tend to offer post-war compassion instead of the other cheek to our enemies. And it didn't end with the Marshall Plan of World War II Europe. The private and public generosity of this country far outpaces that of any other, feeding the poor and healing the sick of nations whose rulers despise our freedom and way of life.
Some see what they regard as this misplaced compassion in our conduct of the War on Terror, as evidenced by the Zacarias Moussaoui verdict. They see the jury's failure to mete out capital punishment as evidence of weakness in the face of a terrible enemy, but I am not so sure this is true.
Had he received the death penalty, he would have had years of appeals, providing countless opportunities for Islamist propaganda, strutting, and possible martyrdom. Instead, he will rot in prison. And if life in prison is such a walk in the park for a determined jihadist like Moussaoui, why are the ACLU's undergarments in such a knot, and why are the French trying to extradite his sorry carcass?
And why, on Monday, did he say he lied about being involved in 9/11, and ask to withdraw his guilty plea? Because, it seems, ADX Florence, the "Alcatraz of the Rockies" -- where Mr. Moussaoui will spend what will seem to him like an eternity before meeting his final and inexorable fate -- is not exactly conducive to the practice of glorious jihad.
Once there, he will eke out his miserable existence, 60 feet below ground in the company of his fellow vermin: Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, architect of the 1993 World Trade Center attack; Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski; Terry L. Nichols, of Oklahoma City fame, and shoe bomber Richard Reid. Dead, these men would be heroes to their causes; in Florence they are shadows, unable to affect the outside world.
In his appeal filed on Monday, the Washington Post reports,
Moussaoui said he lied on the stand because he assumed he would be executed "based on the emotions and anger toward me for the deaths on Sept. 11.'' But he was "extremely surprised" at the jury's verdict, he said, and now believes "it is possible I can receive a fair trial even with Americans as jurors.''
Sorry Zac, that boat has sailed. But you'll have the rest of your life to ponder this: What some see as good-hearted slobbery on the part of the American people seems, as they say, to have worked out in mysterious ways.
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