Friday, May 05, 2006

Daniel Henninger on the Possible Return of Pre-9/11 Thinking

Daniel Henninger writes the "Wonderland" column at the Wall Street Journal, which appears online as well at Henninger's one of the few op-ed columnists who looks at the world realistically. He's extremely talented at reminding us (or educating us) that the world is a nasty, Hobbesian place, and that the role of force in world politics is a necessity, and when deployed by the armies of freedom, an ultimate force for global peace and well-being.

Henninger's column today reflects on the meaning of the new film "United 93," and on how the deeper reality and import of the movie relates to the creeping surrealism in the contemporary humanistic regime of justice that has taken over the legal systems of the West. Henninger writes that:

Zacarias Moussaoui is lucky the jurors at his sentencing trial weren't allowed to see the movie "United 93" the day before reaching a verdict. If they had, rather than handing him life in prison, it is likely that one or more of the jurors would have come out of the box to deliver the death sentence himself--just as the four doomed men on Flight 93 charged their hijackers to stop its fanatic pilots from flying the airliner into another American building. Some will say the Moussaoui life sentence merely proves that we in the U.S. are beyond biblical justice, beyond an eye for an eye, even if our Islamic enemies do not bother to claim any grievance larger than resentment to justify the most startling slaughter of innocents all over the world. This argument -- that the refusal to impose the death penalty on Moussaoui shows "we are not like them" -- might have been entertainable before September 11. It may no longer be.
The imporantance of "United 93," for Henninger, is that the film transports us back to the dark days after September 2001 when the country lived in shock, disbelief, and outrage. The fifth anniversary of the attacks are approaching this year, and American life has moved on -- thankfully, in many respects -- from the early post-9/11 period, in which the days were marked by both fear and resolution. The problem, at base, is that the country's lost its sense of moral outrage. The terror trials are legalistic and procedural -- to the point that we may be treating our enemies too well. Henninger goes on:

At his trial, Zacarias Moussaoui mocked the families of his victims and said he wished that September 11 could happen again. We all read these accounts, shook our heads in disgust and turned back to work, as we should. Life goes on, and the Moussaoui trial went on for four years. What fades from memory over time is the intense, active loathing that the Islamic hijackers had for their victims that day (though one guesses there is not a waking moment that the U.S. soldiers serving daily in Afghanistan or Iraq fail to hold in mind the nature of their terrorist opposition). "United 93" brings this and much else back to the surface. Nothing could be more innocent than the fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, attendants and pilots on that plane. Like us at this moment, they were in the act of daily life. They were not combatants in any sense. They were targeted precisely because they were unprotected. During periods of peace, and we have had a long one, some people come to believe that this happy condition is the natural state of life. It is not. The unprotectedness of civilized, quotidian life was earned, over centuries, often in war.
Henninger's commentary is sobering. Unfortunately, examples such as the Moussaoui trial and penalty phase are all too common.

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