CNN’s transcript of the final exchange between Richard Reid and his judge is full of miserable unintentional comedy. According the BBC, who should have known better, the high point was when Reid told the judge “Your flag will be brought down!” which made it sound like a defiant prophecy of victory in war. But what he actually said was much more apocalyptic. “That flag will be brought down on the Day of Judgement and you will see in front of your Lord and my Lord and then we will know.”
You can’t doubt the accuracy of the transcript: not when Reid says “I admit, I admit my actions, and further, I further state that I done them.”
He appears inarticulate, stupid, fanatical, and summoning up what reserves he has against the knowledge that the rest of his life will be spent in jail.
The absurd, pedantic cruelty of the sentencing details do not show America in a good light: he gets 20 years on each of four counts, to run consecutively, followed by another 30 year sentence; a fine of $2m, compensation paymetns to American Airlines of $5,784, and to Andre Bousquet of $298.17 (love those seventeen cents). In case he didn’t get the message, there was also a “special assessment” of $800. As the judge put is, “We all know that the way we treat you, Mr Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.”
He did try to commit a very wicked act. That’s not in dispute. He should certainly be jailed for a very long time. But it is simply inhuman to deny him even the possibility of repentance and release.
His justification hardly mentions Israel.
“With regards to what you said about killing innocent people, I will say one thing. Your government has killed 2m children in Iraq. If you want to think about something, against 2m, I don’t see no comparison.
Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims inthe prosons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons. I don’t know, see what I done as being equal to rape and to torture, or to the deaths of 2m children in Iraq.”
Of course, It’s not true that sanctions have killed 2m babies in Iraq. The true figure may be less than a twentieth of that. It is beyond doubt that the countries he mentions routinely use torture, and that the present American government supports them in this.
“They have oppressed people for no other reason except that we say we belive in Allah”, says Reid: and that that they assassinate Presidents, and little stuff like that. “This is the only reaason that America sponsors Egypt. It’s the only reason they sponsor Turkey. It’s the only reason they back Israel.” Well, he’s wrong about Israel, and wrong about Turkey.
But the question to ask is whether the war in Iraq will make his arguments seem more or less plausible to those who might want to follow him.