Monday, November 06, 2006

Not even Saddam deserves the death penalty

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been found guilty of crimes against humanity for ordering the torture and mass-murder of 148 people in the village of Dujail. Along with two other co-defendants, he has been sentenced to death by hanging.

While I agree with the verdict, its more an accident than the product of a robust judicial process. Unlike the Nazis, Milosovic, or the genocideres of Rwanda, Saddam did not receive a fair trial according to basic international standards. Instead, he was paraded before a kangaroo court, with deliberately lowered standards of evidence and judges who were forced to resign if they tried to ensure the defence could put their side of the case. This farcical process (made even more farcical by Saddam's antics in the courtroom) has undermined the credibility of the verdict, and will allow Saddam's followers to forever claim that he was a victim of "victor's justice". And sadly, they won't be entirely wrong.

As for the sentence, while there would be a rich irony in Saddam suffering the same fate he inflicted on so many others, that would not be justice. Instead, it would simply be barbaric revenge, of exactly the sort Saddam inflicted upon the hapless residents of Dujail. While the desire for it is human and understandable, the act itself is nothing more than sadism, inflicting pain and death solely for the pleasure it gives. That is the ethical system of a kitten-strangling psychopath, not a civilised human being.

It is wrong to kill. It is especially wrong to kill for pleasure. Not even Saddam deserves to die in this way. Instead, he should be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life. That's a perfectly sufficient punishment for his actions - and one that shows that we are not at all like him.


If Saddam hangs, I hope his ghost haunts Bush, Rumsfeld, and the rest until the day their arses get hauled up to an international court.

Because 15 years or so down the track defending the neocons of the early 21st century is going to be an unpopular stance for an American government, so I wouldn't be surprised if whoever is in power at that time gave these torturers up. I only hope the rest of the world gives Bush +co a fairer trial than Saddam got, because in their case there is no need to run a sham trial (mind you, there was no need for a kangaroo court for Saddam either).

Posted by Anonymous : 11/06/2006 11:31:00 AM

Anon: Because 15 years or so down the track defending the neocons of the early 21st century is going to be an unpopular stance for an American government..

I doubt that it's ever going to unpopular for American administrations to defend their predecessors against the "international community", unless there is some sort of revolution in the US.

I think that a realistic future-administration action will be some kind of "statement of regret" (not an apology) --- 15 years hence sounds a bit too soon though. As a comparison it's not like the US is apologising for or allowing anyone to be meaningfully prosecting for Vietnam, Hiroshima, etc.

It's also likely (I think) that current administration officials will be prosecuted (and pardoned, of course) for domestic issues (illegal wiretaps, and corruption around the formulation of energy policy, for example).

Posted by Anonymous : 11/06/2006 12:31:00 PM

The republicans are desparately behind in the polls.
A judge or two is rolled, the defense is cut short, and bingo, Saddam is up for the gallows.
Ya gotta love a timely coincidence.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/06/2006 05:35:00 PM

Huskynut: Paul Krugman makes a similar point in his NYT column today.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/06/2006 09:00:00 PM