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He's evil, but he'll die

Today, we received the sad news that an Iraqi court has sentenced Saddam to death. Why is this sad, you might ask? He's evil. He has been responsible for the deaths of many, many innocent people. Why is his life worth more than those who were murdered under his regime? It's not, except for one small detail - he still has his. So why should we spare his life?

Why should we spare his life indeed? Because we are human. He is evil. He murdered. He was judged by man; found guilty. There is little doubt than if the situation were reversed, he would have little pity. This is why he must be left alive. To send a signal that killing is wrong and must be stopped. To send a message that taking the life of the worst of us is not acceptable.

This is not to say that it is never acceptable to kill. To kill one would-be murder to save the life of many is acceptable. To kill one murderer and call it justice is absurd.

Justice is not vengeance. Capital punishment is vengeance, not justice. Justice is about making amends for the victims. The direct victims are dead. No restoration can be made. They cannot be brought back. Justice is not back. Even the indirect victims - the friends and the family - little can be done to compensate for the loss of their loved one. True justice is not possible.

Taking his life may be satisfying, but it means nothing. It brings back nothing. It undoes nothing. Now, it prevents nothing. By all means, lock him up for life. But taking his life serves no good.

Besides, if we will take the life of a mass-murderer, why not someone who has taken a single life? And why not someone who has traumatised a single life, say, by committing rape? And if one rapist, why not another? And if rape and murder, why not sexual or physical assault? Where do we draw the line?

We can't, and if we allow society to take a life in punishment, it is difficult to prevent society from taking others. Does this make for a healthy society? One that values life? No. It says that society is an artificial construct; that we are still the same vicious animals our biology says we are; that death is satisfying.

On the day a rope is put around his neck and he hangs, I won't cheer his death. I won't mourn it either, but I will grieve for the message it says about what we find acceptable and for the precedent it sets for the new Iraqi society.


Comment from Gillian

Hear! hear! I trust you noted little Johnny's remarks about a 'transparent' trial? Yet again he has demonstrated his hypocracy. When does David Hicks get his 'transparent and fair" trial?

I respond

Would you like Hicks to get a "transparent and fair" trial like Saddam's? More importantly, if you buy the line about the war on terror being a war, and hence covered by the Geneva Conventions, then they are entitled to hold him until the end of the war. If you don't, then he is not subject to any protections, and they can do as they please (this means torture, interrogate and disappear).

Call him an enemy combatant and let him sit in what is effectively a POW camp. At least he is alive. If he is as dangerous as they believe (don't let your anti-Americanism blind you - we have no evidence one way or another for how dangerous he is), then he does need to be locked up as a POW. Remember, though, that enemy combatants don't get trials...

Besides, don't engage in "issue creep". The issue at hand is the life of a lunatic mass-murderer; the sanctity of that life. If you want to bash any given politician, we can set up your own website to do so.

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