November 05, 2006

Saddam Sentenced to Hang

Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity. He is also on trial, separately, for genocide against Kurds.

I'm against the death penalty, almost categorically. But not in this case. Anyone who has murderous fans running loose in the streets is dangerous even in a cage.

I hope they put his execution on TV. I might even watch.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 5, 2006 10:24 AM
Comments

It's a question of self defense. Saddam was defending himself from Kurdish colonialists. Not much different than Nobel Peace prize winner, Yes Sir Arafat.

Posted by: redaktør at November 5, 2006 11:45 AM

MT, I agree that sometimes the death penalty is warranted, and it certainly is in SH's case. The only downside is that the sentence is not carried out within 24 hours.

Ron

Posted by: Ron Snyder at November 5, 2006 11:48 AM

You make a good point about being in prison with murderous fans. One of Hezbollah's rationalizations for its attack on Israel was the release of a Lebanese terrorist in jail in Israel.

While I oppose the death penalty, some terrorists are dangerous in prison because their allies will commit violence or take hostages to get them released.

I do not know if Saddam falls into that category, but it is good to bring up the issue.

Posted by: Steve at November 5, 2006 11:59 AM

The TV shots over here in the UK from Sky News (Murdoch owned, so Fox affiliated, but not as partisan) show angry Sunnis on one hand calling for the reinstatement of Saddam as president.

And on the other they show jubilant Shias...carrying placards of fundamentalist cleric Moqtada al Sadr.

There's no question about it. Like you I am anti death penalty but this is one of those special Nuremberg circumstance so good riddance to Saddam. The only problem now is what comes next...

Posted by: Dirk at November 5, 2006 11:59 AM

I hope they don't put it on TV.

I don't think I can stand the spectacle of Wolf Blitzer wringing his hands over the gross cruelty being perpetrated on poor old Saddam.

What I would really like is for Maliki's morning press conference to address continuing violence, rebuilding, etc. etc., and as it ends, for him to turn back to the podium and say, "Oh, by the way, we hung Saddam last night. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen." And leave.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at November 5, 2006 12:06 PM

I hope they put his execution on TV. I might even watch.

Even if the death penalty for Saddamn is the best practical solution to a humanitarian and political problem, or, even if it's simply judged a just act of retribution and/or deterrence, i find it repugnant to enjoy watching it or suggest it as enjoyable.

Celebrating any form of execution is an obscenity entirely distinct from the moral question of the act of execution itself.

The worst thing about this generally good blog is its need to keep its 'street cred' intact by pandering to moral clarity. "F*ck Saddamn, I hope dogs s*it on his grave" - not a quote of yours, to be sure, just a fake but clear example, a parable if you like, - teaches your audience nothing. It just panders to its worst tribal instincts. Even if the moral judgement within happens to be correct in the given case, it encourages emotional hatred over rational problem-solving.

As does glorifying even neccesary executions.

If this seems like a lot of indictment for fairly innocuous statements, if you like, let's say I'm not accusing you of anything like this at all, and just making an unspecific stand against this type of behavior in general. If you like.

Posted by: glasnost at November 5, 2006 12:44 PM

"The only problem now is what comes next..."

Hanging fundamentalist cleric Moqtada al Sadr would be a good place to start:) If he and the nutcase in Iran keep it up the 12th iman is going to come out of the well and we will all be f*cked.

Posted by: mikek at November 5, 2006 01:12 PM

I didn't say I would enjoy it, Glasnost. I watched the Daniel Pearl execution video (for different reasons, obviously) and that was a big mistake. I will never get those images out of my head, and I wish I could.

I don't care about "street cred." It's a silly thing to worry about. I write what I want and build an audience that enjoys or at least tolerates it. This simple formula would work no matter where on the political spectrum I reside.

Andrew Sullivan alienated 90 percent of his former audience. But his traffic didn't suffer at all. He just has a (mostly) different audience now. I watched that unfold very carefully, and it taught me I can say whatever I please here without having to worry about "cred."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 5, 2006 01:15 PM

Also, Glasnost, when I wrote that I'm voting for Democrats this election, five right-wing jerks said they will no longer read my blog. But my Site Meter traffic didn't register any drops. That's another reason I don't need to concern myself with keeping "them" happy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 5, 2006 01:17 PM

"'m against the death penalty, almost categorically. But not in this case. Anyone who has murderous fans running loose in the streets is dangerous even in a cage."

I agree totally.

Posted by: Maggie45 at November 5, 2006 01:34 PM

It isn't only that the murderous fans are running around. Like any Mafia boss in jail, he can easily communicate with his followers outside. At the very least, he is inspiring them to go on fighting the government.

And in these days of good long distance communication, he would be almost as dangerous in jail on Easter Island. People will go on dying so long as he lives.

He is a tragic figure, like Macbeth, and he has to be executed. I hope it will not be shown in public.

Posted by: Don Cox at November 5, 2006 01:43 PM

Let it be the mother of all executions.

Posted by: James M. at November 5, 2006 02:12 PM

Heh. Michael, that last comment of yours was funny. Why? I'm moving farther to the right as I get older and yours is the last blog that I'd stop reading. Even if you are going to vote democrat. ;)

I think yours is one of the few essential blogs for people who want an honest view of the middle east.

The execution: You said that he's dangerous even in a cage. I agree, but unless care is taken he's dangerous dead. What's to keep him from being elevated to martyr status by his followers?

Of course, if he's dead then there's zero chance anyone ever has to worry about him again, which will be a relief to many Iraq/Kurd families. For that reason I think the execution needs to be on TV. Otherwise there's too much room for doubt that it really happened.

If the execution is not public then you'll see people saying that (group of choice) spirited him away and he'll be back.

Greg

Posted by: Greg at November 5, 2006 02:13 PM

This sounds like an example of what Lawrence Auster calls the "unprincipled exception". It's a device that liberals use to be able to continue to survive since consistent application of liberal principles would be suicidal.

Auster defines it like this: "The unprincipled exception is a non-liberal value or assertion, not explicitly identified as non-liberal, that liberals use to escape the suicidal consequences of their own liberalism without questioning liberalism itself."

Auster explains further: Modern liberalism stands for principles of equality and non-discrimination which, if followed consistently, would make a decent life in this world, or any life at all, impossible. But modern liberal society does not permit the public expression of non-liberal principles, by which rational limits to equality and non-discrimination, or indeed the very falsity of these ideas altogether, can be articulated. This fact forces liberals continually to make exceptions to their own liberalism, without admitting to themselves and others that they are doing so. Such exceptions must take inchoate, non-conceptual, pre-rational forms, such as appeals to brute self-interest, to the need to respond to a pressing emergency, or to common sense. For example, liberals who want to escape from the negative consequences of their liberal beliefs in a given instance will often say that the application of a liberal idea in that instance “goes too far,” without their indicating by what principle they distinguish between an idea that has gone “too far” and one that hasn’t. In fact, it’s purely a matter of what suits their own comfort level and convenience.

In this case, Mr. Totten says he is "against the death penalty, almost categorically," though in this case he is not because "anyone who has murderous fans running loose in the streets is dangerous even in a cage." He doesn't spell out the principle upon which he bases his usually categorical opposition to capital punishment, but he suspends whatever it is in this case because some followers of Saddam would be encouraged if he were sentenced only to life imprisonment. Apparently Mr. Totten's feels that the death penalty is ok if it's expedient for public safety reasons. Doesn't sound very liberal, but it does sound practical. So on what basis does Mr. Totten normally "almost categorically oppose the death penalty"? How can he suspend his usual liberal opposition to the death penalty so conveniently in this case? Because he resorts to making an unprincipled exception based on the pressing emergency of the situation in Iraq.

Posted by: Mark at November 5, 2006 05:36 PM

I hope they put his execution on TV. I might even watch.

That's childish in the extreme. And I think you know it.

Posted by: Benjamin at November 5, 2006 05:47 PM

Alright Mark, I'm not Michael, but I share some qualities and I'd like to try to take a stab at that one.

I am against the Death Penalty "categorically".

The principle behind this view is the idea that our government represents our highest, or at least most complicated social project.

In a Democracy in particular this construct represents us, our best ideals, etc. Therefore it SHOULD do no wrong.

Killing in self-defense is "ok" in my practical Liberal book. Arresting and restraining dangerous people is quite ok. And killing some one who resists arrest or attempts escape may be ok, depending on the threat they pose at the time and in the future.

Now in the case of Capital Punishment the prisoner is already restrained and is in no immediate risk of escape (ideally). Therefore killing by the state is simply murder and is wrong.

I understand that there are those who would argue for "justice" or "retribution". However, I think this is just giving in to their worst primal desires. As such the state is actually harming those people, even if they don't know it or don't see it that way.

Now, with someone like Saddam, Hitler, or Charlie (Manson), there was/is the risk that they could either inspire further murder or actually coordinate it merely by their remaining alive. In this case it may be appropriate to humanely, if possible, execute them.

I would agree that Michael's post made it sound like he was interested in "seeing justice" (it wouldn't be retribution or vengeance since Saddam probably didn't harm Michael directly) which is kinda close to Schandenfrude. In any case it wouldn't be his best behavior.

But Michael might respond that despite how it was perceived he meant it as "the man continues to inspire violence and needs to go".

I do know that one classic question Michael likes to pose about coups and revolutions is "what do you do with the king?" The implication, I presume is that if you have to kill him then your movement isn't legit. But, as we have just discussed, in some cases even the best, and most liberal, new government may indeed have a good reason to "kill the king".

Both Louis and Napoleon came back, and more people died because of it.

Posted by: sean at November 5, 2006 06:36 PM

One of the key justifications for the death penalty, made by conservatives, is the basic eye for the eye argument. Its a vapid argument. Michael Totten would not normally use such an argument and would generally take a principled stand against the death penalty for a whole host of moral and practical reasons, all of which are well rehearsed and I am sure he is aware of them.

However, Michael has come out in strong support for the death penalty for Saddam. This support goes further than simply saying it's the Iraqis right to implement it if they so wish (fair enough.) He has gone further: he has actually independently advocates the death penalty for Saddam.

However, the basic moral arguments against the death penalty apply here too. Or put it another way: the vacuous "moral" argument for it rears its ugly head again - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But why does Michael now support this flawed justification when applied against Saddam, but correctly reject it in all other cases?

If you fundamentally oppose the death penalty on practical and moral grounds, you can only oppose it for Saddam too: that is my position.

Posted by: Benjamin at November 6, 2006 01:31 AM

Yo Benji! 'Sup holmes? Nice place Mr Totten got here... I like your style - start all reasonable like.

Okay, let's get some trollin done, pardner.

Posted by: sonic at November 6, 2006 03:05 AM

Before I comment further, let me just say that I agree with Greg that Michael's weblog is essential for anyone trying to understand the Middle East. I never hesitate to direct anyone to it, no matter how extreme their views, because I think Michael presents things in an honest and laudably non-partisan fashion. It's impossible to dismiss him.

Thanks, Michael.

On the death penalty issue, I largely agree with Sean above and won't reiterate his points. I wrote to disagree with Benjamin, however: he claims that "the" moral arguments against the death penalty apply here as they ever do.

This sort of claim makes me very uncomfortable, for it presupposes that moral opponents of the death penalty are a uniform lot, who jointly hold to a particular line of reasoning. If they disagree, they must be succumbing to a "flawed" justification of the death penalty.

But I don't consider the issue to be so black-and-white, and I suspect many other opponents of the death penalty feel as I do. As public policy, I think it's a bad idea: the risk of applying the death penalty unjustly, in particular by applying it to someone innocent, is more compelling to me than the argument that it is better to put particularly dangerous criminals to death to remove the danger to prison guards, mental hospital employees, and indeed other prisoners.

It's an argument. I come down on one side of it.

In the case of Saddam, other considerations can change how we weigh the death penalty argument. Sean brings up some pertinent arguments. I would also point out that Saddam is indeed a special case in that there is very little chance that he is innocent of the crimes of which he is accused, and that the scale of his crimes is of such a magnitude that we might consider treating him as a special case.

Benjamin obviously does not think that such arguments are compelling. But his criticism of Michael's support of the death penalty in this case uses nothing better than a "straw-man" argument, characterizing Michael as supporting an "eye-for-an-eye" justification. This is quite insulting. Benjamin sounds more like a true believer who is disturbed that one of his co-believers has "stepped out of line" and is trying to shame him back into place.

After reading Michael's comments for years, I don't get the impression that that is the best way to convince him of something.

Posted by: DAW at November 6, 2006 03:09 AM

If you fundamentally oppose the death penalty on practical and moral grounds, you can only oppose it for Saddam too: that is my position.

Benjamin, do you believe that a state has the right to wage war, to kill people in self defense? For example, do you think Stalin had the right to wage war against the Nazis in WWII?

Do you believe that the state also have the right to inflict violence when threatened by armed militias, native or not, who are threatening to that state's sovereignty?

If you fundamentally support a state's right to use violence to defend its sovereignty from threats within and without, then you would have to support the execution of a powerful threat to Iraq's sovereignty, Saddam Hussein.

Posted by: mary at November 6, 2006 07:27 AM

If you fundamentally support a state's right to use violence to defend its sovereignty from threats within and without, then you would have to support the execution of a powerful threat to Iraq's sovereignty, Saddam Hussein.

Yeah, because Saddam is like totally on the verge of taking over the Iraqi state.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 09:23 AM

Yeah, because Saddam is like totally on the verge of taking over the Iraqi state.

The Iraqis are a better judge of that than you are.

Posted by: mary at November 6, 2006 09:40 AM

The Iraqis are a better judge of that than you are.

Hey, I agree, he's almost got everything in place for a breakout and a return to power. Totally.

Speaking of Iraqis being better judges, from Zeyad's Healing Iraq:
Take a look at the celebrating Iraqis on the streets: whose posters are they carrying? This is not as much a celebration of the death of Saddam as much as it’s a celebration of the birth of new tyrants and warlords. The tide has turned forever. The new victors in Iraq are the followers of Sadr and Hakim, and as the Ba’athists and Sunni insurgents and jihadists become more localised and irrelevant, the next conflict will be between those two. The way I see it now, the breakup of Iraqi is inevitable. It is already a fact on the ground and there will be nothing but bloodshed in the near future. Is that a milestone for Iraq?
And from his translation of blogger Shalash Al-Iraqi:
The court decided to execute Saddam, and I think that you, dear readers, have conflicting emotions toward this event. I am like you. I have extremely conflicting emotions, as if I’m standing in a huge rubbish dump, and they want me to smell old rubbish. I’ve forgotten Saddam’s crimes when faced with the atrocities of brutal crimes we experience today. I am choking with death and they want me to remember the deaths of my grandfathers.

Frankly, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the opportunists and the makers of imaginary victories. Saddam was toppled by America, captured by America, and tried and sentenced under the protection, desire and timing of America. Neither Maliki is the hero of our liberation from Saddam, nor has Hakim carried the banner of the armies that toppled his regime. If Maliki wants to become a true hero, there are other criminals that he can try and send to justice, and they are closer to him than his jugular vein.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 10:00 AM

The people in this comment thread who are spending so many words debating whether it's moral to execute Saddam, or chastising Mike for hoping they do, are an excellent practical demonstration of why liberals have a reputation for lacking common sense. This world includes some folks who, as the Texans like to say, need killing. Saddam is one of them.

Posted by: Stacy at November 6, 2006 10:03 AM

Eh, I'm not into human sacrifice, no matter what the excuse. And killing Saddam is little more than a masturbatory symbol at this point. The Shia are the powerhouse in Iraq now, and nothing short of divine intervention could restore Hussein to power. He isn't even a source of inspiration to the Baathist insurgency anymore. As the Iraqi bloggers have pointed out above, the jihadists, insurgents, and Baathists are permanently on the sidelines now.

Good news, eh?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 10:13 AM

dpu - with your quotes from Iraqis, you seem to believe that there are a lot of folks, like Sadr, who need killing. Saddam isn't the only one.

I don't think anyone disagrees..

Posted by: mary at November 6, 2006 10:15 AM

dpu - with your quotes from Iraqis, you seem to believe that there are a lot of folks, like Sadr, who need killing.

Killing, killing, killing. Seems to be the the solution du jour, doesn't it?

And it's all working out so well too.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 10:23 AM

sean wrote: "I am against the Death Penalty "categorically"."

sean also wrote: Now, with someone like Saddam, Hitler, or Charlie (Manson), there was/is the risk that they could either inspire further murder or actually coordinate it merely by their remaining alive. In this case it may be appropriate to humanely, if possible, execute them.

Sean, I'm not sure what you mean by "categorically", but my understanding of the term is that it means "absolutely", in all cases.

Clearly you do NOT categorically reject the death penalty. You find it acceptable if the person might inspire violence among his followers. Thus it appears that your actual criterion for the death penalty is: the death penalty is wrong unless it is expedient for safety reasons. Does that sound like a reasonable criterion to you? It doesn't to me. It sounds like a whole lot of liberal rationalizations do: I'm all for X, except when it isn't practical. That's the essence of the "unprincipled exception" I was talking about.

Besides, a person should not be executed just because some other people might or might not behave in a violent way if he lives. Your theory has a similar outcome and flavor to that of a sheriff giving an arrested man to a mob for lynching because if he doesn't they will attack the jail and commit violence.

Unintentionally, I think, you have confirmed my point that liberals resort to the "unprincipled exception".

Posted by: Mark at November 6, 2006 11:12 AM

Killing, killing, killing. Seems to be the the solution du jour, doesn't it?

back in the good old days, when not killing was the solution du jour, the world fiddled as Rwanda burned. We left Saddam in power. That didn't work out very well either.

Posted by: mary at November 6, 2006 11:31 AM

back in the good old days, when not killing was the solution du jour, the world fiddled as Rwanda burned. We left Saddam in power. That didn't work out very well either.

Well, now we have the killing, PLUS the fiddling while Darfur burns, the Congo burns, and southern Iraq is about to become the biggest and wealthiest province of greater Iran. The middle bit may well become Eastern Syria, and heaven help the Kurds trapped between Turkey and Iran.

Now, who's to be killed next? There must be some part of the Middle East that hasn't been screwed up yet.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 11:39 AM

Call me Texan, but I support the death penalty for cold blooded murder cases.
Yet I respect the hell out of Michael and the dozen or so other comments I have read in the last 24 hours (most intriguing ones came from Britons) from those who are generally opposed to capital punishment but make an exception with Hussein and that elite .001% who are destined for the lowest, darkest circle in Hell. Not just because I agree with you about Hussein, more importantly it shows you are an independent thinker with the proper balance of logic and intellectual flexibility.
When someone emphasizes how important it is to be categoric I just think about what a strange, twisted world it would be if every opinion we had were carried to its logical conclusion, all of the time.....
Those calling for reconsideration of the execution based on political considerations seem more reasonable than the "all life is sacred" true believers.
Speaking of, if someone can give me a good reason why Hussein's life is sacred, I will give them a shiny new nickel (and no, 'all life is sacred' does not cut it unless you can tell me why).

Posted by: Rommel at November 6, 2006 12:18 PM

Speaking of, if someone can give me a good reason why Hussein's life is sacred, I will give them a shiny new nickel...

Show me a reason why your own life is sacred, and I'll give you a dime.

And hey, here's some news I haven't seen mentioned anywhere: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the UAE have announced that they're starting nuclear programs.

That should liven up the region, doncha think? On the other hand, maybe they're just jealous of the special status that the very-corrupt and nuclear-armed Islamic Dictatorship of Pakistan enjoys with the US.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 12:45 PM

Now, who's to be killed next? There must be some part of the Middle East that hasn't been screwed up yet.

The Middle East (and the primary source of slaves for Arabs, Africa) was irrevocably screwed up when Britain gave control of Mecca and Medina to the slave-owning, austere, intolerant, well-armed and bloodthirsty Sauds.

Everything since then was just following the path paved.

Posted by: mary at November 6, 2006 01:01 PM

The Middle East (and the primary source of slaves for Arabs, Africa) was irrevocably screwed up when Britain gave control of Mecca and Medina to the slave-owning, austere, intolerant, well-armed and bloodthirsty Sauds.

Ah, the "it was broken when I bought it" argument. Of course, one could also argue that the whole regions was screwed when the British and French took the Levant from the Ottoman Empire, who were at least doing a credible job of administering the region.

And why the finger pointing at just the Sauds? We have a great deal of superpower meddling over the last half-century that has done far more damage than the Sauds ever did, bloodthirsty and well-armed might they be.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 01:31 PM

And why the finger pointing at just the Sauds?

Well, to avoid hijacking the thread by mentioning the billions spent in the support of terrorism world wide, Saudi-supported jihadi training camps and madrasssas, the fact that most Muslims consider Sauds to be parasite usurpers and genocidal grave desecrators..

..and ignoring the weight of evidence that Sauds were primarily responsible for financing and carrying out the 9/11 attacks, I can just point out that giving control of the Muslim holy lands to the most violent, hated, extremist cult in the Middle East was equivalent to giving Hitler control of the Vatican.

Churchill advised against the idea of giving lots of power to homicidal zealots, but no one listened because they saw a chance to make some money. That's the way it's been since then.

On the other hand, maybe they're just jealous of the special status that the very-corrupt and nuclear-armed Islamic Dictatorship of Pakistan enjoys with the US.

..that doesn't make any sense. In our little nursery school of spoiled dictators, Pakistan is probably the least favored.

Posted by: mary at November 6, 2006 02:03 PM

In our little nursery school of spoiled dictators, Pakistan is probably the least favored.

And the least likely to be invaded.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at November 6, 2006 02:51 PM

Mark,

Do you have any "exceptions" in the use of the death penalty? Do you think some convicted criminals (petty thieves for instance) should not be executed?

I suspect you agree we shouldn't kill every criminal. And so we agree, in principal. The difference between you and me is that you, presumably, want to execute people for a wider of range of crimes than I am comfortable with.

If that makes me a "unprincipled liberal," fine. Whatever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at November 6, 2006 03:17 PM

And the least likely to be invaded.

By the US? No, Saudi Arabia and the UAE top that list. Bush (and any US president) would chew off his right arm before he'd hurt our valuable Gulf allies.

In any case, you're being very US-centric. If these nations are hoping to build up a nuclear arsenal, they're not doing it because of the US, or even Israel. They're competing with Iran.

The US invaded Iraq to maintain the balance of power in the Middle East. Everyone mocks Bush because there were no WMDs in Iraq, but we're now seeing what happens when the balance of power is upset.

Iran is gaining power, Ahmadinejad is trying to prove that he, not bin Laden/Saudi Arabia leads the Ummah, and therefore the Arab nuclear arms race is on. That's what's causing the nuclear buildup, and that's what is likely to cause a war. If we don't hit Iran, and if Israel doesn't hit them, someone else will and it'll be a mess. That's why stability was important.

Posted by: mary at November 6, 2006 06:18 PM

Mr. Totten,

My personal position on the death penalty is that I think it is justified in cases of first degree murder where there is an overwhelming amount of evidence for conviction so that there is virtually no danger of executing an innocent person. I think it is irrelevant whether the person might or might not serve as encouragement to others to commit crimes if he is allowed to live. That means that his punishment would not depend on what he had done, but on what other people MIGHT do. That seems to me like a strange exception to make, and it's the exception you made.

Your question about whether I would impose the death penalty for every crime misses the point. You are confusing the idea of being, in principle, for or against the death penalty, with the unrelated idea of which crimes should deserve the death penalty. These are two unrelated issues. Obviously no one thinks that every crime deserves the death penalty, but that doesn't mean there is no such thing as a principled stand on the death penalty with respect to the crimes you do feel deserve it.

The question is whether you have a clear set of principles upon which you base your "almost categorical" opposition to the death penalty, and if so, how do those principles allow the execution of Saddam just because he might pose a public hazard by remaining alive. Honestly, it sounds like you are opposed to the death penalty, but because Saddam was SO heinous, you make an exception in his case and look for a justification for it. This is, as I argued, an example of an unprincipled exception based purely on personal feelings. Saddam exceeds your personal repugnance threshhold, so you're willing to see him executed - you might even watch. So your principle for when the death penalty should be imposed appears to be "whenever Michael Totten thinks the crime was bad enough". The standard becomes Michael Totten's feelings instead of some objective standard that can be consistently and fairly applied. And that is the nature of the liberal tendency to make unprincipled exceptions.

Posted by: Mark at November 6, 2006 06:55 PM

Executing Saddam may be an 'eye for an eye' for some, but it's important in a larger sense because it closes that chapter.

You shoot mad dogs.

Posted by: B. Durbin at November 6, 2006 08:04 PM

[...]

I am against the Death Penalty "categorically".

The principle behind this view is the idea that our government represents our highest, or at least most complicated social project.

In a Democracy in particular this construct represents us, our best ideals, etc. Therefore it SHOULD do no wrong.

...which is an absurdly naive position, with no basis in any practical experience of what governments do or how they do it.

It also smacks of disrespect for the basic principle of democracy, which is that the polity in question will be governed in accordance with the will of the majority of the electorate.

What you are saying is that even when the majority of people in the nation in question thinks the penalty for committing certain crimes should be execution, you object... and that's not democracy, or anything resembling it. It's you wanting your desires to overrule the will of the majority.

Feel free to think what you like, but please don't pretend democracy has anything to do with your opinion.

As far as Saddam is concerned... the man is not innocent. Hundreds of thousands of deaths- minimum- can be attributed to his decisions, made with malice aforethought.

I'm not sure why they gave him a trial- the notion that everyone deserves to hear the charges against them and defend themselves is a generally Western notion. In the middle east, the guiding principle frequently seems to be 'might makes right'.

[snip]

I do know that one classic question Michael likes to pose about coups and revolutions is "what do you do with the king?" The implication, I presume is that if you have to kill him then your movement isn't legit. But, as we have just discussed, in some cases even the best, and most liberal, new government may indeed have a good reason to "kill the king".

That's not it at all.

The point of killing the king (and any heirs to the throne you can catch) in such a situation is to ensure that there will be no restoration of the Royal family to power.

Both Louis and Napoleon came back, and more people died because of it.
-sean

That's the reason.

Posted by: rosignol at November 7, 2006 05:40 AM

double-plus,

Sure, I think my life is sacred, but I'm sure Hussein thinks his is too.

That has nothing to do with my argument. I don't expect anybody else to hold my life sacred (just law-abiding and not kill me). Anyway, since you didn't really address there's nothing else to rebut.

Posted by: Rommel at November 7, 2006 02:23 PM

1) dpu,

"He isn't even a source of inspiration to the Baathist insurgency anymore. As the Iraqi bloggers have pointed out above, the jihadists, insurgents, and Baathists are permanently on the sidelines now.

Good news, eh?"

Oh, so we have won in Iraq? Great! Let's go home. Man that Bush is a genius!

(Actually, though, I would feel bad about abandoning Kurdistan to the zombies. Let's keep some people there. They'll be safer than if they were in Detroit.)

2) The purpose of a democracy is to represent the interests of its citizens, not necessarily their ideals.

3) Martyrs? Wacka-wacka-wacka. How come only they get martyrs? Why don't we get martyrs? How about that poor UN slob (I forget his name) who got bombed? How about al-Khoei or Ahmed Shah Massoud? Why aren't they afraid of making martyrs? How about all our war dead? Is Daniel Pearl a martyr?

Martyrs all have one thing in common: They're all dead.

4) There is an excellent, a decisive reason, to kill Saddam, If we felt like it, the US could remove him from any conceivable Iraqi prison in five minutes, and put him back on the throne in ten, and he would restore "stability" in about fifteen. Presumably then he would be a good boy and we would have neutralized Iran like that, pouf. Evil, but perhaps pragmatic. Hell of a way to "cut our losses." Probably get some oil and bases too.

I believe a lot of the uncertainty has had to do with rumors of just that - Saddam believed it (until the sentence passed). One of our biggest market principles is the desirability of reducing risk. Killing him, with all due process, eliminates that risk. (Or for all you comsymp out there, as Stalin said, "No man, no problem.") Everybody in Iraq will sleep better, even the dead-enders, because they won't be tantalized with revanchist dreams.

Gedankenexperiment: Pretend to hang him (hang a double, ha! ;>) and see if the situation improves. If not, bring him back and see if the situation improves.

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