Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What you see is what you get

The sequel lived up to all expectations. Good thing there was no chanting.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two of Saddam Hussein's aides were hanged before dawn on Monday, the Iraqi government said, admitting that the head of his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was also ripped from his body during the execution. On the defensive after international uproar over sectarian taunts during the illicitly filmed hanging of the ousted president two weeks ago, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh insisted there was "no violation of procedure" during the executions of Barzan and former judge Awad Hamed al-Bander. But defense lawyers and politicians from Saddam's once dominant Sunni Arab minority expressed fury at the fate of Barzan, Saddam's once feared intelligence chief, and there was also skepticism and condemnation of Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated government across the mostly Sunni-ruled Arab world.

"The convicts were not subjected to any mistreatment," Dabbagh said describing the beheading by the rope as a rare mishap. "Their rights were not violated. There was no chanting."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Super Bowl of Executions

We are all given a death sentence the moment we are born. Although the time and manner are normally unknown, death is a certainty. Suicide and execution have this in common: both make known the time and manner of death to the victim. Both require the victim to stare death in the eye with the final moments of life ticking off to conclusion. Saddam Hussein's execution was a smash hit reality TV show watched by hundreds of millions of viewers around the world via the internet. This was the all time great execution-- the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Olympics, the World Cup of executions. It was about as good as it gets for executions, what with a notoriously evil mass murderer getting what he deserves and all. There was even some retributive justice thrown in by hecklers who damned him for eternity. Finally, good triumphed over evil. I really cannot agree with those who deplore the fact that Saddam was not executed in a more dignified way. For whose sake should this have been done? Ours or his? I was particularly struck by a question Bill O'Reilly posed to a supposed expert on his TV show about what Saddam's body language suggested as the rope was being placed around his neck. "He looks nervous," she said. Personally, I will never accept execution as being on the good side of any moral equation. I want to live in a society which values and spares life at every practical opportunity. I detest arguing about the death penalty and hearing comparisons with self defense, war, and protecting oneself and family from evildoers. I know I am going to lose this argument every time as surely as I know Saddam's half brother and the judge will soon swing just like he did, only maybe without the heckling (at least not out loud broadcast worldwide over the internet). Logic and argument get nowhere in this game. The only thing that matters is where you stand when the time comes. Who decides how and when we die? Absent some pretty compelling circumstances (yeah, like war and self defense), I don't want to decide how or when anyone dies. I will leave that to the Almighty whatever. In the meantime, I will continue to work shoulder to shoulder with pro bono lawyers around the country in our inalterable opposition to the death penalty.