Monday, November 06, 2006

The day of reckoning

I find it suspicious that the announcement of Saddam Hussein's death sentence comes a day before the US mid term elections.

It reminds me a little of the President's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech from the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln- it is meaningless to the actual situation on the ground in Iraq.

I do not believe in the right of the state to take life. That includes even the vilest tyrant- which Saddam certainly was. If Hess or Speer were not executed (and if Stalin and Mao and their henchmen) for their crimes, then I see the execution of Saddam as arbitrary and therefore invalid under law as well as morality.

The fact that the announcement was made with the timing so co-incident on the US mid terms suggests even more that the sentence was given as a political gesture to suit the occupiers of Iraq.

What concerns me is that, given the rigged American democracy, this gesture might even work. Although the Democrats seem able to punish the Republicans in the House of representatives, it may well be that the Republicans will retain control over the Senate, which under the circumstances will be taken as a triumph for this pygmy President.

Bush and his cronies- the incompetent Rumsfeld and the erratic Cheney should receive no reward for this "November surprise". The President deserves punishment for the incompetence of his security departments, like the fiasco of Homeland Security and Hurricane Katrina. He deserves punishment for the sleazy scandals that the hypocritical Republican establishment have brought upon themselves. He deserves punishment for his bombastic vainglory.

He has created economic weakness, where before there was strength. He has created questions about the reliability of the US as an ally, where before there was certainty. He has presided over the terrifying erosion of US constitutional rights including allowing torture and false imprisonment as a matter of course- and on an industrial scale.

The Republicans did not scrutinize this fiasco- the American people should punish the "big government Conservatives" by handing them a defeat so large that no amount of Bushes bluster can distract the American people from the single inalienable fact:

Bush and the Republicans have presided over massive failure at every level.


rk said...

I love reading your blog it’s thoughtful and intellectual but there is always something there to disagree with that I can get my teeth into.

First up if the timing was really suspicious then much better to have the appeal out of the way and have the actual execution occur near the mid-terms. Also most political analysis thinks that the actual event is minor but its wider impact on the insurgency is the more significant factor. Therefore it would have been better to have killed him a month or two ago.

Also just because two murderous dictators were not executed for their crimes does not mean this one should not be. In 2003 only 5% of rapes resulted in a conviction. By your logic that means we should never bother convicting anyone of rape because so many are getting away with it! Also I think in this case we should respect the law of another country. In post war Germany and Japan we dispensed victors justice. In Iraq we have given sovereignty back and if there has been political interference it’ll have been from Iraqis.

As for the rest of your post, yes the Bush administration is incompetent and deserves to lose. Although have to taken a look at the other lot, rampant protectionists the lot of ‘em. I doubt they’d make a better economic fist of things

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cicero said...

rk -I rather enjoy sparring with you too!

To come to you point: There is a big difference between the conviction and the sentence. Of course crininals should be caught and punished. Saddam is certainly a criminal. However the problem is the sentence of death.
I have a problem with the legal validity of death sentences- they are often imposed arbitarily as I think has happened here, so that criminals who commit similar crimes are punished dissimilarly, and that in my view is not justice.

The second problem I have is that I question the morality of a death sentence against anyone. By all means look him up with hard labour for life. No problem with that, and arguably it is a greater punishment for him to contemplate his dead sons and wonder why his own actions broaught him to this point than to die a quick clean death as a martyr in his own eyes, even if in few others.

Third World War- your copy-paste pro Republican rant could have been posted as a link, which I might have published. However I am not compelled to publish a full text rant far longer than my original post and which I clearly disagree with, so for the first time I have deleted a post.

If you disagree with my comments I would appreciate your own words rather than a copy-paste from a rather demented website.

rk said...

The issue of the sentencing is a trickier one because it is a cultural issue. The west by and large has turned against the death penalty and holds that the punishment of life imprisonment without parole is preferred. The anti-death penalty position usually comes in two forms either it is based on a belief in the sanctity of life (distinct from a desire to relieve suffering) or it is because of the fear of miscarriages of justice (you can’t bring back a dead man).

The miscarriage of justice is clearly a non-starter in this case so you are left with the sanctity of life argument. This is a trickier concept because it springs from a European catholic tradition. It is a pseudo-religious position that values life over suffering. The Middle East with it’s tradition of Islamic Sharia law has not moved away from physical punishments and see no problem with the death penalty. Who are we to tell them otherwise, especially when our proposed alternative is arguably more cruel to the condemned, is much more expensive and possibly an encouragement to the Bathist insurgents.

As a footnote I want to make the point on the impact on the insurgency. I believe Campbell’s comments that it would make him a ‘martyr’ are off the mark. Saddam is a bigger threat when he is alive and could still return as leader of Iraq, ready to wreck his revenge. The trial has humbled him and killing him would strike a major psychological blow against the Bathists. Keeping him alive no matter where you imprison him will keep alive their dream of regaining control of the country, freeing their leader and restoring him to power. As long as he is alive he is a unifying factor for those groups that would restore him. Kill him and their unity will deteriorate over time. He may be idolised as a martyr to some but it won’t last long. Moreover secular tyrants with personality cults (Stalin is another) are not dangerous martyrs because there is no substance left when they are gone. UBL will become a martyr in that sense when he dies because he will bequeath a vision others can fight for. The only cause Saddam represents is the greater glory of Saddam.

liberalone said...

I have to agree with rk that this is always one of the best written and most thoughtful blogs I read. Cicero you may be pleased to know that at the very least the GOP's choreography has given them no discernible benefit:

Cicero said...

rk- Interesting, because of course the biggest users of the death penalty are the US, China and Russia.

Yes I accept your point that Sharia is "quite relaxed"- in fact it insists on it- about the death penalty, but for me to abandon my opposition to the death penalty on those grounds is to practise a moral relativism that I can not accept.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason that we, as liberals and Europeans, should feel that we have to agree with an immoral judgment, just because it is considered acceptable by another culture. This is moral relativism at its most primitive. It was obvious that Saddam was going to be sentenced to death, everyone knew it. That does not make the death penaly itself defensible. In fact, arguing about the rights and wrongs of the death penalty (although always an important subject to debate) misses the point, here. The trial itself, i.e. as an exercise in the impartial application of legal procedure by an independent judiciciary, i.e. the visible rule of law, is what should send a signal to the region and to Irag. The question to my mind is: was this the message?

Cicero said...

Thank you for your kind words Tristan- and look forward to catching up in the Silver Cross.

Anonymous- I think the message is clear and directed to the American People, not to the Iraqis nor to the wider world. It's this: "we got the B**tard Saddam. Vote Republican"