December 27, 2006

"Hatred does not leave space for a person to be fair and it will blind your vision and close all doors of thinking."

In his farewell letter, Saddam calls on Iraqis "not to hate":
[T]he letter says: "Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if God wants He will lift it up to where the first believers and martyrs are and if His decision is postponed, then He is the most merciful. . . . So be patient and depend on Him against the unjust nations."

Addressing the "generous, loyal people," the letter bids them farewell. "I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in Him and God won't disappoint any honest believer."
Much as I assume this language is utterly conniving and self-serving, I hope it will nevertheless do some good. And I feel compelled to restate my deep-seated opposition to the death penalty. No matter how much of a beast the condemned man is, it is wrong to inflict death on someone who has been completely incapacitated.

80 comments:

Gerald Hibbs said...

You know, in olden times the King would often kill off family members because of the mere possibility that cabals would form around them to challenge his sitting on the throne. Leaving Saddam alive also keeps the hope of him being returned to power alive. As such he is a motivating force in continuing the insurgency for at least some.

While he personally may be defanged, for the moment, his mere existence leads to more deaths. I won't even bring up deterrence as you clearly don't agree with that concept.

Though I will point out that wars can only be won by killing people. Do we want to have to kill ALL of our opposition or would we rather some retreat from the battle field as the cause seems lost? Killing Saddam, as well as their organizing leadership, is the best way to ensure that potential low level recruits see the error of joining the terrorists before we have to kill them too.

Ann Althouse said...

Gerald: I have thought of that and think it is important. But I still cannot contemplate an execution without feeling a sense of revulsion.

Gahrie said...

How do you feel about those who kill in prison while serving a life sentence (which happens fairly often) or those who escape or are released only to kill again?

Gahrie said...

Just as an aside, I support the death penalty, and feel revulsion about abortion.

You support abortion and feel revulsion about the death penalty.

I wonder how history will judge our respective positions.

Gerald Hibbs said...

That much I can agree with, Ann. The Iraq war fills me with revulsion as well.

I remember the first time the sheer hell of war became real for me. It was the first twenty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan." I sat in the theater literally shaking during those scenes. I remember I kept saying to myself, "Oh God, please never let me have to go to war. I don't want to go through this. Please, God protect me."

Later, thinking about it some more I had to add, "And God, if I ever have to go to war please give me courage to do what I have to do."

That's how I approach all sorts of topics. I don't like lots of things. It doesn't mean its not the best thing to do and won't, in the end, cause less suffering.

Anonymous said...

How do you feel about those who kill in prison while serving a life sentence (which happens fairly often)

Could you define often in this context?

(I'm not being sarcastic - statistics showing murders committed by state within the past decade would be useful, for example.)

Sloanasaurus said...

Hibbs is right. As long as Saddam is alive, there is a chance he will come back to power and there is a chance he will influence events.

The term life in prison can be meaningless because it requires the next generation to keep the promise of the one before it. It happens a lot. How can we be sure that a butcher sentenced today to life won't be released by the next governor or president because they have a different view of criminals. In Iraq, Saddam released all of the criminals in prison for life as a hurrah to the capitulation of his government.

I think the opposition to the death penalty in this context is selfish. If it is probable that a man or woman will kill again if relased, not putting them to the sword only risks more death for the selfish purpose of not feeling bad about it. Sometimes we need to sacrifice a little bit of our soul for others.

Sloanasaurus said...

You support abortion and feel revulsion about the death penalty.
I wonder how history will judge our respective positions.


I think it depends on the march of history. If in the future, fertility rates fall and the negative population growth starts to alter our civilization and standards of living in bad ways, abortion could be viewed as one of the greatest tragedies in history and your view will prevail as the morally correct position. In this scenario, the great pro-choice supporters of today will become the slave owners of the future.

If not, and our civilization continues to advance and our population continues to grow and we become more prosperous and wealthy, then Althouse's view will prevail.

Tim said...

Ann wrote:

"Gerald: I have thought of that and think it is important. But I still cannot contemplate an execution without feeling a sense of revulsion."

Yes, it is revolting.

But necessary nonetheless.

And the sooner it is finished, the better.

downtownlad said...

I think his execution is kind of cool.

I don't believe the death penalty serves much of a purpose except for the primitive joy that comes from revenge.

Then again - I'm big on revenge.

Too bad this isn't on pay per view. Would make a cool gathering for a party. Now what drink exactly would go along with Saddam's Hanging? Bloody Mary's perhaps????

Mr. Forward said...

How 'bout "The Lone Tree Cooler"
http://www.cocktail.com/recipes/l/LoneTreeCooler1940.htm

followed by "The Lemon Drop"
http://cocktails.about.com/od/vodkadrinkrecipes/r/lemon_drop_shtr.htm

Anonymous said...

The problem of course is that while we can all agree that a Saddam Hussein or a Timothy McVeigh would deserve the death penalty if anyone did, we have seen it used much more broadly than this, and we have seen dozens of cases of people who have been sentenced to death row for crimes they did not commit.

I have no personal doubt as to the guilt of Saddam Hussein, it being well documented. But I oppose the death penalty because the execution of people like this invariably leads to those executions being used as precedent for other executions, including those in which guilt may not be so firmly established.

Further, the argument that leaving Saddam alive will somehow inspire former Baathists in the hope that they can somehow win his freedom and bring him back, is negated by the opposite argument that one of the back-of-the-mind fears of Shiite fanatics will be removed and inspire them to even greater acts against Sunnis. A prime example-- Moqtada al-Sadr's father was murdered by Saddam Hussein. The Iranians also fear him, having been invaded by him and driven him out at the cost of over a million lives.

I guess I would see the 'inspiration/fear' argument as somewhat of a wash.

Gahrie said...

Could you define often in this context?

Well acording to the dept. of Justice, there have been around a half dozen prison murders per year in recent year, and the numbers have been reduced dramatically since the 80's. Unforyunately there doesn't appear to exist a breakdown of how many of these murders were committed by those already serving life.

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/tables/shipjtab.htm

Anonymous said...

I would also point out that some of you are making a mistake in suggesting that he is being used as a recruiting tool.

Only former Baathists look to him for inspiration. There is certainly a fairly extensive network of former Baathists out there (one of the prices of our mistake in letting crowds 'blow off steam' to quote Cheney by burning and looting all those government buildings-- we don't know who they are). However, I don't think very many people who aren't already members are going to be inspired to join a discredited socialist movement, with or without Saddam in the picture. It would be like people being inspired by Rudolf Hess to join underground Nazi organizations; this concern was voiced when his life was spared and he was sent to Spandau, but it never became a reality.

Most of the people who are doing the recruiting are 1) the Mahdi army (whose recruiting efforts will if anything pick up with Saddam's death, as I described in my previous post), 2) other Shi'ite militias such as the Iranian backed Badr brigade (most of whom are now members of the Iraqi security forces but still retain their allegiance to the Badr brigade), 3) homegrown Sunni militias (maybe a slight loss in recruitment if Saddam is killed but they are mostly fundamentalist Wahabbis, so no friend of Saddam's) and 4) al-Qaeda in Iraq (hard to see how the life or death of Saddam will have any effect on their recruitment, either inside or outside of Iraq.)

Robert said...

Prof. Althouse - Nobody should contemplate an execution without a sense of revulsion. But that sense, like any other sentiment of the body, should not necessarily be our final arbiter. (I recognize, of course, that you undoubtedly have arguments and reasoning behind your position, in addition to emotional data.)

Once we have decided that we will kill to defend ourselves, we must decide how far we will go in that direction. Where the line is drawn is the subject of legitimate discussion. Unfortunately, we have among us many people who do accept that we will kill in defense, but must cling at least rhetorically to the notion that all killing is wrong. That makes it hard to have the discussion; some of its participants aren't flying their true colors.

Killing is always bad in and of itself, but I believe there is such a thing as moral killing, and we must have great clarity of mind to know where that acceptable zone is.

AllenS said...

Conscience never won a war, you have to kill.

Abortion. If you're for that, how on earth can you be against the death penalty. What did that unborn child do to deserve death. If your answer is that a woman shall have control over her own body, then you are a very shallow, selfish person.

If you're against, or for both means of killing, then I can understand the logic.

Gerald Hibbs said...

Eli Blake,

Your points are well taken. That being said, let us pretend that there are a mere 10 Baathists still in the fight hoping to regain Saddam to lead them to their lost glory. Let us further assume that we lose only one American G.I. in killing those 10.

I would trade the mass murderer Saddam for one American soldier any day. Much less the vastly more substantial stakes at play.

Let us not get too caught up in abstractions and clever arguments to forget that there are real lives at stake here. I can't see much to gain in keeping Saddam alive. Meanwhile, even the most conservative view of what there is to keep safe by killing Saddam is much too precious to forsake.

Besides, let us not forget that it isn't our decision but the Iraqi government's. Should any group of people have the right to take the life of another human it is the Iraqis right to take the life of the man who killed them by the hundred thousand.

David said...

There are circumstances when the actions of an individual are an affront to human values to the extent that their right to life is forfeited.

As a civilized society we have the responsibility to determine when life begins and, occasionally, when life must be sacrificed.

Abortion is a murder of convenience on an innocent victim judicially determined to not be a life at the moment of conception. Depriving Saddam of life for his crimes against humanity dignifies the benchmark for human values. Cross the line and you may give up your privilege to exist.

As a symbol of true evil, Saddam must go! He leapt into the abyss long ago.

Goesh said...

They clamor for his blood over there, they demand it except for the few loyal to him somehow hoping their Saladin will be saved by Allah. I believe that had he been shot in the head when found in his rat hole, a considerable amount of violence could have been prevented. Things could have gone smoother had the monster been slain when found. His body could have been trussed up on some flatbed truck and hauled all over Iraq for the mobs to view while chanting and waving their arms in the air. Why are they always waving their arms in the air anyway? Is that a clear sign that such people need lots of bloodshed to satisfy primitive instincts? Will Al Jazeera televise his hanging? I have more questions than opinions. Will there be lots of bribes paid for front row seats at the hanging? Will there be an allotment for Commoners to attend? Will they declare his hanging day a national holiday? Will he become the Guy Fawkes of Iraq? A penny for the Saddam - will children be begging coins in his name 50 years from now? Will he be defiant as he mounts the gallows and shake his fist at George Bush and lay a curse on the Bush daughters? I think it is somehow easier to hang a defiant villain. Will the tens of thousands of Iranian widows and orphans whose loved ones were killed by Iraqis during that long war look more kindly on the US once he swings into eternity?

Pogo said...

Saddam's death isn't our call, anyway. He belongs to the Iraqi people.

Any sense of revulsion I might have had about his execution is tempered by the knowledge of the mass graves, horrific tortures, and arbitrary killings he has undertaken since he was a young man.

When an evil man uses nice words, it compounds my revulsion toward him. He does not speak against "hatred" because he believes these words, but because I do. Like other sociopaths, he has long relied on the compassion of others, which he views as a weakness he can use to his advantage.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented Saddam's use of torture on prisoners: gouging out eyes and stuffing the holes with paper, piercing hands with an electric drill then pouring acid in the open wounds, electric shock of the genitals, rape of women with broken bottles, gradually lowering victims into baths of acid, suspending prisoners from the ceiling by their wrists (behind the back) until the sockets rip out.

A man without a conscience is not human. it is always worrisome for one man to call the hated one "the other" or "inhuman", and the line must be clear. But if the actions of Saddam to not qualify, then nothing does. And you risk it happening again by his hands, an action which people would rightly never forgive.

Gerald Hibbs said...

"[Saddam] does not speak against 'hatred' because he believes these words, but because [we] do."

Eloquence, thy name is Pogo.

OK, I gotta admit, your screen name kinda ruined that last line. ;-)

Freder Frederson said...

A man without a conscience is not human.

So when exactly does the conscience develop and is it okay to kill persons prior to the development of a "conscience". This justification certainly negates the argument that abortion is immoral. An unborn child certainly doesn't have a conscience.

Freder Frederson said...

Conscience never won a war, you have to kill.

So you're saying that it is perfectly okay to kill innocent civilians in a war but if one supports abortion rights "you are a very shallow, selfish person." How on earth is that logically consistent, especially when there is no universally accepted point at which a fetus becomes fully a person prior to viability.

David said...

Freder;

The conscience you speak of resides in the person of the beholder and not the beholden.

It necessarily requires a system of shared values and mores that dignify the value and sanctity of life. Those values and mores carry the concommitant responsibility to act on their behalf when under attack.

Pogo said...

Re: "An unborn child certainly doesn't have a conscience."

What a strange claim to make. How do you know that?

I do agree that the assertion I'd made regarding the 'no conscience means not human'. It's a potentially dangerous decision, and can be abused. It's ripe for argument about whether someone does or does not have a conscience.

Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, and Castro are examples of those without conscience. Dahmer and other serial killers are less intelligent versions of the same thing.

Calling out Saddam's sociopathy is hardly a close call, however.

Pogo said...

And david, i'd disagree, slightly.

Sociopaths simply lack empathy. They can fake it, sometimes very well, but can turn it on and off like a faucet.

Anyone who has met such a man (or woman) will never forget it. It's like being with a wild animal, cool, remorseless, completely selfish, and cunning. One of the most chilling things in the world to encounter.

JohnF said...

I'm not sure it's proper to judge this execution by our standards of morality and revulsion. Saddam in some real sense chose his culture--one in which the death penalty is common, and sometimes disgustingly so--and now his choice is having its consequences.

Gerald Hibbs said...

"[Saddam] does not speak against 'hatred' because he believes these words, but because [we] do."

Pogo, not to get all ass kissey, but I put that phrase into Google and didn't come up with any similar constructions nor exact usage. Yes, the concept is out there, but that succinctness. . .If I missed something let me know. Because that my friend is truly a quote worth mass exposure. A defensive weapon if you will. Not only because of Saddam but because of how often Islamofascists use the West's values against us.

(Insert radical Imams here) do not speak about tolerance because they believe these words but because we do.

Iran does not speak about negotiations because they believe in negotiations but because we do.

The situations for usage are well nigh endless and its ability to puncture the purposeful fog. . .quite excellent, indeed.

Ann Althouse said...

Supporting abortion rights does not mean you do not feel revulsion at abortion. I do. I simply recognize the sovereignty of the individual over her own body. Someone must decide about something that happens inside one individual's body. It should be that individual.

As for a person who commits murder in prison, the prison should have been more secure, but once it is done, I would house him in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.

Killing in war is different from capital punishment. I don't know where Gerald got the idea that I didn't think it was. When people are still fighting and not yet incapacitated, killing them is a different matter. It is or should be closely related to self-defense or the defense of others.

db said...

Lots of good thoughts. Two more:

- Don't want the Butcher of Baghdad executed? Let's move him into your basement and give him a job at your kid's elementary school serving lunch and driving a bus. Then you can keep an eye on him.

- This is a part of the world that doesn't think twice about executing 16 year old girls for "allowing" themselves to be raped. At least their version of capital punishment is being correctly applied for once.

Freder Frederson said...

What a strange claim to make. How do you know that?

I do agree that the assertion I'd made regarding the 'no conscience means not human'. It's a potentially dangerous decision, and can be abused. It's ripe for argument about whether someone does or does not have a conscience.


A conscience requires rational thought. You have to be able to differentiate right from wrong for "conscience" to have any meaning. Surely you are not arguing that a fetus is capable of rational thought or knows right from wrong. Heck, under your criteria, infanticide is permissible. Certainly, children don't develop anything that approaches a conscience until they are toddlers at the very minimum. Only when they begin to talk do they understand the difference between right and wrong, bad and good.

David said...

Ann;

Interesting point! Arguably, it depends on WHAT is "Inside one's body" that is really the question here, is it not!

Anonymous said...

I simply recognize the sovereignty of the individual over her own body.

Except that abortion isn't just sovereignty over one's own body, it's the additional sovereignty over the life and death of another body.

As for Saddam, given the atrocities Pogo cites and Saddam's position in the world, I feel his execution is just, and I'm not repulsed by it.

Gerald Hibbs said...

I honestly think there has been a misunderstanding. You might disagree with my argument, Ann, regarding putting Saddam to death. However, I very clearly tried to argue that killing Saddam was indeed an exercise in the protection of others and self defense inasmuch as killing Saddam would reduce the number of our enemy and as such our casualties.

I also understand that you consider the death penalty and war separate acts. My intention was to purposely relate them in this instance in my argument.

Perhaps the construction of my argument was unclear. This is the structure I meant to convey.

I have revulsion for the death penalty. I also have revulsion for the Iraq war. Here is how I overcome my revulsion to the Iraq war. The way that I overcome my revulsion to this war is similar to how I overcome my revulsion to this execution. Here is how I think the moral calculus is similar.

Again, you can surely disagree with my reasoning but I don't think I have in any way distorted your views.

Freder Frederson said...

As for Saddam, given the atrocities Pogo cites and Saddam's position in the world, I feel his execution is just, and I'm not repulsed by it.

I thought you were in the process to converting to Catholicism? How do you justify your support of Saddam's execution (or the Iraq War for that matter) with your newfound chosen religion? Or are you just picking and choosing the parts of Roman Catholicism you like and discounting the what the Pope has to say about just war and the death penalty?

Anonymous said...

Gerald Hibbs:

I would agree that he isn't worth losing any American lives over. Of course if our President had felt that way in 2002 and 2003 then we wouldn't have lost thousands of them already with no end in sight.

The fallacies to your argument at 6:23 are these:

1. You asssume that when Saddam Hussein is killed, then we won't have to kill the rest of the Baathists. But the Baathists won't suddenly lay down and go away. We will still have to fight them. They may be demoralized, but there hasn't been much in the past four years to give them much morale, so those who are still fighting anyway are likely to still go on fighting;

2. You ignore the morale boost that this gives the Shiite militias, knowing they never again will have to fear Saddam. In fact, in their 'dual role' as Iraqi security, it is entirely possible that those who execute him may be members of the Badr brigade (even the Iraqi government doesn't know who is and who isn't among its security forces.) And last week the Pentagon admitted that al-Sadr's Mahdi militia (which did not even dare to exist with Saddam around) is now the most dangerous accelerant to violence and instability in Iraq, surpassing al-Qaeda in Iraq. If you save one American life by not having to fight as hard against Baathists (thought that is debatable) and then negate that gain by losing another American life by having to fight harder against the Sadrists, then how have you saved American lives?

As I said in the outset, while I am against the death penalty in general, I have no doubt that Saddam is guilty as heck. But the argument that this execution will somehow save American lives seems to rely on tortured logic (no pun intended) and careful choosing of which arguments to answer and which to ignore, at best. If you want to argue from a moral perspective, I can disagree with you but still understand what you are saying. I just don't see any net practical value, however.

Zeb Quinn said...

Althouse believes that women have the unfettered right to kill the life inside them because it is inside them.

Gerald Hibbs said...

Eli Blake,

Again, you make good points. I related my argument for killing Saddam with killing other terrorist leaders earlier in the thread. One of my main points is that a primary goal is to reduce the number of our opposition. As such, my argument is that killing their leaders is an effective way to show low level recruits (and potential recruits) the cause is hopeless. It must be difficult to retain morale that your cause is God ordained when the people who keep preaching that message have a distressing tendency to become room temperature.

Perhaps my historical analogy to kings putting relatives to death so as to remove the threat of pretenders to the throne is faulty. However, surely there are those in Iraq who hope to see Saddam restored to power in the hopes of regaining their former influence.

That being said perhaps there are indeed counter balancing factors that make his execution a net wash.

The bottom line is that is the Iraqi people's choice and honestly I'm so busy fretting like a schoolboy that Ann is about to whoop me like Jonah in the first 25 minutes of the diavlog to disagree further when our points of agreement are so many. :-)

Anonymous said...

Freder, are you Catholic? If not, why do you care about my personal views concerning Catholicism and the death penalty? Do you have any reason to assume that I am a very good Catholic? I had no idea that you were so concerned about the state of my soul.

In any case, the catechism does not forbid the use of the death penalty, though it is strongly constrained. In my opinion, Saddam's execution will be an act of self-defense by the Iraqi state. I believe that executing former heads of state for war crimes is quite a bit different than executing run of the mill criminals who pose no future threat.

Anonymous said...

Typo: war crimes should have been crimes against humanity

Anonymous said...

Gerald:

Perhaps then we will have to agree to disagree. You might note though that I addressed the recruiting issue earlier-- the Baathists are the insurgents least dependent on young recruits (particularly since Baathism in general is so discredited). They are mostly 1) former soldiers from the Republican Guards, and 2) former members of the secret police. In both cases, they are (frankly unlike some of the other insurgents) hardened, displined fighters and since this has been coming for a long, long time it's hard to see how it will make much difference to them. If anything my belief is that in the short term they are likely to step up their attacks against Shi'ites (who they blame for the verdict, given Shi'ite control of the government).

Anonymous said...

The Vatican is against it.

Pogo said...

Re: "A conscience requires rational thought."

I disagree. A conscience requires empathy, which may be quite irrational (ask Ayn Rand).

Can a fetus have empathy? I dunno. I don't think that the lack of ability to prove empathy means one can therefore be killed. Instead, the presumption should be that all persons have a conscience until they demonstrate otherwise; the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused. And then bar for execution should be set very, very high. Saddam passed the test quite easily, about 100,000 bodies ago.

And Gerald, thanks for the hat tip. It's an old thought restated.

Anonymous said...

Some real good thoughts here. Generally I'm against the death penalty because I just don't see it as practical. If I thought the death penalty would stop the most heinous criminals then I'd be for it. Executions are revolting regardless of their legality.

Although on Law and Order it does get confessions out of people faster.

With respect to Sadam, the purpose isn't to break the Sunni insurgency. The Sadamists are already broken. The Sunni Islamists could not care less. Ditto the Shia Islamists. If he were alive or if he dies these guys will spin the propaganda their way. What it does is help reconcile the Sadamists back to the "peaceful" Iraqis, i.e. the Kurds and Shia who are trying to make things work. As long as Sadam is there, the other Sunnis will be punished for his crimes. Once he is gone - the Sunni's can be forgiven and reconciled to the country.

To that extent it's not about either the Shia militias or Islamist insurgencies. But it will strenthen the goverment and long term that is bad for the groups trying to ruin things.

Gahrie said...

I simply recognize the sovereignty of the individual over her own body. Someone must decide about something that happens inside one individual's body. It should be that individual.

So to be logically consistent, you support prostitution, the selling of body parts and the use of illicit drugs also then?

Sloanasaurus said...

Althouse believes that women have the unfettered right to kill the life inside them because it is inside them.

I am not a big pro-choice supporter, but I think you mischaracterize the pro-choice position. I think people such as Althouse do not believe that an unborn child is a human life that has rights. They may believe that it is human-life, but it is not life in the way a born child is. This is a resonably logical position - after all an unborn child cannot live on its own, etc...

If the unborn child has no rights then the rights of the mother are first.

I think the problem with Althouse's position and others is the question of who decides when a child has rights or not. It seems to me that such a decision should be made by the legislatures through the will of the people, rather than 5 old crusty justices.

Gerald Hibbs said...

Eli Blake:

Yeah, it may sound like a cop out but I live in China and its nearly midnight where i live so I don't have the strength for research to provide sufficient data to combat/concede you points. I'm secure that my argument is at least arguable but my wife/bed are calling.

I can only concede that should the argument continue your vantage point may well prevail on this point. However, in the end my arguements have a three point attack:

1. Save lives by removing some impetus for Baathist fighting. Killing leaders always hurts morale among followers. Deterrence.
2. Morally right- he is in the world's top 100 monsters of history and should he be freed the death toll would be enormous.
3. It's Iraq's choice and on this they have absolute moral authority. Example of rule of law rather than murder by whim.

Though you may vanquish one I feel certain one of the other two would skewer you nonetheless.

No doubt we will cross virtual swords in the future and I have no doubt you will acquit yourself with elan. Until then, my valiant foe. We live to fight another day.

Al Maviva said...

I had a lot of contact with refugees from Saddam's regime following the first Gulf War. Sometimes, I was the first Western face they would see after being spirited out of the country immediately following a visit by the secret police. Seeing the torture inflicted on them - big difference between really harsh questioning and sleep deprivation, and having your tongue ripped out with pliers, BTW - I have a pretty good idea about what lies in Sadam's heart, and in the hearts of a lot of his helpers. Mass rape as torture, child torture, using the rape of one spouse as torture to the other, horrific mutilation, main force attacks against unarmed civilians, chemical weapons attack victims, I've seen 'em. What do you make of a guy that uses napalm on his own people, just as a show of force? The genocide of Kuwaitis and guest workers foolish enough to remain in Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion, conducted by Saddam's paramilitary police forces (along with a brigade of the PLO) showed me the remarkable initiative, inventiveness and playfulness that man can display when liquidating thousands or tens of thousands of fellow humans is both a political goal and a fun game for sadists.

Contrary to a commenter on a post yesterday, I do believe that there is a definition of right and wrong that survives through the ages, and Mr. Hussein was and is as wrong as a man can be, having fulfilled his potential for being wrong to its utmost. The only thing that kept him from being Hitler or Stalin is he was born in the wrong country, with a limited populace and struggling economy. In spite of that disadvantage, he still managed to incur a debt that is beyond any human reckoning. Easy for people here to talk about him like an abstract figure - he's not. There are faces that go with those uncountable numbers of victims of rape rooms and human shredders and mutilations. It's funny, funny queer, not funny ha ha, to see him compared to Tim McVeigh. McVeigh was a treasonous, murderous bastard, but not playing the same game, much less playing in the same league as Saddam. Ted Bundy, Tim McVeigh, you can talk about the murders of dozens or hundreds in the same breath. But after *personally* dealing with many hundreds of Saddam's victims, and knowing that my experience was not even a drop in the bucket, I can't see the comparison as valid. After dealing with some victims of Saddam, I have a vague idea, a tiny small scale hint, of what Stalin and Hitler were like. Even if one is generally against the death penalty (and I happen to think it is typically overused in this country) it seems to me that an exception is needed for dealing with a man of this nature. A foolish consistency, and all that... Hussein is an evil man and you really need to understand what that is. People throw around words like 'bad' and 'evil' and 'hate' and 'wrong' really easily, especially the kind of people who like to deny the existance of any permanent meaningful definition of the terms, but those words have a real meaning that we shouldn't forget. Saddam may not have achieved everything that he was aiming for, but it must never be forgotten that only the actions of the U.S. prevented him from carrying out his genocidal plans against the Kurds and Kuwaitis, that he attempted genocide on the Marsh Arabs, and that he carried out his day to day governance with methods that would merit the death penalty thousands of times over here in the U.S. were he some ordinary felon going about his business. He is capital E evil, and we should not cluck about his demise. We should celebrate it, for the world is better off without a tyrant. Botched though the post-war period has been, Saddam's demise and the possibility of improving the lot of Iraqis, is a worthwhile effort.

Suffice to say, I understand why thousands of Iraqis are applying for the job of hangman. In the words of a greater American than I, I'd shoot the paper hanging sonofabitch myself, if I had the chance.

David said...

Al Maviva;

He also said you don't win a war by dying for your country. You win a war by making the other poor bastard die for his!

As you stated, that is how you win a war! Saddam and his cronies are evil that must be eradicated from our midst!

Pogo said...

Well stated, Al Maviva.

In The Dead Zone, Stephen King's main character John, the clairvoyant, asks his doctor, a survivor of the German attack on Poland,

"If you could go back in time to Germany, before Hitler came to power, knowing what you know now, would you kill him?"

He answered,
"All right. I'll give you an answer. I'm a man of medicine. I'm expected to save lives and ease suffering. I love people. Therefore, I would have no choice but to kill the son of a bitch."

PatCA said...

"P.S. Oh, and don't throw big guys into the shredder--it really wrecks the gears."

Ann, do you take this letter seriously?! To me, it's propaganda. And Clark and the other "Americans" who shed their crocodile tears deserve to burn in the same place in hell.

And I think people are disagreeing with you on his death sentence because our definition and yours on "incapacitated" are different. In the ME, at least according to an Army interrogator/thesis student of mine, the key man theory rules. If the key man is alive, the loyalty of his troops remain. As long as Saddam is alive, his movement is alive.

Anonymous said...

Executing a prisoner as self-defense?

I have no interest in the state of your soul, but your mind needs work.

the pooka said...

All interesting.

While Ann was busy with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, my spouse and I rented Judgement at Nuremburg. Weren't even thinking about the whole Saddam thing at the time; it's just fun to watch Max Schell in his histrionic prime.

But that film reminded me that all of these sorts of things are intensely political. That is, the winners execute the losers, almost no matter what (think Republican Rome, or the Ottomans, or the Cuban revolution, or a hundred other examples).

On Balkinization a couple days ago, Sandy Levinson asked if we should have executed Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis after our own civil war. We didn't, of course, and the balance of opinion seems to suggest that not doing so was the right thing (but also that Nuremburg is a better analogy). Something to think about, anyway.

Mr. Snitch said...

"And I feel compelled to restate my deep-seated opposition to the death penalty."

Their country, their laws. Some respect for that fact is in order.

Anonymous said...

Does Saddam deserve to die for his crimes?

If the answer is yes, then executing him is not revolting, but just.

Execution is a very heavy act. But denying the victims of Saddam justice is much worse than showing him unwarranted clemency.

The death penalty is controversial. But it shouldn't be controversial for mass murderers and sadistic torturers.

Mr. Snitch said...

Though I will point out that wars can only be won by killing people.

Will that always be true? Could a war against a vastly wealthy society be won simply by seriously incoveniencing people? Could one become ruler of New York CIty by knocking out part of its banking system, cars and elevators with an electromagnetic pulse, then threatening to finish off the rest?

Already, wars are waged on the Internet via denial of service attacks. Some sites have been forced to shut down (WIRED did a story on this recently). Companies, not people, died, but still it was a real war.

I do agree with Gerald about the pragmatic reason for killing Saddam however. I live in Hudson County, where corrupt politicians serve jail terms of a year or so after stealing millions. Upon release, if they are physically still capable, they go right back to building their power bases. And their minions are waiting their return, too.

Anonymous said...

the pooka,

But [Judgement at Nuremburg] reminded me that all of these sorts of things are intensely political. That is, the winners execute the losers, almost no matter what.

The Iraqis are not executing Saddam because he lost to our coalition. They're executing him because he committed the worst crimes a person can commit.

Seneca the Younger said...

I dopn't think it's possible to conclude Saddam is completely incapacitated unless he's dead.

Do it quickly, do it cleanly (hanging, a bullet to the base of the brain, guillotine) but he's too dangerous alive.

As far as a "sense of revulsion": I've got friends who can't contemplate eating meat without a sense of revulsion; I personally cannot bear to watch someone pipetting saliva samples without the bile rising. Since when is one person's sense of revulsion an argument?

Ann Althouse said...

I might say that the unborn child has rights inside the sovereign territory that is inside a human being's body. That woman has the final say, and no outsider can interfere other than to prevail upon the woman not to commit those violations.

Smilin' Jack said...

A few random thoughts:

While Saddam is clearly an evil man who deserves to die, at present Iraq seems to be chock-full of such men. I'm not apologizing for Saddam, just suggesting that the political/religious dynamics of Iraq may make it inevitable that some such monster will rise to the top there.

Executing Saddam may make us feel good (a good enough reason, in my view, since he has no right to live) but it won't help with our problems there. Today's suicide bombers aren't inspired by Saddam but by Allah. Nobody ever wanted to die for Saddam (that's why his army melted away.)

Iraqis didn't depose Saddam, we did, and we lost American lives doing it. It's perfectly legitimate for America to have a say--perhaps the deciding say--in what happens to Saddam.

Ann Althouse said...
Supporting abortion rights does not mean you do not feel revulsion at abortion. I do. I simply recognize the sovereignty of the individual over her own body. Someone must decide about something that happens inside one individual's body. It should be that individual.


As Gahrie pointed out above, that position isn't coherent unless one also supports legalization of all drugs, prostitution, assisted suicide, etc. Furthermore, the government already asserts a much stronger form of sovereignty over our bodies through conscription (not currently in use, but still legally in place.) I've always felt that Lincoln's ending of slavery through use of a conscripted army was pretty dubious, morally.

Serenity Now said...

Prof. Althouse, you write:

No matter how much of a beast the condemned man is, it is wrong to inflict death on someone who has been completely incapacitated.

and

I simply recognize the sovereignty of the individual over her own body. Someone must decide about something that happens inside one individual's body. It should be that individual.

In both cases it sounds like you believe you are stating facts rather than just your feelings about these issues. Is that right? If so, how do you know your moral assertions are true?

I'm not asking you to defend your positions specifically on the death penalty and abortion. I just wonder how you distinguish "X is wrong" from "X offends me."

John Kindley said...

Sloanasauras: "If in the future, fertility rates fall and the negative population growth starts to alter our civilization and standards of living in bad ways, abortion could be viewed as one of the greatest tragedies in history and your view will prevail as the morally correct position. In this scenario, the great pro-choice supporters of today will become the slave owners of the future.

If not, and our civilization continues to advance and our population continues to grow and we become more prosperous and wealthy, then Althouse's view will prevail."

If in the future, it finally becomes common knowledge that having an abortion substantially increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, and that abortions have caused and are causing many thousands of deaths by this mechanism that would otherwise not have occurred, how will we judge those persons and organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the National Cancer Institute, which have actively suppressed this information for decades? Evidence of the link supporting a duty to warn has existed since 1957. The magnitude of this hypocrisy and injustice, and of the actual ongoing harm being done, boggles the mind.

My Wisconsin Law Review Comment demonstrating the viability of medical malpractice lawsuits against abortion provider who fail to inform women of the evidence linking abortion with breast cancer is available at www.proinformation.net. My briefs, with extensive citation to the expert testimony elicited at trial, for a false advertising suit in North Dakota (Kjolsrud v. MKB Management) against an abortion clinic making false statements about this evidence, are available on the North Dakota Supreme Court website. Central to the case was an absurdly false statement made by the National Cancer Institute which was selectively quoted by the clinic in its commercial brochures.

Sloanasaurus said...

Many southerners believed that the enslavement of humans was wrong, they just believed that Africans were not humans. I think the same debate occurs over abortion. As Althouse and many other pro-choice supporters have stated they abhor abortion, but at the same time they agree that the unborn child is something less than a born child, which is why terminating it is different than terminating a born child.

I am not saying that Althouse and others are wrong about whether the unborn is of lesser value - only that the view of whether it is right or wrong may change in the future based on the facts and circumstances of the future (i.e. lower fertility rates).

Of course, these are relativist arguments - if only we knew the truth....

Brett McS said...

Support abortion and oppose the death penalty?

As P.J.O'Rourke said, how much would one have to hate the concept of free will and responsibility to hold that position?

Ann Althouse said...

Brett: To support abortion rights and be against the death penalty is to think it is my role as a citizen to focus on what government should be allowed to do. I'm consistent in finding both killings repulsive.

Cedarford said...

The buzz is that they aren't delaying his execution. It will be soon.

Althouse: Killing in war is different from capital punishment. I don't know where Gerald got the idea that I didn't think it was. When people are still fighting and not yet incapacitated, killing them is a different matter. It is or should be closely related to self-defense or the defense of others.

I get what you are saying, but war is not a matter of self-defense where only those with the capacity to inflict casualties can be killed, and only killed when you find you cannot "incapacitate them".

When soldiers run in retreat, are found in a spider hole, with effort, before they surrender, efforts could be undertaken to pursue and capture them, perhaps at risk to your people - and accept the burden of diverting manpower and resources to guarding them.

But in many circumstances it is just better to kill them in accordance with the rules of war. It saves lives on your side and resources. All while you are still obligated to accept those actively seeking surrender IF you are in a position where you can manage those who surrender. (Meaning if you have no people available to take custody, an Apache helicopter with no ground troops nearby can ethically circle back on a tank or troop transport they took out and kill the survivors - even those with hands in the air begging to surrender.)

In hindsight, the troops had a choice with Saddam. Try and capture him or just toss a grenade down his hidehole and kill his helpless ass. Capturing him for lawyers to deal with cost extra American and Iraqi casualties.


Althouse: Gerald: I have thought of that and think it is important. But I still cannot contemplate an execution without feeling a sense of revulsion."

One of my friends is a Vet. One of the hardest things she does is euthanize hundreds of unwanted or stray pets with revulsion knowing that have plenty of life left in them and would be friendly happy 'lil guys if they only could be adopted.

But necessary, given society's resources and the negative effect of seeing starving or feral pets everywhere.

While Saddam is human, his death is similarly revolting but necessary given the harmful effects on Iraqi society of letting him live.

Freder Frederson said...

IF you are in a position where you can manage those who surrender. (Meaning if you have no people available to take custody, an Apache helicopter with no ground troops nearby can ethically circle back on a tank or troop transport they took out and kill the survivors - even those with hands in the air begging to surrender.)

Where on earth did you learn your laws of war, from Stalin or Hitler? You are never justified in killing uniformed troops who are trying to surrender, no matter what the circumstances. You are seriously mistaken. An Apache crew that committed such an act would be committing nothing less than cold-blooded murder (Not to mention that under Geneva it is questionable whether an Apache's weapons can even legally be used against individual soldiers rather than vehicles and structures).

Before you go spouting off about what and what is not permissible under the rules of war, perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the Geneva Conventions and the pertinent Army field manuals and sections of the UCMJ before you besmirch our military and make them out to be a bunch of cold blooded killers who would gleefully gun down surrendering soldiers from the air.

Cedarford said...

Freder, once again, having never served in the military, you don't know what you are talking about.

There is no Geneva Convention article saying there is an obligation to accept surrender regardless of circumstances.

For the record, America seeks to accept surrender of enemy forces whenever possible, even when pursuing that comes at some level of risk or burden..

But we have had occasions in all our wars where circumstances or enemy conduct has led to some enemy soldiers seeking surrender to be out of luck, in that regard.

Denial of quarter (a crime) is when defined acceptance of surrender is not done when it is reasonable to do so. However, it is reasonable to not take surrender when military necessity justifies such action.
http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:ceyHaiwQFFkJ:www.iccnow.org/documents/USElementsofOffensesMarch98.pdf+%22geneva+conventions%22+%22accept+surrender%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=15

As we speak, even now...British and American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will sometimes be given ROE (rules of engagement) where they are authorized to kill those seeking to surrender on certain missions where accepting such surrender would compromise the soldiers or otherwise jeopardize the mission.

Freder Frederson said...

There is no Geneva Convention article saying there is an obligation to accept surrender regardless of circumstances.

As usual, your fantasy of what you would like the rules of war to be in your vicious bloodthirsty military and what they actually are, are two different things.

The pertinent section of Geneva can be found in Article 40 & 41 of Protocol I of the Additional protocols (which we have signed but not ratified because of the unlawful combatant sections--the section I cite is not controversial and we have agreed to abide by it):

Art. 40. Quarter

It is prohibited to order that there shall be no survivors, to threaten an adversary therewith or to conduct hostilities on this basis.

Art. 41. Safeguard of an enemy hors de combat

1. A person who is recognized or who, in the circumstances should be recognized to be hors de combat shall not be made the object of attack.

2. A person is hors de combat if: (a) he is in the power of an adverse Party; (b) he clearly expresses an intention to surrender; or (c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself;

provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.


As for your assertion that American and British soldiers have ROE that allow them to kill those seeking to surrender, I guarantee you that those ROE are not to be found in writing and are not the official policy of the U.S. or British military for the simple fact that admitting to such a policy would be tantamount to authorizing a violation of the UCMJ. It is also a far cry from your assertion that helicopter pilots are justified in killing soldiers who are attempting to surrender simply because there is no one nearby to accept their surrender.

Cedarford said...

Freder, you dumb asshole. You never were in the military. You are clueless, and you didn't even bother to look up the link to the ICC regs on war crimes I linked you to.

Lets try it again in a way even the stupid locked into their own Leftist beliefs on how a military should act, rather than the actual laws and regs covering how they actually do act to save lives and the mission - can get it.

In military action, you have a range of circumstances that can arise where military necessity prevents accepting surrender. That is why the standard is: (1)Denial of quarter (a crime) is when acceptance of surrender is not done when it is reasonable to do so." (2)When both parties are contracting to the Geneva Convention.

And your projection on how orders to not take surrender on scout missions, in combat when no element of the advancing force exists to control enemy - that you cannot just leave unguarded at your rear, killing the whole enemy force that surrendered then reneged, even as they try to re-surrender being 3 examples...

And they are not just examples, but actual common events cited in Medal of Honor awards, on Gulf War video.
Bob Kerrey's SEAL team and several others on deep scout missions in Vietnam were on written orders to kill rather than take prisoner those seeking surrender. John Kerry shot a wounded, unarmed VC in the back rather than take his "harmless ass" prisoner. (Silver Star). CNN and other networks broadcast Apaches cutting a whole Republican Guard group to shreds - some firing some with their hands up - in the Gulf War. General Barry McCaffrey took an Iraqi armored brigade of some 450 soldiers prisoner. When a few Iraqis in the brigade betrayed their surrender and fired, McCaffrey opened up on them, even cutting down the disarmed ones. 7 Iraqis survived that one...and word went out to any Iraqi force that they had one and only one shot at surrendering.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder, you dumb asshole. You never were in the military. You are clueless, and you didn't even bother to look up the link to the ICC regs on war crimes I linked you to.

You call me a dumb asshole, but your definition of military necessity is overly broad, is not borne out by the Geneva Conventions (which you apparently don't bother to read) nor the UCMJ. To prove your point you point to proposed regs that the U.S. wanted as a precondition of signing on to the ICC. Of course we had no intention of ever agreeing to ICC jurisdiction so the regs were nothing more than a venting of ridiculous conditions for a protocol we never intended to comply with.

Colin Powell himself raised serious questions about the morality and legality of some of the incidents you mentioned at the end of the first Gulf War. I didn't say such things didn't or don't happen, just that they shouldn't. And show me a Medal of Honor Citation where someone was decorated for shooting unarmed prisoners who had surrendered.

And speaking of dumb assholes, I might be more likely to go to your links if you learned how to make an html link.

Derve said...

Thanks, Dale. Let me know if the RSS thing keeps up. I have no reason to think it's not working.

As to Ploopus, this is the same person who posts under the name Mary and Derve and I forget what else. She's a former student of mine.

10:01 PM, December 28, 2006
--------------------

THIS IS A LIE.

Pogo said...

Freder, give it up. I'm no soldier, but, hell, man, you're arguing from nothing here.

The "legality" of certain acts of war, or adherence to certain Geneva regs, is a nicety, an attempt to civilize war, the most uncivilized act of all. One can argue the merits of trying to do so, but for pity's sake, don't count us chumps.

Such rules are primarily observed in the breach. I wish it were otherwise. You can't lawyer and regulate a war. It's like trying to rule the wind. The attempt to do so makes one look silly.

Freder Frederson said...

The attempt to do so makes one look silly.

The right is constantly accusing the left of moral relativism. In this very thread you defend the death penalty imposed on Saddam on the basis that he has no conscience. Yet when I vigorously defend a system of international law, however imperfect, that was first codified one hundred forty years ago, that the US has been a signatory to for over one hundred twenty years (and is based on traditions that go back many hundreds of years longer than that); you rush to the defense of Cedarford, who favors the conscienceless killing of unarmed and surrendering uniformed enemy forces simply because the capturing forces do not have the personnel available to accept their surrender. You certainly have an odd and fluid definition of "conscience".

Pogo said...

Freder, your synopsis "...who favors the conscienceless killing of unarmed and surrendering uniformed enemy forces simply because the capturing forces do not have the personnel available to accept their surrender" seriously misrepresents Cedarford's writing.

The decisions made in the heat of battle over whether to trust a man who throws up his arms when just minutes before he was shooting at your head are too difficult to draw clear guidelines over (despite well-meaning attempts to do so).

And it's off-point regarding Saddam. If the Iraqis had found the guy first, they'd have shot him dead on the spot, and that would be that. No one would have mentioned Geneva because, frankly, those accords are followed only by or against West, as our enemies see fit. Mostly they're ignored, and I don't think they operate except among the higher civilizations fighting each other, and not even then.

Yeah, war is hell. As for the effect on conscience by acts of war, you're right. There's no easy answer for that. I think you are trying to spell out an ideal, and Cedarford is tellig you how ugly it actually works out to be. Yes, it's wrong to kill, but sometimes we have to do so. Is that moral relativism? No. Life is just hard like that.

amba said...

Just as an aside, I support the death penalty, and feel revulsion about abortion.

You support abortion and feel revulsion about the death penalty.

I wonder how history will judge our respective positions.


It's so interesting that those two are almost always on a see-saw, and when one is up the other is down. Except for the "seamless garment," "consistent life ethic" people, mostly (exclusively?) Catholic.

It seems to turn on which one regards as more important, ultimate, inviolable: self or society.

Freder Frederson said...

The decisions made in the heat of battle over whether to trust a man who throws up his arms when just minutes before he was shooting at your head are too difficult to draw clear guidelines over (despite well-meaning attempts to do so).

Apparently you didn't read what Cedarford wrote. He cited as perfectly legitimate "an Apache helicopter with no ground troops nearby can ethically circle back on a tank or troop transport they took out and kill the survivors - even those with hands in the air begging to surrender.)" (emphasis mine) Now how this comports with your description of a decision made in the heat of the battle about a man who was just shooting at your head is beyond me. It sounds like a cold-blooded decision to slaughter disarmed, uniformed, soldiers who are offering absolutely no resistance and are incapable of posing a threat and have indicated a clear willingness to surrender.

Note that he didn't say such actions were legal, he said they were ethical. Ethical is a much higher standard than legal. You can do a whole lot of things that are legal but still unethical. I would really like to now what military code of conduct he learned (because he does claim he was in the military) that taught him it was ethical to kill disarmed, uniformed, soldiers who had expressed an clear unequivocal desire to surrender.

Pogo said...

Freder, battle hypotheticals are a rather pointless exercise. The rules of engagement are important in maintaining one's humanity, to be sure, but they don't describe much that actually is recorded as happening in a war.

For example, I don't know what "circle back on a tank or troop transport they took out and kill the survivors " actually means in real life, rather than as some brief descriptor. It's more comlicated than has been laid out, and too complex to render any useful judgement upon. Far more grey-zone stuff than clear breaks of black vs. white.

Saddam is another matter entirely. Guilty beyond dispute.
Should the Iraqis kill him? I would agree that yes, they should, and lament that he can only be killed but once.

Freder Frederson said...

Freder, battle hypotheticals are a rather pointless exercise. The rules of engagement are important in maintaining one's humanity, to be sure, but they don't describe much that actually is recorded as happening in a war.

Well, actually they are a very important teaching tool. And the brief hypothetical Cedarford posited, without further mitigating factor, would be a clear violation of U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions. One of my favorite movies is Breaker Morant, which is based on actual incidents in the Boer War and deals with exactly these issues (the killing of POWs). That incident actually led the Australian Army to be one of the first to ban the death penalty for its soldiers (two of its soldiers were executed by the British for killing Boer POWs to prevent the Germans from entering the war on the Boer side after there were apparently, unwritten, orders to do just that).

Harry Eagar said...

Professor Althouse, I suggest that when you use the word 'incapacitated' you really mean 'unfree.'

I can think of any number of people who were as unfree as Saddam was until a few hours ago who still had considerable capacity, for good or ill.

Mumia in Philadelphia, Mandela on Robben Island, Sakharov in whatever that place he was exiled to.

There has been some argument in this thread about how much capacity Saddam had recently. No one seems to think it was zero.