Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thoughts on Saddam's Execution

I heard a civil rights activist rail against the execution of Saddam Hussein recently. I must admit, I initially scoffed at her complaints. I did not really even give her argument a fair chance.

Although I think the administration of the death penalty in the United States has undeniable flaws, perhaps severe enough to warrant a moratorium on its practice, I support its use in principle. If someone with no mental deficiency is known without any doubt to have murdered a child for example, I see no place in our society for them – including in our prisons.

Given this belief, I consider Saddam Hussein to be as deserving of the death penalty as anyone else on the planet. Because of this, I did not stop to sufficiently consider the argument against killing him when and in the manner that it occurred.

Charles Krauthammer got through to me in a way that I never gave the civil rights activist the chance to do (perhaps I should have listened to my own previous post). I knew that Saddam had a public trial – I saw parts of it myself on TV. I knew that the government of Iraq was established via a fair and legitimate (though admittedly imperfect) election. Therefore, I did not feel it was a major stretch to assume the trial was similarly fair and the sentence legitimate.

But apparently, there were several material facts that I did not know to consider. I found one particularly unacceptable – I will quote Krauthammer directly:

“[The execution] was also carried out extra-constitutionally. The constitution
requires a death sentence to have the signature of the president and two vice
presidents, each representing one of the three major ethnic groups in the
country (Sunni, Shiite and Kurd). That provision is meant to prevent sectarian
killings. The president did not sign. Nouri al-Maliki (the Prime Minister)
contrived some work-around.”

Given the context of sectarian warfare that is literally on the verge of destroying the political entity known as Iraq, this is absolutely unacceptable. Even if the sectarian violence were not a factor, the legal precedent this act establishes could be devastating to the future of the nation. The new Iraqi Constitution is struggling to attain real meaning for a people that identify with a tribe and religious sect more than they do a national identity. Therefore, to disregard the national law on so clear and public a matter is inexcusable.

The actions of Prime Minister Maliki make me seriously consider Krauthammer’s closing assertion that “We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a government.” The suggested surge is to establish the stability necessary for the Iraqi government to assert its rightful authority based on the democratically designed Iraqi Constitution. But if that government freely disregards that law – when the entire world is watching, no less – is there anything legitimate left for us to defend?

CK's original article is here.

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