Killing Saddam

Michael Totten, in the post linked to below, recounts the following conversation:

Ahman al-Rikaby mentioned capital punishment. “I’m against it,” he said. “But at least for the next few months I will hope we execute Saddam Hussein.”

“Here’s to that,” I said.

Hitchens said no, as I knew he would.

“The core of the insurgency,” Ahman said, “are his Baathists. We have to defeat them. And we have to kill Saddam Hussein so they know there is no way they can go back.”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s the difference between Saddam and Ted Bundy. Bundy didn’t have fanatical killers running around loose in the streets cutting off heads in his name. He was harmless there in his cage. Saddam Hussein isn’t harmless as long as he’s breathing.”

“When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia,” Hitchens said, “they murdered the czar, his wife, and his children…so there would be no going back. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

There’s a clear, consequentialist argument against capital punishment: that miscarriages of justice can never be corrected.

But, as with torture, the harm capital punishment does is not limited to its subject. The debasing of cultures which practice even medicalised capital punishment – where politicians mock the condemned’s pleas for clemency, and crowds hoot their joy as the execution is carried out – is palpable.