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Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging, pending appeal. My question becomes…

November 6, 2006, 10:37 PM

I read in the newspaper today that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was convicted of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to death by hanging, pending an appeal.

But what I’d really like to know is, what will we be accomplishing by knocking Saddam off? Seriously, what is anyone proving by knocking him off? So a former dictator will be put to death. If anything, Saddam’s getting off easy. He will be dead, and therefore his problems will be over. It’s not going to get us out of Iraq any sooner, it’s not likely going to stop the insurgency, and it’s not going to solve the basic problems of the Iraqi people.

Now there are certain things that I’m not going to disagree with. I am certainly in agreement with those who say that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who did horrible things to his own people, and allowed other bad things to happen to his people. I’ll give you that. I’ll also agree that he was something of a wacko. His conduct at his trial confirms his status as a wacko.

But why put him to death? As I mentioned above, I think that lets him off extremely easily, even if the death is by hanging, as compared to something somewhat more humane, relatively speaking, like lethal injection. Hanging just seems so primitive, in my opinion, even for a less-developed country.

Personally, I oppose the death penalty, even for the most brutal offenders. My rationale is twofold. First of all, as my father once so eloquently put it, it’s a perfect ending to an imperfect process. I’ve read of enough cases where people have been exonerated after spending many years in prison to realize that, try as we might, the system is not perfect, and mistakes are inevitable in a system run by humans. And with death being irreversible, the chance of inadvertently putting an innocent person to death is too high in a system run by humans, who by their very nature, occasionally make mistakes. You can free someone who was wrongly imprisoned, but you can’t bring a person who was wrongly executed back to life. Secondly, for those guilty of the most brutal of offenses, why are we putting these people out of their misery by killing them? As I mentioned earlier about Saddam, once they’re dead, their problems are over. What I’d do would be what I consider a more effective punishment than death. I’d throw them in the slammer for life, in solitary confinement if so desired. Treat them humanely, and ensure that they get proper medical treatment as necessary. In the meantime, they have lots of time to think about their crime, and how it led to their being in their present situation.

I also like to think that we are above such things as capital punishment. In other words, we’re better than that. By deliberately killing someone who has deliberately killed others, we’re no better than the criminals. We really should not lower ourselves to that level. So thus I believe we should treat our criminals far better than they have treated their victims. To give an example, I consider the sentence that Zacarias Moussaoui received to be proper. You may recall that he was sentenced to life without parole in a Supermax prison. That’s solitary confinement for life, and he will die while still in prison. And during that time, he will have plenty of time to think about what he’s done.

Thus why I think that Saddam Hussein should not be executed. I’m not at all in favor of freeing him – the man’s a wacko, and has done horrible things to his own people, and now is facing the music for it. I just don’t think killing him is the right solution.

I also would like to observe that nothing in this trial has at all surprised me. Once Saddam was captured, I figured that they would find a way to put him to death. When the trial started, I pretty much knew what the verdict was going to be. Then the sentence also didn’t surprise me – I could have told you that from the get-go that he would get death, though the method of execution did surprise me.

And I still think that the Iraq War was a mistake in the first place, and the best thing we can do is get out before things get worse.

So there you go. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

Web site: Wikipedia entry about the trial of Saddam Hussein

Song: First-season theme to Roseanne (I'm watching Nick at Nite)

Quote: By the way, when we were discussing the whole Saddam issue in the breakroom at work today, I think I caught my coworkers off guard with my strong opposition to the death penalty. My anti-war attitude is well-known at work, but not my anti-death penalty view. Most of my coworkers, when presented with the question, described all kinds of different ways they'd knock Saddam off, some going well beyond what many would consider cruel and unusual. I was somewhat shocked by their descriptions, but also not entirely surprised by it.

Categories: National politics