Saddam Hussein's Execution and the Death Penalty

I was just over at red1hols‘s blog in which he discusses Saddam Hussein’s execution at some length; I won’t go into his points here as I wouldn’t do them justice, you can click over and read them for yourself. One of the things he said, though, in a comment was “Although I had meant to include a section in the post about it not only being important for justice to be done, but it needs to be seen to be done.” Choosing to take this literally to examine my own recent experience rather than as it was intended in its context (that justice itself was neither seen nor done in this case), I was prompted to a lengthy monologue on the subject. Here are my comments (with some editing done to “fit” here):

I’ve gone through waves of supporting the death penalty and then not supporting it. Silly as it seems, the film Dead Man Walking gave me a lot to chew over in terms of the criminal’s and his or her family’s side of things. Anyway, I still ended up thinking that the most atrocious crimes really deserved the harshest punishment. That whole “who are we to pass judgment?” argument didn’t really hold water with me for the simple fact that the entire JUDICIAL system is about humans passing judgment and exacting whatever “justice” it sees fit. Degrees of judging seem a bit useless; you can judge me if I jay walk, rob a store, or embezzle money but not if I kill? Or you CAN judge me if I kill, you just can’t pass judgment IF your judging system deems the death penalty a viable course of action. Just doesn’t wash for me.

I’ve since changed my mind because it makes sense to think that if we are to exact justice of this kind and severity, we must watch it be done. And there’s the rub. We all know the horrible crimes against humanity that Saddam Hussein perpetrated, we all know he was a cruel sadistic man, yadda yadda yadda. But when it came around time for his execution, I noticed that none of us (my friends online or off) were elated or even smug about it. We were strangely (for us) silent. Thoughtful. Obviously, we’re not a culture to celebrate death by singing and dancing and shouting in the streets, but this was different. The big bad witch was dead, and we didn’t feel good about it.

Most of the reasons [Simon] stated in [his] post are correct; it was wrong and on so many levels. In some ways, it might have been better for everyone involved had Hussein not been found alive (not saying he should have been purposefully executed in the field once found, but just if he’d died in the course of war.). But that’s not how it happened. Instead we see him hanged. Or we almost see it; here in America, they don’t televize the execution, the closest we see is him standing at the gallows with the noose around his neck. Interesting that he chose not to wear the black hood; I’m rather glad he made that decision. I wonder if he knew we couldn’t bear to watch (although he almost certainly could have)? I wonder if he knew his enemy better than we knew or know ours? I digress.

My change of heart/mind came only a day or so ago when I was searching google video for a music vid and the first thing I saw pop up as “most popular” was the Iraqi version (in other words the full version) video of Saddam Hussein’s execution. I clicked it. I’m human. Morbidly curious. I watched as he was walked up the steps, listened to the jeering taunts in horror (I don’t have to understand them to get the gist of it from situation, tone, and later news reports), and I watched as he neared the gallows, had the noose placed on his neck . . . and then I closed the screen. Quickly. Fearfully. I didn’t WANT to watch it. I didn’t want to bear witness to such a thing. And that is when and how I knew that I really don’t and probably never have supported the death penalty. How ironic that it should take a man my country calls “evil” and a “monster” to teach me that.

Now and at my own blog (therefore hyper aware of my own audience), I almost feel like a traitor for this feeling, this sense of what happened. I hope that it doesn’t offend anyone, but I just can’t be happy about his execution, especially knowing all that we know about the trial, the circumstance, everything. But then, as I’ve illustrated, if part of being in favor of the death penalty means we should be able to watch it carried out, then I’m against it. And maybe with something so serious and final, there should be some sort of inner compass to go by, some way to measure whether or not we are really “for” it. Can we watch? Can we flip the switch? Can we inject the “cocktail”? Can we place a noose over someone’s neck? Release the trap doors? Watch them fall, their neck snap, their body twitch? I can’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t.

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I have no picture today.

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30 thoughts on “Saddam Hussein's Execution and the Death Penalty

  1. It’s a tricky one, for sure. Someone emailed me the link for that, and I must admit to watching it. Morbid curiousity? Whatever, by the time I was done, I felt sick to my stomach and somewhat repulsed at myself for having watched it. Yes, he was evil, there’s no doubt. But the people gloating over his impending death in that video…that goes down as pretty evil too, in my book. I’m not anti-death penalty…but only in cases where the evidence is overwhelming…if there’s any doubt at all, I think it’s a bad decision all round. You can grant someone their freedom but you can’t take back death. It’s such a minefield, that one.

  2. I know what you mean, it’s super tricky, and it’s pretty simplistic to say (as I have here) that if you can’t watch it, you should think about your true feelings about it. I just know that for me, not being able to watch it spoke volumes to me about my own heart. So emotionally, I’m anti, but cerebrally, well, there do seem circumstances that warrant it. But after this, I just don’t think I can support it. Who knows, though, if it were someone who did viloence to my family or loved ones? Would that change my mind, make me a hypocrite? I don’t know.

    And btw, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you watching the vid; I meant to, after all. You’re just MORE morbidly curious than I. LOL. Huggs, Tally, you’re amazing!

  3. Hei Fuzz.

    I went to read Simon’s blog on the matter and then came back to yours. I did not want to watch his final moments, just saw a tiny clip of it in the news as he walks to the pedastal or whatever it was.

    My thinking is this: if Saddam’s crimes were so hideous – sure he was not a saint and did most horrid things – and deserved to be hung; where are the rest of them in that catergory such as Pinochet, okay he died, Pol Pot, again he died naturally, Idi Amin et all. Why were they let off the hook? There are plenty of others of this ilk aka monstrous ‘leaders’ still around free as birds….

    It was also done on a day that spit the muslims right in the face; never good in the Mideastern cultural context. Iraq is a place that has never in its existence – ancient nor more recent – had democracy EVER. Could go on but will make a .
    Take care n do keep well. Great blog as always. Rii xx HuGGiz

  4. I’m an amazing waffler, Tally, wonder if I can take my show on the road like the amazing scalysnakeman? lol (thanks :D)

  5. Rii, you make a good point; if there is justice to be served, shouldn’t it be served to everyone who’s standing in line? Also, yes, you are so right; we’ve “made” Iraq a democracy and are now bewildered because they have no idea how to run it, no experience, no historical reference, no nothing. Sigh. Huggs, dignified Rii, and it means the world that YOU would call my blogs great! Wow, I think the same of yours. 😀

  6. It wouldn’t bother me to pull the switch or drop someone at all so I am the opposite of you in that regards. However, I am like you and everyone else in the after feeling of all of this. I wonder…..(A) – Why the hurry? (B) – Why were the only 14 people there when this was/is an international concern? and finally (C) – why were people allowed to jeer? We don’t do that in America and I think all of us are bothered by the way it was all carried out. We know he was a tyrant and we have wanted this for years but things just don’t seem right about the way this was carried out. Just my opinon and you know what they say about them. 🙂

  7. Hei Fuzzy,

    I am not really sure that I agree on the death penalty myself. After all why shouldn’t these people spend the rest of their life in a tiny cell with very little dignity instead of having the easy way out so to speak by having the death penalty. I know that if that were the case then the prison’s would be full of people until they died and our prisons are already over run over here with people and this might be why, as we don’t have the death penalty. I love the film “The Green Mile” and I wouldn’t like to see someone get the death penatly and it turned out later that they weren’t guilty like in the film.

    Can’t say that I have watched anything to do with his death penalty but I am feeling a bit curious now.

  8. And huggs to you, Cherei!

    Pris, as usual you’ve said just the thing to prompt me to think about what I mean . . . I think it is, for me, anyway, a matter of dignity. For some reason, I am bothered that he was allowed no dignity; every human being deserves that much. The jeering, the rush, the whole thing was just awful and nothing to be proud of. I think that’s why I can’t call him “Saddam” but always either both his first and last name or just his surname; it feels wrong to belittle him still further with that disrespect. Now, I can’t explain all this. I don’t respect him nor do I think him a dignified nor good ruler, so I have no idea why I think/feel as I do on these details. Oh, and I totally understand and respect how you feel about being able to pull the switch or drop someone; you are not alone in that feeling, nor is it a “bad” thing; how we feel is just how we feel. Not much to be done about it. Huggs Pris.

  9. Hey Snuggles, wow, I forgot about the Green Mile; excellent movie. I cried like a baby (and that was before menopause kicked in and I’m crying all the time!). I do see what you say about making people live with their actions being worse than “putting them out of their misery,” and I think that works for people with consciences, but I very much doubt that Hussein had a conscience, seems he’d convinced himself he was the be all and end all and that everything he did was not only right but smiled on by God. Huggs to you Snuggles (and some catnip for Marm)

  10. Hey Fuzzy,

    I just watched the hanging and I think he seemed to have a smile on his face so I think you are right about him not having a conscience.

    Marm loved the cat nip. She has these treats that are 100% catnip and cant get enough of them.

  11. Now, I do believe saddam should have died for his actions. But I was very offended by the way it was done. I feel 2 wrongs do not make a right. By hanging him in the way they did and by yelling remarks at him and not giving him some sort of chance at dignity when he was being hung is offensive and wrong in my opinion. It made the people that were hanging look horrible. I am sure that most people will not agree with me and feel that he died the way he lived. BUt I like to think that everone no matter how horrible should be offered some sort of dignity.

  12. ok, here I am. stirring things up and changing the pattern. I too would have stood ther and opened the hatch. I beleicve in the death penalty. I do not care waht they taunted him with in his last seconds of life. For what he did, to so amny people, dignaty wasnt even anything i care for with that man. He did get the easy way out, as far as I ma concerned. This may sound a little sick, but I ma sure some of his victoms families would have a less kind way of doing him in. I wont even go into what they could have done to him. I think it needed to be televised for the victoms he left behind. Im my opinion, he was treated too nice. He was a horrible, mean, self ferving person that cared for noone but himself. I dont feel bad for how he was killed, whether he was hung, taunted, I dont care. Just like he didnt care about his victoms, all thousands of them. hmph

  13. No matter what a person’s viewpoint on the death penalty ..for or against…and no matter if it has been deemed justice that this man be hanged…I am still disturbed that people would feel good about killing anyone. Maybe it is necessary in our world … I do not argue for or against the death penalty..I too sit on the fence on this issue…but no fence sitting for me when it comes to feelings.. and even if one is for this kind of penalty for a crime…I still can’t get over being disturbed by some attitudes…by the apparent party mood that seems to come over some. Thats all … I am just disturbed. I don’t feel good about the joy that some showed at this execution.

  14. 1. Sadam should have been found dead not alive. Americans are too good for their own good.

    2. I don’t care how he died here on earth, God has his own judgement day and nothing we can do here could match that. Go God! I bet Sadam isn’t smiling now!

    3. I hope it is not too long before Sadam is yesterday’s news. He killed thousands of people and we are discussing the way he died. Weird or what?

    4. Sorry you don’t like the map on my page, I do. I look at it everyday to see my friends! Its cool to me to see where they are in the world. Will be there for some time. However, I feel it is better then your white elephant but I still blog here anyway.

  15. It looks like I stirred you up some.

    There is another point here which if you are not careful will slip between your fingers like a moonbeam.

    When you start to think about it, the whole idea of a trial is to match up a person actions against a moral code.

    In this case, just how does that moral code stack up? Has the Iraqi Government help up a shining example of how their moral code is worthy?

    Still worse are those who judge all of this by their own moral code. There are comments coming along which suggest that there are those who believe in summary ‘justice’ and still match this up with God.

    I guess it depends on how you see your God. Mine is forgiving and believes that you should treat others with the love and respect you would seek for yourself.

    The idea that God is all for getting your retaliation in first is a little unsettling.

  16. The leader of my country was shot in the head like a dog. I do understand he was a bit of a “naughty boy” (read: asshole), but I still think the execution was brutal.
    I saw it live on the telly in 1989 and the images are still flickering in front of my eyes occasionaly, as it was yesterday.
    He made a lot of people suffer, but he didn’t suffer much in return.
    He had a couple of days of interrogations before the decision to kill him kill im in front of
    that stone wall(together with his wife) was made. It was all so fast, I don’t even think he had time to realize what was happening to him.
    I would have made him suffer-at least a little bit.

  17. Wow, A lot of angry people. I quess i Just am someone who believes if we act like the people we are punishing then we are no beter than them.
    I truly believe Saddam deserved to be exacuted. I just wish it could have been done in a honorable fashion.

  18. I do not oppose capital punishment especially for someone with such little regard to other people’s life as Saddam but I would personally find it macabre to watch such a horrible thing. I don’t think such a thing should be sensationalized. Just my opinion.

  19. Hey Snuggles, he was smiling? Oh my, I’m so glad I didn’t watch; smiles can be interpreted so many ways after all. yay! Glad Marm loved the catnip. It’s weird, my cats never could be bothered with it before, and then all of a sudden Banbury is an addict! Very odd. Huggs to you!!

    Bert, you’ve said that so very well, I really can’t add anything here. Huggs.

    Hey Spartonmom, so glad you made it home (I’m guessing you are home?). Thanks so much for writing up your views; I somehow (gee, how? lol) knew you’d take this view. Huggs for days!

    Hi Mavis, yes, this is such a tricky issue, and it’s one that I am very uncertain about in all circumstances, but for now, I do feel that I oppose the death penalty for all the reasons I’ve stated. I think, too, that some issues are complex, that they hit our heart and our minds in different ways and on many levels and that sometimes it’s okay to be “sitting on the fence”. Besides, we all know that I have pretty strong opinions about most everything else. LOL. Huggs to you, tender souled Mavis.

    Hey BBB, yeah, I get your point about us still talking about is death, and frankly, we are still talking about all the people he killed or had a hand in killing or ordered their deaths; it’s all of a piece, really. And about the map; just giving you a hard time, don’t take it personally. You tease me mercilessly about some things, so I thought I’d get my own back! Guess I did a better job than I’d intended. LMAO

    Yes, Simon, I agree with you there. It is very much a case of our imposing our moral codes, but I really think that’s how we make all of our decisions, big and small. I’m not sure there is much to be done about that. The legal/judicial system for all its smoke and mirrors about being objective and guided by the letter of the law is really just a reflection of moral and religious codes, some ours, some not. Your point, though, is well taken. Wasn’t this a rather minor (in light of his other crimes) charge against, Hussein, as well? weren’t there other charges that were pending, other trials to occur? It’s obvious, as you stated in your own blog, that it was rushed not to see justice done but for political/diplomatic reasons that had little bearing on the trial. Thanks so much for your comments.

    Amber, your God is not a vengeful God; you’re not Old Testament driven, are you? I thought you were a Christian (i.e. all that vengeful God business got left off at that Cross). Huggs, though, whatever your religion, God, or whatever else. As you know, you could confess to eating babies for breakfast and then picking your teeth with kitten bones, and I’d still love you!

    Wow, Fanta. No, I don’t think you are mean; I think it is normal to want to make people suffer who have hurt us or our peoples so badly. No one was thrilled that Hitler got away so easily and at his own hand. But he would have been hanged or shot at the end of the day. When these monsters face any judicial system, that system sees that the sentence is carried out as it is in that country: hanging in Iraq, shot in the head in your country, lethal injection or electric chair here (or hanging in some states). As Simon points out, the law isn’t about vengence it’s about justice. Big difference, I think.

  20. Bert, I’m sort of glad that everyone has been so open about their feelings!! It makes me feel good that they feel they can be here. Thanks for posting again; my views are more in line with yours, but there is no real “right” here or “wrong”; going back to Simon again, this seems a very personal issue for all of us.

    I agree with you, Nancy, I don’t like the sensationalization of it, either. (then again, I really don’t need to know if Britney Spears has on underwear or not today. LOL) Huggs.

  21. I had to agree with a point that Simon made in his original post, in that it was funny how the West’s political leadership remained silent when the rest of the world (and as demonstrated by the comments above, even by those who normally support capital punishment) spoke out loudly about the manner in which the execution took place. We all know that it was political convenience in keeeping a low profile. In the political morass that is now Iraq, perhaps they thought it would draw a line under the whole sorry affair. After all, didn’t it all start with the intention of removing Saddam from power?
    We have heard bleatings of justification that Saddam was responsible for genocide.”We cannot tolerate state sponsored murder”. But when it is politically convenient , we turn a blind eye to it. After all, hasn’t Israel always operated a policy of ‘an eye for an eye’, which is a polite way of saying ‘a murder for a murder’. Never heard the West raise too much more than an empty ‘oh, you really shouldn’t do that’ kind of protest. There are many more examples of turning a blind eye when it’s politically convenient to do so. It’s really just sick hypocrisy.

  22. I know, Mitch, isn’t it just plain weird that we all condemn the way the trial and execution were carried out, but our leaders seem oblivious and in a world of their own. Oh, wait, not weird, business as usual. Sigh. Well, the U. S. still carries out the death penalty, so we don’t (can’t) get on the high horse of looking down on the “eye for an eye” thing; besides, we’ve got so many other high horses to choose from. LOL Thanks for your comments; they’re always appreciated! Huggs.

  23. Thought provoking blog. I still have mixed feelings on the death penalty. For some, I think a worse penalty is life in prison. For others that can never be rehabilitated, maybe death is the answer. I don’t know. Could I watch the death of someone who sadistically caused the death of my loved ones? Probably, would it make me feel better? Only as far as the fact that I’d know they could never hurt anyone again. But, it wouldn’t bring my loved ones back either. To say the least, I am conflicted about the whole concept, but I don’t think I will ever feel joy or satisfaction in he death of another.

  24. It’s a really difficult call for me, too, and though I think I work it out, there always seem to be “exceptions” to whichever way I go (for or against). Sigh. Ultimately, I think I’m just opposed to the taking of human life, be it by individuals or the state. But then, well . .. . see? As you say, though, I wouldn’t feel joy or satisfaction at someone’s death; I mean if I couldn’t feel it at Saddam Hussein’s . . . well, who would I feel it for?

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