How Saddam Killed the Death Penalty… 5 January, 2007Posted by paralleldivergence in Brad & Phil, Death penalty, education, Life, My Thoughts, Political Correctness, Politics, Saddam.
As Saddam was hanged and his images were flashed around the globe, the reverberations of opposition to the Death Penalty quickly followed. It is so ironic that it has taken the death of such a murderous tyrant to raise the howls of complaint over capital punishment. These were not protests to save Saddam. These were protests to make sure Saddam was the last “legal execution” carried out by modern Man.
[click map to enlarge]
The above map represents the current status of Capital Punishment in each country. Why have the vast majority of first world countries abolished the Death Penalty? It is illegal in every country in Europe (except Belarus), Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Legal execution is simply no longer an option – and in each case, abolishing capital punishment was a positive decision for humanity. Of the remaining first world nations, only Japan and 38 of the 50 United States of America still maintain the now widely rejected option of killing convicted criminals.
Saddam Hussein was a very bad man. No one can argue against that. But did killing him serve justice? Or was it simply a case of vengeance? Has it reconciled society, or has it caused further division and more violence? The government-sanctioned killing of any guilty person is no path to blind justice nor to reconciliation.
From the map above, it can also be seen that most Asian and African countries still support the death penalty. Some on religious grounds, some on ideological grounds. Generally, do the United States and Japan share these other countries’ ideologies or are they considered more in-step with Europe and Australasia? What holds the U.S. and Japan to be in defiance of more modern views on capital punishment? Firstly, public opinion. A 1999 public survey found 79.3% of all Japanese are in favor of it. In May 2006, a Gallup poll found 65% of Americans support the death penalty. This is down from 80% in 1994.
Changing public perceptions about capital punishment is not easy because it is such an emotional subject. But facts should always be taken into account. In the U.S., there are currently over 3,300 prisoners on Death Row. In recent times, an average of 60 executions have taken place each year. At that rate, it will take 55 years to kill them all, assuming no other prisoners are forced to join the queue. In Texas, the most prolific exponent of capital punishment in the U.S., it was calculated that a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. (Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992). The L.A. Times on March 6, 2006 reported that “taxpayers have paid more than $250 million for each of California’s executions”.
On top of the financial burden, what does a society that supports capital punishment teach its children? It is certainly not teaching them to turn the other cheek. The death penalty tells society that there is nothing wrong with killing someone who killed. That violence somehow condones violence. If that were the case, we would be raping the rapist for punishment. Or for the arsonist, we would set their house ablaze. Is our society based on an eye for an eye?
But what about the deterrent value? Surely someone wouldn’t murder if they knew their punishment would be their own death! Consistent with previous years, the 2004 FBI Uniform Crime Report showed that the South had the highest murder rate. The South accounts for over 80% of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1% of all executions, also had the lowest murder rate.
And what about the victims of these heinous crimes and their families? Why should they have to suffer for the rest of their lives knowing their loved one is dead while the murderer still lives, breathes, walks and eats? It is accepted that most families of victims strongly and emotionally support imposing the death penalty and their thoughts should be taken into consideration, however killing the murderer does not resolve their grief. It may briefly offer the satisfaction of revenge, but are we so primitive a race that revenge brings resolution? A life in prison with no chance of parole is a far more harsh punishment than a swift death of all consciousness. For those who believe in an Afterlife, the murderer will end up in Hell for eternity either way. But a lifetime in prison will at least make them think about what they have done and what is ahead of them. It will also offer a chance for correction in cases where new evidence has been discovered. The execution of someone who is ultimately found to be not guilty cannot be undone.
So what about the alternative? Are governments and courts prepared to commit to sentences of life in a maximum security prison with no chance of parole? Or will those sentences be watered down as well, by the ongoing pressures driven by civil libertarians? Can justice ever be obtained? Governments must be strong and set an example for society. In complete defiance of their poor track record with Death Row, they must be resolute in establishing clear laws and sentences and applying them. There should be consistency of judgement and ongoing review of cases. Budget cuts should never affect the way a government runs its judicial system – a system that is fundamental to a safe and content society.
The very public execution of Saddam Hussein has highlighted very clearly the wider issue of the place of Capital Punishment in modern times. The discussion must be started, the arguments must be endured and ultimately, the right decision must be made.