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How Saddam Killed the Death Penalty… 5 January, 2007

Posted by paralleldivergence in Brad & Phil, Death penalty, education, Life, My Thoughts, Political Correctness, Politics, Saddam.
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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.

Death Penalty World Map 

[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.

Brad & Phil #14

Comments»

1. oscarandre - 5 January, 2007

Succinctly put – I don’t think you have left out anything except perhaps that, in America at least, the death penalty is almost exclusively the punishment of the poor and the black.

2. Fred B - 6 January, 2007

Nice article, but I have a Couple points of contention:

“But what about the deterrent value? The South accounts for over 80% of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1% of all executions, also had the lowest murder rate.”… might I say “OF COURSE the northeast has a lower murder rate! The Northeast is OLDER! Look at median ages of the South. Look at declining birthrates in the north. Look at new job opportunities (Thus moving the working young & children) in the SunBelt. Look at Hispanic immigration (younger than U.S. median) to the south…. my point is that every culture in the world for all time has seen that YOUNG MALES are the most likely to murder. Bar none. So the younger you are and more married you are, of COURSE you have more murder.(this is like those ‘we dont look at the census’ arguments like “RED states have higher divorce..” Wow, sherlock, perhaps its because Blue States don’t have an OPPORTUNITY to get divorce, because so few of them get married to begin with. You can’t get divorced if you just ‘shack up’)

“The murderer will end up in Hell anyway”. Are you kidding? Every strain of Christianity believes that a deathbed conversion by Osama or Hitler is just as worthy as a lifetime of deeds by Mother Theresa. The ONLY thing that distinguishes Christianity from other reliigions is that man cannot “DO GOOD” to get to heaven… no matter how hard we try, so that everyone, from Osama to Theresa, isn’t “good enough for God”. (The answer to Christians is accepting Jesus as Savior)

“The government-sanctioned killing of any guilty person is no path to blind justice nor to reconciliation.” Maybe not, but his LIVING gives continued support to the Baathists, and promises the future ‘ESCAPE’/RE-RISE to power for Saddam. HE was a tyrant. And this is what happens to tyrants. You can’t have Hitler just running around, too inflammatory for his supporters.

But the most EGREGIOUS thing you missed, and I GUARANTEE you are one of these folks….. is that you feign DISBELIEF that ANYONE could support the KILLING of human life, but then I’ll bet you support allowing ABORTIONS to occur. Hmmm… so, save the rapist vs. murder the baby?

Look, i’m not getting into the abortion debate, I”m just saying, surely, that as I believe you probably don’t really get worked up about the 1,200,000 babies aborted each year, but DO get worked up by the 58 criminals executed each year, then SURELY YOU CAN SEE HOW OTHERS IN THE POPULACE CARE A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE BABIES ABORTED WHILE SUMMARILY DISMISSING THE CRIMINALS LOST. The left does the same ‘meh’ attitude vs abortion all the time. So why is the right castigated for ‘meh’-ing the death of a rapist?

Anyone who wants to lecture me about the death penalty better be pro-life, or I will close my ears immediately.

One more point: look at the ‘blue’…. if you HONESTLY think that ANGOLA has a ‘safer’ justice system, you are joking. Sure, the deaths aren’t “REPORTED”, but there are govt. HIT SQUADS in most of the non-European blue countries. The Mexican govt. routinely slaughters the Indians for “crimes” in the Chiapas province, yet Mexico is colored blue! CAMBODIA is blue for crying out loud. Might want to have read some Yahoo!News before defending the map…. “WHAT WE SAY WE DO” vs. “WHAT WE DO” should be accounted for. America publicizes thier executions and do it in a painless matter. Other countries do not.

Everyone of us should thank the Lord we live in America where we can be SAFE.

****And a parting shot, DID YOU FEEL THIS REMORSE AFTER TIMOTHY MCVEIGH, A RACIST WHITE SUPREMACIST AMERICAN MALE? SO WHY DO YOU NOW FEEL IT FROM A DARKER SKINNED, NON-AMERICAN MUSLIM? …. oh wait, i just answered my own question. I discovered “Europe’s Rules of Judging!” LOL LOL LOL

3. Fred B - 6 January, 2007

that part about ‘the more married you are’ was a typo.. should have been ‘more male you are’ at the beginning of my comment above.

4. diana - 6 January, 2007

Great post.

5. paralleldivergence - 6 January, 2007

FredB, I think you’ve misinterpreted. I have *no remorse* for the criminals. Nowhere did I say I was remorseful about their deaths. They deserve severe punishment. But think about it. If you kill them immediately and “humanely”, then what happens? They get out of it easily. All consciousness is gone. What suffering were they put through? What punishment did they receive? You can only be punished if you know you’re being punished. That’s the point most pro-DP’ers miss. The people who get punished are the parents and family of the executed.

If there are problems in the South regarding unemployment, and other social issues, do you think it would be better to address those issues, or is the disproprtionate killing of the poor the only solution?

6. coreyclaytonlnp - 6 January, 2007

To no. 1 … I’d rethink that comment about America’s capital punishment being mostly poor and black.

If you look at the death penalty stats, 57% of executions since 1976 have been of white inmates, 34% black, 9% hispanic/other. (from DPIC)

And in all crimes, the majority of crime is rooted in poverty-stricken regions. So that applies across all justice, not just in capital cases.

7. paralleldivergence - 6 January, 2007

Another great discussion on the whole Saddam issue (really relevant to FredB’s narrow opinion) comes from Richard Dawkins. I urge you all to read it:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,482,n,n

8. Jeff Ventura - 6 January, 2007

Excellent article. You’re right: revenge is an ignoble motive, so, then, what motivates capital punishment?

Don’t tell me religion and/or religious ethics. Just don’t.

I get the feeling you could run a thread between this issue (as it relates to the first would countries) and the hanging-on of religion (as it relates to first-world countries) and see some level of congruency. What I mean by that is the US is one of the only modern countries left whose leaders seem to very seriously believe that morality is a product of the Bible and that religious precepts are an acceptable basis and belief system for its most esteemed leaders.

Not surprisingly, then, it’s no wonder we hang on to something as stupid and purposeless as capital punishment.

Great post, PD.

Jeff
Graceful Flavor (http://gracefulflavor.net)

9. Ronnie Harper - 6 January, 2007

Um, Fred B. a very large percentage (20-40%?) of ALL pregnancies are terminated naturally – if he existed, God would be the most prolific abortionist by far. Abortion is in no way the same thing as capital punishment, and it is a completely useless analogy in defense of capital punishment. You cannot kill someone for killing someone – that is our duty to mankind. You could probably overlay a map of the world with similar patterns representing countries with large, fervent fundamentalist religious movements and they would look nearly identical. Capital punishment is religious retribution incarnate. The miscarriage of Justice that occured in Saddams dungeon was a horrifying thing to see, and every time I’ve thought about it since, it horrifies me even more.

10. raincoaster - 6 January, 2007

Christopher Hitchens, of all people, wrote an amazing pair of articles on capital punishment, and one of the things he brought up was that the US allows the execution of minors (as young as … can’t recall if it was 12 or 14).

I really do believe that the real reason Hussein was executed has more to do with political expediency than any form of justice, however inept or evil. He was inconvenient for too many governments while alive; it’s the Noriega situation, in spades. In an election year, too.

11. Rahul Razdan - 7 January, 2007

Ok my 2 cents…
The post seeks to be reasonable without betraying enough perspectives. So I am not entirely convinced. Meanwhile Fred in the first couple of responses has made some noteworthy points. And I finmyself nodding in agreement at some of his points.
BUT, I would still not be a to take a stance on this… My stance is still a W.I.P…

The debate apart — I liked the Brad & Phil comic:)

12. sungame - 9 January, 2007

Yep, it IS pretty ironic that it takes a tyrant of saddam’s format to provoke the outcry the barbaric practice of killing the killers should provoke every day. Fred B: yes, I actually DID feel exactly the same way when Timothy Mc Veigh was killed. I just didn’t have a blog to write about it in.

13. tobeme - 9 January, 2007

Paralleldivergence,
Excellent post. Very well written. Agree, violence begets violence. There is no useful purpose for the death penalty. Saddam’s execution served no purpose other than to highlight the absurdity of the death penalty.

14. Deme - 18 January, 2007

Saddam’s execution was nothing but a bad PR stunt. Very bad.
I however support the death penalty for people who really really deserve it(i.e. rapists, pedophiles, etc.). Call me harsh, but it’s head for an eye to me.

15. Yemur Freejay - 19 January, 2007

I see that you offer statistics to add strength to your arguments but as they stand, some of them are of little value:

1. “The South accounts for over 80% of executions. The Northeast, which has less than 1% of all executions, also had the lowest murder rate.” Ofcourse this SHOULD be so. The higher the number of murders, the higher the number of executions would be, because an execution is the punishment for Murder. You just twist this around and say that higher execution corelates to higher murders and therefore it does not have a deterrent value :-(

2. “Saddam Hussein was a very bad man” … Why? or compared against whom? Compared to the US president who ordered nuclear weapons dropped in Japan, he was a saint.

3. “If you look at the death penalty stats, 57% of executions since 1976 have been of white inmates, 34% black, 9% hispanic/other. (from DPIC)”…. This presentation of statistics has no value unless considered in conjunction with the distribution of the races in the country. What I mean is If there are 80% whites and 20% blacks in a country, but the executions are on 50%W and 50%B then obviously the rates for the B is high. The second piece of statistics by itself provides very little direction (eg by your argument the execution rates would be equal)

16. paralleldivergence - 19 January, 2007

Hi Yemur,

1. The death penalty is NO PUNISHMENT for the murderer. To be punished you have to know you are being punished. If it had a deterrent value in the South, people wouldn’t be being killed more that they are in the North East…

2. OK, Saddam never authorised the killing of anybody. Everybody else lied. As for WAR, well that’s just stupid.

3. I never made this point. Take your argument up with coreyclaytonlnp.

17. L - 24 April, 2007

when there is NO doubt that a person or persons have been murdered by another, then it should be taken into account the extenuating circumstances.
I.E. TRUE self defence (domestic violence, usually males killing their female spouses) Or a home intruder where you were ACTUALLY in fear of losing your life.
Where there is a RELIGIOUS war, then all that do not accept people and have TOLERANCE for all cultures, then EDUCATION is the KEY.
Religion. politics, and money is the TRUE Murderer.
Saddam Hussain was a TYRANT and DICTATOR and needed to be Eradicated. he got what he DESERVED.
Bring back the RACK. I agree that it acheived nothing by his hanging. Lets hope that when we find Binl-ladden
Justice will finally be done

18. joabema - 19 May, 2007

I was a social work major in college/grad school and studied sociology/anthropology/pscyology/criminal justice. Statistics can be helpful in understanding social phenomenom, and often can be factual (but not always – there are definitely skewed and made-up “facts” widely available.) But most statistics in the social sciences are are usually used by one of a certain perspective to influence others to their perspective. This happens because they are limited. Social “science” is so multi-factorial that it is hard to rely on any one set of statistics as presenting the “truth” of a matter.

Statistics can obviously be useful in trying to understand and make sense of social phenomena. And it is certainly not wrong to use them to support an opinion. However, for myself, I have come to the realization that we can seriously be blown and tossed around into various perspectives if we are relying on statistics and their use by those in “authority” to give us underlying reasons for why would or wouldn’t support such a grave matter as the dealth penalty. Not that anyone who used statistics on this blog was doing that – but I just think it is important to understand that it is truly our underlying principles and values that we hold that should shape our opinions on these matters. So many people in our culture have not examined or tried to understand how their own principles/values have been shaped (and often misshaped) and how inconsistent one opinion we hold may be with another because they are so easily tossed and blown about by the media and the cultural elite. I had a friend in grad school who favored partial-birth abortion but was concerned about what cooped up chickens experienced. This was troubling.

I cannot support or justify the existence of the death penalty. It is wrong for humans to take the life of other humans. That is my underlying principle and I believe that anytime we justify killing human beings, we devalue human life. Abortion is wrong. Creating small human beings to kill them in order to have tissue to help other human beings is wrong. ( Violating the principle of the value of human life in order to “help” other humans really doesn’t “help” them. It degrades everyone’s humanity.) To value human life and hold it up as something to protect should not take away from valuing helping sick human beings – it should ever more convice us to work harder to find solutions where all life can be valued.

19. paralleldivergence - 20 May, 2007

Excellent comments. Many thanks for your worthwhile contribution Joabema. I hope you liked the article.


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