My credentials as a capital punishment skeptic are always under the threat of revocation when a serial killer or genocidal dictator is the one facing the ultimate punishment.
My skepticism hinges in part on the fact that scores of people who’ve been in prison for decades have ultimately been exonerated of the crime that put them there, typically as the result of DNA testing or of a witness recanting. The thought that just one of these innocent people could have been executed during their sentence by a law system ostensibly designed to protect them is horrifying.
The trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gets underway (again) today, and may result in his execution.
Few question Saddam's guilt, though there is some debate over his potential sentence. If he is sentenced to death, he will probably be hanged.
Saddam, apart from torturing and killing individuals who opposed him, has a few massacres on his resume, the best known of which are the 1988 gassing of Kurds and a 1982 purge of a village where an assassination attempt on him took place.
When Saddam took power in 1979, one of his first acts, as he sat chomping a cigar before his fellow Ba’athists, was reading the names of his political enemies, who were then taken to the basement straightaway and executed.
No one on this planet should wield that kind of power. No one should be able to order the death of another human being simply because that person is a hindrance to one’s own ambitions. Saddam probably did so many more times then we’ll ever know.
It’s not only appropriate that Saddam be executed for his many crimes, it’s crucial. He needs not only to have his life taken from him, but during whatever’s left of it needs to experience what it feels like to be a condemned man. Only then is he likely to feel a shred of human empathy for his own countless victims, far too late though it may be.