Sunday, 5 November 2006

Justice for Saddam ?

So Saddam got the verdict and martyrdom that I am sure both he and George Bush wanted. Undoubtedly he's was a war criminal and a tyrant. You could say that he has it coming.

But so did former apartheid South African President Botha who died (of natural causes) last week. And he's getting a state funeral.

So let's not kid ourselves that this about justice - it's about politics. War criminals are generally ok so long as they're on the 'right side'; be it Botha, Pinochet, or even Saddam when he was America's champion against Iran a few years ago. But with the US mid-term elections next week, a convenient execution will look like Bush's crusade has been justified. Republicans' flagging fortunes will probably get a boost.

But in the cynical terms of 'real-poloitik' it may prove not be too smart. Parallels are going to be drawn with the Nuremburg trials but these are a bit thin - there was no on-going Nazi insurgency as the background, nor talk of a planned withdraw by the occupying forces.

And ethically:

Well I'm not a pacifist; I tend to think that human life is precious rather than 'sacred'. Sometimes violence is the only unavoidable answer. But I would have less of a problem with the killing of someone in defence of myself or others, or even an act of personal revenge, than I would have in giving my silent support to judicial execution.

There is something peculiarly obscene in state killing. It gives the lie to any moral authority that a state can claim to have beyond that of private individuals, and it implies the consent of the citizens of that state. And the United States record on the death penalty strikes at the heart of everything that is wrong with that nation. The same nation that flaunts the idea that it was created 'under God' with some special moral purpose, also ranks in the world's top three state-killers along with China and Saudia Arabia.

That's the same nation that boasts the largest number of Christian church-goers. As Bill Hicks observed it's ironic that these 'pro-lifers' who picket abortion clinics are comfortable with the death penalty and defend it against us godless liberal types.

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