Monday, November 06, 2006


Saddam Death Penalty

We like to think we are more civilised than our ancestors who viewed public hangings. But are we really? A look at today's tabloid headlines made me think twice. 'Saddamned to Hell' read the front page of the Daily Mirror, taking obvious relish in the outcome. Aren't we a country that has renounced capital punishment? But while it takes place far from home and is therefore sanitised it appears that our collective desire for vengeance can safely be exorcised via a media spectacle.

Meanwhile Tony Blair voices his opposition to the death penalty. But he is a hypocrite to invoke Iraqi sovereignity to justify the verdict of death by hanging. That was not on his mind when he sent British troops to help the Americans invade the country.

It is necessary to add that this was a victor's court, put in place by what is a US client regime (Bush need have no hang ups as does Blair as he presided over death row while governor of Texas). There appear to have been irregularities in the trial, and dispute as to whether it has been a fair one.

However, if the death penalty was to be reserved for war criminals (and if such trials were to be in any way 'fair') Bush and Blair would also have been in the dock.

4 comments:

David Duff said...

"Aren't we a country that has renounced capital punishment?"

Not exactly. We are a country whose liberal ruling classes have decided that the judicial system must renounce capital punishment. No-one asked us, the public, and I know because I was around when they did it!

City Slicker said...

appalling but what else does one expect from the axis of evil

like your blog

Paddy Garcia said...

Axis of Evil?
US, UK, Israel?

Political Umpire said...

I blogged about this a while ago (sorry for the old post). Here was the relevant bit:

(BTW I didn't support the war)


There are four relevant points. First, there is no reasonable doubt that Saddam was indeed guilty of very serious crimes against his own people, and that the ones he was actually tried for were only a small fraction of them.

Second, the trial process was imperfect, to say the least: the assassinations on both sides and the replacement of a judge who seemed a little too sympathetic to the defendant are things not normally associated with notions of a fair trial.

Third, his trial was only possible because of an (arguably) illegal and badly handled invasion and occupation which has led to an insurgency costing thousands of lives and sectarian violence costing thousands more.

Fourth, the trial of Saddam has and will continue to be a rallying point for his former Sunni supporters, especially erstwhile Baathist party members.

The third and fourth points do not seem to me to be valid arguments against prosecuting Saddam. Saddam should not escape justice for his actions simply because injustice has also been committed by others, including many who were involved in his arrest and trial. If the prosecutor of Harold Shipman turned out to be a murderer, it might give grounds for a retrial (but only if the prosecutor's crimes had some connection with the prosecution of Shipman), but it would not affect the need to bring Shipman to justice, nor would it alter the morality of Shipman's actions. So if Bush and Blair are war criminals deserving punishment, as many bloggers claim, it would not mean that Saddam should not have been put on trial as well.

As to the fourth point, the fear of reprisals by a criminal's supporters should not deter a state from imposing justice on the criminal.

The second point - deficiencies in the trial process itself - is of signficant concern, even if it was inevitable given the chaos and confusion in Iraq at the moment. The appeal process may mitigate some of the deficiences. Yet those who are calling the proceedings no better than the old Soviet show trials should remember the defence which Saddam offered. He did not say that he hadn't committed or authorised the execution of others. His sole defence, other than to challenge the validity of the court, was that he had committed the acts, but that he had been entitled to do so because he was the embodiment of the Iraqi state at the time, and the state was entitled to take measures to defend itself.

The validity of that defence can be judged without reference to the facts. I know what I think of it.