2/01/2007

A FITTING END FOR AN INCURABLE TYRANT


The Saddam execution videos make for compelling viewing. There are surely few things more chilling than watching a man being prepared for his own death. Saddam seemed to face the end with some stoicism. After all the torture sessions and executions he's personally attended in his time, he surely knew exactly what to expect.

The videos don't match the horror contained in the images of people jumping from the World Trade Center buildings or those of Thích Quảng Ðức, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who burnt himself to death on a busy Saigon street in 1963, in protest at President Diem's repression of the Buddhists.

In fact, any regular visitor to Rotten.com or Ogrish.org, will find the footage incredibly tame.

But my overall impression of the execution is how Micky Mouse the whole affair was, with all that excited shouting from the executioners. Given the build-up, I was half expecting the rope to break or Saddam to be left kicking at the end of it. At least the hanging itself turned out to be a clean, efficient job.

In the West, Saddam's execution seems to have resurrected debate over the use of capital punishment. I fully respect the decision of the Iraq Government to hang Saddam. The speed with which they enacted the sentence was impressive. If any convicted criminal has ever deserved to pay the ultimate penalty it is Saddam. But I welcome his execution not because I believe any state has the inherent right to seek retribution by killing the perpetrators of barbaric crimes (it hasn't), or because I think it acts as an effective deterrant to others (it doesn't).

I support the use of the death penalty for another more practical reason - there's little point in keeping people like Saddam alive. What's to be achieved in letting a murderous dictator languish in jail for the rest of his miserable life? At best, it will cost a lot of money, serve to torment his victims and ensure he remains in the public consciousness for years to come, the media sifting through the ashes again as those milestones crop up - ten years in prison, 20, 30...

At worst he could escape, have his skewed version of history smuggled out to be published by his supporters, get a prison guard pregnant or kill a fellow prisoner.

Bottom line is, there's no point in keeping Saddam alive in the same way there was no point in keeping Martin Bryant (Port Arthur massacre) or Charles Manson alive.

The former has turned into a shambling wreck of a man, the latter continued to exert evil influence long after his incarceration and still attracts a good deal of media attention.

I've no problem with the button being pressed on murderers who will never see the outside of a prison again anyway. To do so serves everbody's interests, as cold as the reality of it actually is.

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