I'm strangely shocked over Saddam Hussein's death.
It's not that I think he was anything other than a miserable despot who brutalized those entrusted to him. I know he was a mass murderer, and most likely irredeemable. He showed no remorse, or any sense of regret over his actions.
What I'm shocked about is that we killed him. And I'm including myself in that "we," as an American and a fellow member of the human race. It wasn't enough for him to be defeated, captured, imprisoned and tried for his crimes. We had to actually kill him.
The New York Times has a discussion thread that's 2,000 strong of people weighing in about the execution. It's fascinating reading. I'm not the only one doing serious soul-searching over the issue.
I guess my biggest questions are, The power to give life is not ours, should we assume the power to take it away? And, What does this do to our national psyche, when we condone or instigate acts such as this?
I'm reminded of the magnificent Elizabeth I from HBO that I watched recently on Netflix. While mostly dealing with Elizabeth and her paramours, the drama had a lengthy section devoted to the queen's angst over having to execute her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. She resisted for over nineteen years, struggling over the consequences to her own reign of executing an anointed sovereign. She never quite came to peace with it, although eventually the execution took place.
Later, England moved toward an even stronger parliamentary system, and took the step of executing one of her own kings, Charles I, for treason. This was earthshaking, because prior to that time, treason had been defined as acts against the king and how could a king commit acts against himself? But Parliament redefined treason as acts against the country, against the people. Charles was found guilty, and beheaded.
Now, we appear to be redefining executable offences yet again. Sovereigns are being held responsible for horrific acts against their own people by other countries. This is frankly quite new in human history, so perhaps we're not good at it yet. Crimes against humanity are becoming universally condemned, it is true, but we're selective about which ones we go after. Our national interests must be involved apparently. But at least we're making the right kind of noises. These offenses cannot be tolerated.
Yet, I ask myself, do we need to kill the offenders? Once their fangs have been removed, do they warrant execution? Or do they remain a rallying point for further treason, even as Elizabeth finally discovered Mary Queen of Scots to be?
Perhaps this would have been true of Saddam. Still, I'm shocked at his death. I hope we are moving toward becoming a world where enlightened citizens can achieve justice for crimes against humanity while still showing mercy toward the condemned.
Is this possible? What do you think?
Justice requires reformation of the sinner. Mercy cancels the debt only when justice approves. Revenge is inadmissible.
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