Sunday, December 31, 2006

William Rivers Pitt on the execution of Saddam

My cell phone has been buzzing with regularity all day, alerting me to the arrival of text messages from my conservative friends. "Saddam is dead woohoo" reads the latest one, and that pretty much describes all the others. Somehow, a lot of people are finding meaning or gratification in the fact that Hussein met his fate at the end of a rope Saturday morning.

I just can't get there. A portion of my ambivalence derives from my basic objections to the death penalty itself. My opposition to state-sponsored executions is not grounded in softhearted ideals, sympathy for the condemned, or the tenets of Catholic morality I learned as a child, but in the simple fact that death is an easy out. Justice is better delivered to the fiends of the world not by taking their lives, but by extending and prolonging their lives in absolute confinement.

The more brutal the crime, I believe, the greater is the imperative to ensure long life. Let them stew in their wretched state; let them stare at gray walls for decades in contemplation of what they did; let them face the awful truth that tomorrow will be as grim as yesterday, and that the sun no longer shines for them. I wish Timothy McVeigh were alive today, wreathed in steel bars and drowning in an ocean of time. So it is with Hussein, damned murderer of thousands, who yesterday morning was gifted freedom he did not deserve.


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