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Musings on Saddam Hussein - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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December 31st, 2006


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01:44 pm - Musings on Saddam Hussein
I haven't watched the video of his execution, nor do I ever plan to, but I find my reactions to everything surrounding him being killed to be quite strong. On a purely political level, the trial was a travesty that was rushed through for political purposes (for both the Bush regime and for what passes for a government in Iraq) and any degree of actual justice is purely accidental. From the perspective of the Bush regime and to an extent the entire US government, killing him was an impressively useful event, both because of this allows them to say that the Iraq War accomplished something other than the ruin of a nation, and because with him safely dead, the fact that he used to be one of the US governments 3rd world puppet/allies is even easier to ignore than it was before - it is interesting that Hussein was convicted of killings committed during the time period that he was most closely allied with the US.

More than that though, this killing highlights my thoughts on the idea of the death penalty. By definition, it's nothing more or less than the murder of a helpless person. I don't like the idea of killing in self defense, but it is something that will remain necessary until humans (or more likely posthumans, since I think we'll need to tinker extensively to stop this sort of nonsense) stop killing or attempting to kill one another. So, in some circumstances both war and personal violence are effectively unavoidable for anyone other than would-be martyrs, and from my own PoV, martyrs are one and all, either idiots or dangerously insane.

However, capital punishment is different. The person has been captured and restrained and are helpless. What I see more than anything is that governments killing people legitimizes both the idea that governments have the right to kill any sentient being they choose to kill, and also (and perhaps even more disturbingly) that if someone does something that sufficiently upsets you, then you have the right to kill them. After all, if governments can do this, it seems only reasonable (at least on a purely emotional level, where almost all personal decisions are made) that anyone should be able to do this. Saddam Hussein murdered hundreds of his enemies and in return he was murdered by his enemies. That is nothing more or less than both sad and utterly barbaric. From my PoV, the only way to encourage a non-violent society is for the government to also practice it as much as possible, and even more than that for society to be structured so that violence, especially lethal violence is considered appalling and wrong.
Current Mood: sadsad

(22 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:alobar
Date:December 31st, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC)
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If we had a just society with fair trials and no political string-pulling, I'd favore the death penalty simply because it is less expensive to execute someone than to keep him or her in prison for life. However, in a society which allows Pinochet, Kissinger, Rumsfield, Cheny, Shrub, and Ford to all escape the noose, while many many people who are innocent get sent to prison then executed, I am not a fan of the death penalty.

Sadam was a US puppet. He was silenced. In a fair trial, he would have been able to put various US officials on the witness stand. Sadam was not a good person. World is probably better off with him gone. But he was snuffed to keep him quiet, And, to me, that is a very bad thing.
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From:heron61
Date:December 31st, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC)
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I'd favore the death penalty simply because it is less expensive to execute someone than to keep him or her in prison for life.

Even assuming a death penalty that was even remotely fair, that logic is still (from my PoV) monstrous. However, as it stands now, the entire situation is beyond horrible. I still remember the first interview with Shrub that I read - a piece in the New Yorker, where he mocked and laughed at the appeals by a prisoner on death row who asked him for clemency. 49% of voters voted for a twisted, murderous sadist, which helps explain why the death penalty remains so popular with most Americans.
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From:antayla
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:11 pm (UTC)
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Life sentences could pay for themselves if you make the inmates work for their keep (if they want to opt for death rather than work, that's okay too.) However I don't agree with the current abusive policies of making them work for less than minimum wage or even less than the going rate for whatever it is that they are doing. I say, put em to work gardening, assembling, whatever... safely incarcerated or banished, away from the rest of civilized society and under surveillance. And then if it is found later that they are innocent, they could be paid back (heavily) by the state for the mistake. You can't take back a state killing...
[User Picture]
From:alobar
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC)
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In cases of ambiguity, I agree. In cases of high profile murders like Pinochet, Kissinger, Shrub, etc. I want them dead so their cronies can't spring them later.
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From:antayla
Date:January 1st, 2007 07:57 am (UTC)
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I suppose there is always that potentiality...
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From:rjgrady
Date:January 1st, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
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I'd favore the death penalty simply because it is less expensive to execute someone than to keep him or her in prison for life.

That's actually not one true. That is one of the reasons I now generally oppose the death penalty. The other being the very hugh overturn rate (which, monstrously enough, is actually lower in Texas than most places, despite Texas having more executations... the necessary conclusion is that in some places, they grab a random victim off the street whenever they need someone to be guilty for a really bad crime).

However, I would kill someone, without hesitation, given sufficient reason.

In the case of Saddam Hussein, specifically, trial and prison costs are virtually nil, since he was executed by kangaroo court, and I'm not concerned they killed the wrong man. I am, actually, glad to say that after all the monstrous killing and waste that went into the misguided Iraq adventure, that Saddam Hussein is dead. The problem, however, is finding who or what will replace him in a region now consumed in chaos.
[User Picture]
From:alobar
Date:January 1st, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
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I do not have figures here, but I have read that it now costs close to $100,000 a year to keep prisoners in a maximum security prison. That means several million for a life sentence. I have no idea about the cost of an execution, but I would not think it would more costly than a year's incarceration.
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From:heron61
Date:January 1st, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
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Throw in the costs of the necessary appeals combined with the length of time before execution and the costs look far more similar. Execution carried out a few days after the trial with no possibility of appeal is vastly cheaper than any other option, but is also only appropriate for the worst totalitarian regimes.
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From:alobar
Date:January 1st, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
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I agree there needs to be a fair appeal process. But that should take a few years, not decades. Cost per year may be higher because of court costs, but the time span is a lot less, unless the person awaiting appeal is in his 70s, which is not often the case.
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From:heron61
Date:January 2nd, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
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From the link in the post below: The "Death Penalty has Cost New Jersey Taxpayers $253 Million
A New Jersey Policy Perspectives report concluded that the state's death penalty has cost taxpayers $253 million since 1983, a figure that is over and above the costs that would have been incurred had the state utilized a sentence of life without parole instead of death."


If a society is to make even the slightest pretense of fairness, appeals, introductions of new evidence, and suchlike are a requirement before any execution. Unlike incarceration, you can't bring a wrongly-accused dead person back to life, so I don't see many alternatives to these appeals w/o creating something even more draconian than what we have now. In short, prison is cheaper.
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From:rjgrady
Date:January 2nd, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
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http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?did=108&scid=7

In the US, you can expect it to run about double.
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From:heron61
Date:January 2nd, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the link. On a completely unrelated note, email me your address, and I'll get out a copy of Exalted 2nd edition to you in a day or two. Did you get the email with my address, for sending out Helios Rising?
(Deleted comment)
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From:tlttlotd
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
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I didn't think they'd give him a short drop, which Hussein used for many of the executions he ordered over the years. It would have served him right to die in such a way. I guess they wanted to be 'humane', if such a thing can be called such.
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From:alobar
Date:January 1st, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
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> I think Saddam got what was coming to him.

Yes, but only if US politicians, members of the CIA, and State department also go on trial then get executed for keeping Saddam in power with money and weapons.
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From:heron61
Date:January 1st, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
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I don't want to see them (or anyone else) executed, but beyond that, I'm right there with you. He went overboard attacking the enemies of the US, but he had help and to an extent he was doing what the folks in the US who put him in power asked him to.
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From:antayla
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:13 pm (UTC)
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I dunno, the whole thing makes me feel sort of sick on a gut level. I know the man probably deserved death, but it doesn't make me feel any better about it.
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From:tlttlotd
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
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The mad egregore Politics has its due.

Most of the killings that Hussein ordered during that time were of people the US felt would prevent it from accomplishing its goals, though he went above and beyond the orders of his handlers, to be sure.

A posthuman species is going to have to rewrite large portions of its psyche to remove the excessively violent tendences the human race has now. This isn't something that you can accomplish with a simple unified diff-style patch.

Capital punishment is a revenge killing, pure and simple. An eye for an eye, and the species as a whole is rapidly going blind.
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From:heron61
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:54 pm (UTC)
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Capital punishment is a revenge killing, pure and simple. An eye for an eye, and the species as a whole is rapidly going blind.

Precisely.
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From:queerbychoice
Date:December 31st, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC)
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Yep. I'm right there with you on this one, all the way.
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From:alephnul
Date:January 2nd, 2007 06:21 am (UTC)
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I know it is a petty point, but surely Saddam Hussein killed (or had killed) 10's to low 100's of thousands of his enemies, not hundreds. Or do you just mean that the crime he was specifically executed for was killing hundreds of people?

Not that that changes anything in terms of whether he deserved to die or whether he should have been killed (I think he deserved to die (to the extent that anyone does), but I think it was wrong to kill him).
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From:heron61
Date:January 2nd, 2007 07:19 am (UTC)
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Or do you just mean that the crime he was specifically executed for was killing hundreds of people?

The killings that were used to convict him with during the "trial" were performed in 1982 and consisted of 120 or so people. While he is definitely responsible for those (and many other deaths), in the case of those people, there are also a number of high-level US intelligence and governmental personnel who could easily be claimed as accessories.
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From:rjgrady
Date:January 2nd, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
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I can only imagine this was a deliberate political choice.

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