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Thus always to tyrants…

So Saddam Hussain will be hanged… what is there left to say except ‘sic semper tyrannis’?

43 comments to Thus always to tyrants…

  • I caught some footage of the sentencing on the BBC last night. Saddam looked frightened and broken. John Simpson then described how he saw a smile cross Saddam’s lips, “as if he’d achieved everything he’d set out to achieve.” I’m not quite sure how to reconcile the two images…

  • James

    The State should not have the power to execute its own citizens in cold blood, no matter how evil they are.

    There. I said it.

  • The State should not have the power to execute its own citizens in cold blood, no matter how evil they are.

    I would have been just as happy if he had been kicked to death by an angry crown than then dangled in public as a warning a la Mussolini. I have no problem with tyrants ending up dead… in fact I have a problem with tyrants not ending up dead, so suffice to say I disagree James. My only objection to capital punishment is the possibility of error… as in cases like this there is no possibility of a miscarriage of justice, I therefore have no problem with capital punishment.

  • RAB

    My only problem is that his end will be mercifully quick compared to the fate he meted out to his citizens.
    As it was Guy Fawkes night yesterday, and we all know what happened to him, couldn’t someone email the Iraqi Judges a description of the execution of Guido.
    Er I wouldn’t want to give them ideas…. but

  • Even by Catholic guidelines, the death of Saddam is justified. The state has the right to do it but you’re supposed to hold off because modern penal practices ensure that the death penalty candidate isn’t going to kill again and given no risk of the loss of life, giving the murderer the chance to repent is an important moral value. It’s the christian thing to do.

    Given that there’s no repentance yet, the government could fall reasonably soon, freeing Saddam, and that his very survival encourages certain factions to continue killing innocents, the reasons that John Paul II and all the other Catholic death penalty opponents usually cite simply do not hold. The very reason JP II never took the pro-death penalty language out of the catechism is for exactly the circumstance that we face.

    It is a false mercy that gets more people killed just so we can say “at least the state did not kill X”. But the State, in that circumstance, would be guilty of stringing along the saddamist insurgents, allowing them hope and hopeful insurgents fight on, something that should not be tolerated and certainly not aided.

  • Time now to try and hang GW and Tony, eh?

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    J, I’ve got a solution for you. I also oppose the death penalty, for Perry’s reason–a mistake could be made.

    So let’s just release Saddam onto the streets of Baghdad at an announced time and place. I think we would all be satisfied at the results, including the Iraqi people–especially the ones who show up.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Whoops, I didn’t mean J, I meant James.

  • My objection to Saddam’s execution is that he would be a key witness to illegal oil trading and and shadey arms deals. It’s too conveniant for too many people in top places that he is hanged quickly.

  • Gabriel

    The State should not have the power to execute its own citizens in cold blood, no matter how evil they are.

    That statement makes the same amount of sense if you replace “execute” with “imprison” or “fine” or any other violation of the rights to life, liberty and property. If you think about it this should constitute either:

    a) a Reductio ad Absurdum,
    b) a sufficient argument to turn you into an anarcho-Capitalist.

    Your choice really.

  • I do not support the death penalty in the UK and I do not support it for Saddam.

    If he had died trying to escape (or was that committing suicide, Capt. Renault?) that would be one thing, but to allow the State to kill others by due process leaves open the door for a State to eliminate political opponents or whistleblowers. Frankly, I do not think that is beyond some of the ‘minds’ in the current UK administration, so desperate are they to maintain their pretense.

    I don’t tend to disagree with Perry (or even Rt Hon Wllm Hague), but on this occasion, I do.

  • Gabriel

    “but to allow the State to imprison others by due process leaves open the door for a State to imprison political opponents or whistleblowers.”

    Do you see? DO YOU SEE?!?

  • Manuel II Paleologos

    I don’t agree with it either.

    I want to see George Galloway hanged for treason, and hanging Saddam makes this even less likely.

  • “but to allow the State to imprison others by due process leaves open the door for a State to imprison political opponents or whistleblowers.”

    Do you see? DO YOU SEE?!?

    Sorry, I mean to say EXECUTE others by due process leaves open the door for a State to EXECUTE political opponents or whisleblowers.

  • Julian Taylor

    Why? The only people I’ve heard in the past day saying “Time now to try and hang GW and Tony, eh?” seem to be afficianados (if that’s the right description) of Robert Fisk, who seems to believe that he is now an expert on the Middle East and thus can declare that is wasn’t Saddam who is to blame but one D.Rumsfeld for selling chemical weapons to Iraq.

    Surely the world must be a better off place for the lack of any psychotic tyrant responsible for mass murder, torture, rape and the plethora of other atrocities committed?

  • Should have pushed him off a cliff or shot him in an alleyway before anyone asked too many questions.

    I mean does anyone – even Geoffrey Robertson, Q.C., – really deplore the Ceasescus’ end?

  • And Gabriel, it is not “the same” to imprison as execute. You can free an imprisoned man (e.g. Nelson Mandela) but you cannot resurrect a dead’un.

  • Jacob

    “So let’s just release Saddam onto the streets of Baghdad at an announced time and place. ”

    Yes, it’s more democratic, popular, and in line with local practice. A public hanging in the main square would also do.

  • Jordan

    Too bad our guys didn’t just chunk a grenade down the ole’ spider hole. Ah, missed opportunities…

  • kicked to death by an angry crown

    A rather delightful Freudian slip there, Mr. DeHavilland.

    I guess I’d be okay with him being stoned to death, pelted with sovereigns, too.

    I still think the troop who lifted up the cover of Saddam’s hidey-hole should have just rolled in a grenade. It would have saved a heck of a lot of taxpayer money, and I think that’s something all libertarians can agree would be a good thing…

  • Gabriel

    “And Gabriel, it is not “the same” to imprison as execute. You can free an imprisoned man (e.g. Nelson Mandela) but you cannot resurrect a dead’un.”

    That is entirely irrelevant to your earlier point. The question is whether under certain specified circumstances the state can perform actions which others cannot. If the answer is no, then congrats you are an anarcho-capitalist have fun with that; if the answer is yes you have to explain why the death penalty is an exception.

  • “The question is whether under certain specified circumstances, the state can perform actions which others cannot… if the answer is yes you have to explain why [action X] is an exception.”

    Um, because the rights of man are endowed to the individual? You’ve got it backwards: it is always incumbent upon the state to explain why it is required to infringe our rights, having none of its own that we have not freely bestowed. The burden of substantiation lies wholly with it, not me.

  • Midwesterner

    I strongly oppose the death penalty (and will get a chance to vote on an advisory referendum tomorrow), not for moral reasons. But because I don’t think the state should have that extent of power. Self defense, etc. of course. But not by a political machine. Which is what we undeniably have for now.

    I am sitting here watching a particularly disgusting state’s attorney-general campaign in which the slime is astounding for people, one of which is going to be our top law enforcer and seeker of justice.

    While it’s possible there could be military grounds for it, there are other reasons I think executing Saddam is a bad idea –

    Big number one, so much information would die with him. It would be Lee Harvey Oswald squared. I still have a lot of questions. I think he could spill dirt on very many high and mighty. Especially political players in the EU, but also in the US. Killing him is too darn convenient for too many people.

    I think the evil infidels executing (someone who will magically become) a heroic muslim will turn him into a martyr. Astounding as that is to us. Sunnis and Shias can kill each other, but we aren’t allowed to kill any muslims.

    I don’t think that keeping him alive is worse politically than executing him.

  • tdh

    A: Sic fortasse semel tyranno.

    Timmi for a change. ;-)

  • Julian Taylor

    I still think the troop who lifted up the cover of Saddam’s hidey-hole should have just rolled in a grenade.

    He wouldn’t have got the massive reward then, neither would have the man who told the troops where to find Saddam have got his millions in prize money. The sight of a filthy, unkempt Saddam in his stained underpants probably did more to help rehabilitate the Iraqi people than anything else, even the wretch’s execution.

    Personally I would be in favour, as someone mentioned above, of dumping Saddam (again in his underwear) in the streets of Karbala or Najaf at a pre-arranged time and date.

  • Gabriel:if the answer is yes you have to explain why the death penalty is an exception.

    I already have. It cannot be reversed.

    You can imprison, exile, banish political opponents, but they tend to continue to function, sometimes more effectively, sometimes less.

  • andymo

    I agree that Saddam is guilty of these crimes and deserves appropriate punishment.

    But are we likely to see other leaders face justice for their crimes?

    The Saudi Monarchy?
    The Turkish Govt for its Kurd killings?

    Not likely.

  • Gabriel

    Um, because the rights of man are endowed to the individual? You’ve got it backwards: it is always incumbent upon the state to explain why it is required to infringe our rights, having none of its own that we have not freely bestowed. The burden of substantiation lies wholly with it, not me.

    Right so just as people can consent democratically to imprisonment (violation of the absolute and immutable right to liberty) and fines (violation of the absolute and immutable right to property) for convicted criminals, they can equally consent to execution being used in the same circumstances (or not, as the case may be).

    I already have. It cannot be reversed.

    An entirely valid argument, but one that, and I repeat myself, bears no relation to your orignal post (the one that I attacked).

  • Gabriel

    I made a right mess of that, I shouldn;y eat and type.

    I agree that Saddam is guilty of these crimes and deserves appropriate punishment.

    But are we likely to see other leaders face justice for their crimes?

    The Saudi Monarchy?
    The Turkish Govt for its Kurd killings?

    Not likely.

    This seems to be an expression of the commonly held viewpoint that Ba’athist Iraq was, in the grand scheme of things, not especially bad and so it made no particular sense to go after Saddam. In fact this is completely false. Outside of Africa there are very few truly totalitarian regimes left. North Korea is one, Iraq was one. It would probably be fair to say that Burma is one and Iran is well on the way to becoming one. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, despite their manifest flaws are not.

  • andymo

    Gabriel,

    So the fact that Iraq was a brutal totalitarian regime makes it a valid target for liberation, while a brutal Monarchy (Saudi) is not??

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I often notice the following argument crop up from opponents of the overthrow of Saddam and his crime family. It goes like this:

    “We, the West, supported and aided Iraq in the 80s. We turned a blind eye to his various evils, and so it is therefore hypocritical of us to demand his removal. Also, there are lots of other evil badass regimes in the world and we do nothing or not much about them. Hence we should not bother about Saddam, either.”

    I think I can spot a number of basic flaws here. First, yes, even if we can admit to having played a cynical realpolitik approach in the past and supported Saddam, does that mean that say, George Bush or Blair are obliged to continue that policy out of demand for consistency? I think it was Emerson who once said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Just because what we did 20 years ago was dumb, does nto mean we cannot or should not change course.

    In fact, one of the strongest arguments for overthrowing Saddam is that we behaved with shocking cynicism in the past, leaving the Kurds, Marsh Arabs and the others to their fate. We owe them something.

    Yes, there are also many evil regimes in the world, and the Saudi one comes top of the list. But we have to start somewhere, and not all regime changes can, or should, be brought about by military means. In some cases, the use of “soft power” will be more effective in the long-run.

    I can deplore how the post-invasion phase of the war was conducted. I can even sympathise with isolationist libertarians who say this whole business proves the folly of interventionism as such. What I cannot understand is the desire of so-called “peace” campaigners to argue that somehow Saddam is a victim figure. He isn’t.

  • Gabriel: The question is whether under certain specified circumstances the state can perform actions which others cannot. If the answer is no, then congrats you are an anarcho-capitalist have fun with that; if the answer is yes you have to explain why the death penalty is an exception.

    Now, I have answered that “question”, as you acknowledge.

    Going back further – Gabriel:That statement makes the same amount of sense if you replace “execute” with “imprison” or “fine” or any other violation of the rights to life, liberty and property.

    No it does not, for the same reason.

  • Nick M

    Right,

    I’m back in the UK – had a swell honeymoon in DC and Florida – where I caught this news of friend Saddam’s fate.

    I’m generally anti-death penalty. I’m against it for all of the usual reasons.

    But, I make exceptions. I think some people are so bad that stringing them up is, frankly, the least that can be done. I think Saddam should have met the same fate as Ceaucescu (sp?) or Mussolini. Why not? we are talking about individuals who are so far beyond any “reasonable doubt” that the risk of error is utterly irrelevant.

    I note the point made by a few other commentators that the state should not have the sanction of life or death in cold-blood. Frankly that is my biggest general objection to capital punishment but… Note my earlier examples. I didn’t cite Peter Sutcliffe or Ian Huntley I cited political figures, tyrants, dictators… I think the state vs individual argument is irrelevant when it comes to people who made themselves the state.

    Saddam ought to have been offed without the dignity of a trial a long time ago. Machine gunned against a wall in his (now infamous) Y-fronts. At the least it would have saved a lot of blood and treasure. At the most it would have shown that the fate of such bastards is brutal, undignified and truly appalling. Tyrants do not deserve the platform a trial provides, or the platform from which they are to be decently hung. They deserve to die in the street without dignity (and the corpse disposed of in similar fashion) like the low down guttersnipes they really are.

  • Gabriel

    So the fact that Iraq was a brutal totalitarian regime makes it a valid target for liberation, while a brutal Monarchy (Saudi) is not??

    1)Brutal monarchies comprise about 90% of all past and present societies. Totalitarianism, on the other hand, is a unnatural excrescence, less than a hundred years old, and is so uniquely debilitating to the human condition that it must be completely expunged.

    2) While monarchy dates from time immemorial (or Chedorlaomer for all you biblical literalists out there), totalitarianism is a recent invention of the west. We have a responsibility to clear up the muck our fathers created.

    “Gabriel: The question is whether under certain specified circumstances the state can perform actions which others cannot. If the answer is no, then congrats you are an anarcho-capitalist have fun with that; if the answer is yes you have to explain why the death penalty is an exception.

    Now, I have answered that “question”, as you acknowledge.”

    Well, yeah, but you can’t possibly be thick enough to claim that this was your original point.

    “Going back further – Gabriel:That statement makes the same amount of sense if you replace “execute” with “imprison” or “fine” or any other violation of the rights to life, liberty and property.

    No it does not, for the same reason.”

    Well, actually, yes it does.

  • Gabriel, I don’t care if you think I am “thick”, my original point is most certainly that the State should not execute as this is irreversable and that it can be misused to erase political opponents.

    I have differentiated “execution” from “imprisonment”, now you have to explain why you think irreversable sentences, specifically DEATH are the same as reversable.

  • Gabriel

    Saying that the death penalty should not be used because it is non-reversable is a perfectly respectable argument; saying that it should not be used because the gov might start bumping off its opponents is
    a) a completely unrelated argument
    b) a completely stupid argumet
    c) apllies just as well to any co-ercive penalty (unless you’re saying that you think it’s O.K. for the government to arbitrarily intern political opponents. Are you saying that?)

  • Nick M

    Gabriel,

    You’ve got a bee in the bonnet about this. Offing Saddam is way different from interning or killing political opponents. Saddam isn’t and wasn’t a “political opponent” because by it’s very nature his style of murderous tyranny transcends the political.

    “Political Opponents” are people who want a different tax structure to the one you support or they want to privatise this or nationalise that. Their policies may be very different from what you think is right but at no point does anybody have to be fed feet-first into an industrial shredder.

    Once you bring the shredder into the political arena then all bets are off.

    An appalling fate for tyrants is both fitting and best policy. It is totally different from the state using similar sanctions against other “undesirables”.

  • Gabriel

    Umm Nick M, that wasn’t my point at all. As I thought I’d made clear I am pro-death penalty, especially in this case. It was TimC who claimed that the death penalty for Saddam was part of an inexorable slippery slope to Tory MPs being shot in their sleep.

  • How about they drop him off in the Kurdish lands…that would do the trick.

    We have let the Iraqis decide for themselves; lets not ruin it by meddling because they came to a judgement we disagree with on how he should be punished.

    On another note Amnesty is demonstrating once again they have completely lost the plot.

  • Gabriel,

    You are leaping ahead and extrapolating.

    Firstly, a) it is part of the same argument, as there are consequences for having the death penalty and one is to enable the state to sanction killing by due process via a court of law. b) Saying it is “a stupid argument” is just your opinion and I bin it in the same place I binned your “thick”. c) As for “applies to any coercive penalty”? Er, death the same as x years in jail? Is it the same that Nelson Mandela was locked up or if he was actually executed? Is it the same that Lenin was banished to Siberia or like his brother (IIRC) killed by the state? Of course, Singapore has other methods – bankrupcy is their favourite via libel suits.

    Any reasonable person would know that I was not saying that it is alright for the state to intern political opponents, but the UK government DOES intern people at this time. One has to wonder, if the death penalty was available, they would use it against terrorists. Slippery slope? Yes. Shooting Tory MP’s in their beds? That would come much later, if at all. Right now the Labour Party seem content with convenient suicides and heart attacks.

  • Gabriel

    This is going round in circles. I think the argument that certain punishments should be prohibited after due process under the rule of law because they could then be used arbitrarily is wrong. It is wrong for a very simple reason: once a government starts acting arbitrarily they are, by defintion, acting outside any prescribed rules. Hence whether or not they are allowed to execute convicted criminals will make no difference to whether or not they decide to bump off political opponents.

    Do you think that the government of the Netherlands is inherently less likely to murder political opponents than the government of the U.S.? This is a genuine, not rhetorical, question, I’d like you to answer it.

    As an aside, seeing as I’m fairly sure Apartheid South Africa had the deaht penalty, I’m not sure how Mandela fits in. In any case he wasn’t imprisoned as a a politcal opponent, he was imprisoned for ordering terrorist attacks.

    Wait, I just realised somethiong else…

    Is it the same that Lenin was banished to Siberia or like his brother (IIRC) killed by the state?

    After the Russian revolution the death penalty, officially, was much decreased. The number of people murdered by the state, at the exact same time shot up and continued to do so for decades.
    Your argument not only contradicts reason, but experience I’m afraid.

  • Gabriel, it is indeed going round in circles.

    Gabriel:I think the argument that certain punishments should be prohibited after due process under the rule of law because they could then be used arbitrarily is wrong.

    Are you saying that a State will never act arbitrarily (albeit with the veneer of legality)? I think you have to accept that States are capable of acting and do act arbitrarily on occasion, including in the political sphere. As the risk is there, you need to be able to undo the mistakes. You cannot undo the mistake of execution.

    Modern China has used and still uses the death penalty to erase dissenting individuals and others have been executed for relatively minor crimes which may suggest local or regional political interference to silence critics or remove competitors to the status quo. The UK executed a number Irish after the 1916 Uprising. Would they have bumped them all off covertly after the fact had they not the legal means to? Maybe. The use of Martial Law at that time greatly increased the ease by which the State could kill ‘legally’ and it did. It even executed at least one participant via the High Court in London. The Terror in France is another example.

    The circumstances before and after the 1917 Revolutions are quite different, you cannot compare the record of each regime before and after so crudely. It fails to qualify on reason and experience.

    Reason states if you make it easier and more excusable, absolving the individual giving the order, then it raises the chance of it occurring:

    Melchett: Unhappily, Blackadder, the Lord High Executioner is dead.
    Blackadder: [sarcastically] Oh woe! Murdered, of course.
    Melchett: No, oddly enough, no. They usually are, but this one just got careless one night and signed his name on the wrong dotted line. They came for him while he slept.
    Blackadder: He should have told them they had the wrong man.
    Melchett: Oh, he did, but you see they didn’t. They had the right man and they had the form to prove it.
    Blackadder:Ah, bloody red tape eh?

    Even the Nazis wanted to make their dastardly acts “legal”.

    As for the comparisons between the US and the Netherlands, no matter what the answer it does not prove your case. Lets say China and the Netherlands…that proves mine.

  • anonymous

    I hope the death penalty is reintroduced for all crimes big or small in the UK then we can restore law and order and dispose of the liberal and socialist scum which infest our land