Friday, December 29, 2006

Death penalty for Saddam

Saddam is about to be hanged. This is the time to consider my views on the death penalty.

The arguments for:

It is the ultimate sanction. Deliberately taking a life should result in your own life being taken.

It is the penalty demanded by Scripture.

It deters others from committing murder.

It concentrates the mind of the murderer so that if he wishes to repent he knows he has but a short time in which to do it.

It brings 'closure'.

The arguments against:

It turns the state into a 'murderer'.

The wrong person might be executed.

It does not really deter.

Life imprisonment is a just puniushment which removes the murderer from repeating his offence and gives him time to contemplate what he has done.

In the case of Saddam there are other arguments against:

It would turn him into a martyr.

The execution itself would be an occasion to foment a riot.

And arguments in favor:

While he is alive the possibility of freeing him remains alive.

Some time in the future a Sunni regime may decide to do exactly that.

The only argument against that counts with me is the possibility of executing the wrong man. Undoubtedly there have been miscarriages of justice in the past. But there seems no doubt that Saddam is guilty.

He deserves death.

Over the past 50 years there has been a movement to lessen the significance of evil. People make excuses for it. It was his upbringing or his genes to blame. There is a willful misinterpretation of Scripture. "Thou shall not kill" is not a blanket ban on killing. Even a cursory reading of the Bible demonstrates that God sanctioned both killing of the enemy in war and judicial killing of criminals. I know that people tend to say that that was the Old Testament and we have different standards in the New Testament, but that is also incorrect.

Luke reports the thief on the cross saying, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve." and later relates the story of Ananias and Sapphira who were struck dead for witholding from God what they had promised to give. Again King Herod was struck dead by an Angel of the Lord in Acts Ch 12 v 23, for setting himself up as a god. In I Corinthians Ch 11 v 30 Paul clearly indicates that some have died because they abused the Lord's Supper. Undoubtedly, both Old and New Testaments take a severe view of sin, and certainly don't rule out the death penalty where appropriate. Those who believe that Christians ought to be against the death penalty are making up their own religion.


Anonymous said...

Are you saying that Christ didnt turn the other cheek and advocated for killing those who would have him killed?

I believe in the compassionate Christ - not the politically motivated church of Christianity being described here.

As for Saddam, are not the people who allowed him, encouraged him, and supported him equally as culpable? Maybe Reagan, Bush 1 and Rumsfeld should be hanged for selling him WMD?

Whatever happened to Universal Morality? We are so busy cleaning up other countries and relieving them of the burden of their natural resources when we should be initiating some introspection and internal housecleaning of our own. Anything else smacks of hypocrisy.

Steve Madden said...

My personal morality tells me the death penalty is never justified under any circumstances.

The sad part about the execution of Saddam is that he will now not be tried for the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.

How convenient?

Terry Hamblin said...


The trial of the gassing of the Kurds will continue as there are other defendants. It will not be hushed up.


Jesus's reaction to those "who knew not what they do" was indeed to plead for his Father's forgiveness, but his reaction to his enemies who clearly did know what they were doing was quite different. He had no compassion for Herod, who was the murderer of his cousin John and whom he insulted by calling him a fox and when brought befor him did not give him the benefit of the conversation he offered Pilate, nor for the Chief Priest and Annas who was the power behind him. When his cheek was struck at his Jewish show trial he did not offer the other one, he protested, "If I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?"

He healed the servant whose ear was struck off at Gethsemane (a good example of one who didn't know what he was doing), but the book of Revelation tells us that there will be no mercy for those who continue to oppose him.

The idea of a Jesus who continues to wink at sin and for whom anything goes is a false one. "He will forgive me because that's what He does" is a presumption too far. It comes from a cherry-picking attitude to the Bible.

I certainly don't absolve this or previous American administrations. Undoubtedly America has supported very many highly dubious and despotic regimes with the motive of opposing communism. Communism was a bogeyman for America in the Cold War period. Had they had faith in their own beliefs they would have realized that it would turn out to be a busted flush.

Intervention in Latin America, Indo-China and the Middle-East, whether covert or overt, has scarcely been of benefit to any of these countries, any more than Russian intervention has been.

With the end of the Cold War, America, as the victor and the richest nation on earth, has a responsibility to clear up the mess it left behind. That includes getting rid of the petty despots it established. The ones set up by Russia have mostly withered on the bough.

As far as hanging Reagan is concerned, it is a little late. For the others, you would have to hang the French, the Russians and the Chinese as well if you wanted justice to extend that far. Nevertheless, they will all have to give an account of what they have done.

Anonymous said...

. . . a cherry picking attitude to the Bible . . .

Surely all Christians do that. If not, the church would still recommend the death penalty for homosexuality, adultery, and working on the Sabbath. Slavery would be condoned. Eating prawns would be forbidden

Anonymous said...

The big issue that is being missed is that forgivness is for the individual. Justice is for the state to carry out. The two are separate. Jesus did not entangle himself in matters of the state. The victims families can exercise forgivness and the state it's justice.

Terry Hamblin said...

Anonymouse 1

Some Old Testament laws were re-interpreted by Jesus (working on the Sabbath, woman taken in sdultery,) others were not.

Anonymouse 2


Steve Madden said...


Mohammed al-Uraibiy has stated that a verdict in the Kurt Gassing case is now unlikely.

Terry Hamblin said...

From today's Guardian:

Sources at the special tribunal trying Saddam and six members of his former regime in the Anfal trial said yesterday that proceedings would resume on January 8. The remaining defendants are Ali Hassan Majid, known as Chemical Ali, a cousin of Saddam, described by Kurds as the evil face of the Anfal campaign; Sultan Hashim Ahmad Jabburi Tai, former defence minister; Sabir Abdul Aziz Douri, director of military intelligence; Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a senior military officer; Taher Tawfiq Ani, former governor of Nineveh province; and Farhan Mutlaq Jubouri, head of military intelligence in northern Iraq.

Steve Madden said...

But the head judge of the "special tribunal" has said a verdict is unlikely.

Remember for the majority of the Al-Anfal campaign Iraq was at war with Iran, Iranian forces were in the area. Ever heard of collateral damage?

US supplied helicopters spraying European supplied chemicals. What a tangled mess we weave.