Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow...

My Dear Mr. Cooke:

In terms of summarizing your argument in a word, I can’t decide between adorable and cheeky. Not only did you ignore my reasoning, you introduced an inaccurate definition with this Merriam-Webster business. Had you bothered with the authoritative dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, you would have found: “A. adj. Of or pertaining to a system of government which tolerates only one political party, to which all other institutions are subordinated, and which usu. demands the complete subservience of the individual to the State.” I agree that a two party system makes us less exciting to watch, but it also negates the possibility that we are totalitarian.

More to the point, you claim: “Execution is an exercise of absolute state authority, in a way that taxes or gun control simply aren't.” That doesn’t quite satisfy, does it? To use your own language, taxes and execution “are different in degree, not in kind.” I think a debate on the death penalty is something worth having, though I’m not certain if this is the appropriate forum for it. Let’s try and focus on the case at hand:

Do you agree that crimes against humanity are in a category somewhat more severe than the common criminal? Evidence is easily available for the former, though the latter is oftentimes mired in doubt or dubious police tactics. There is a fantastic argument against capitol punishment for common criminals; it doesn’t persuade me, but it’s a valid argument. Saddam didn’t kill his wife’s lover while in the heat of passion nor did he steal a television from Sears; Saddam decimated generations. Keep your eye on the ball, my friend.

If proportionality should be a guideline in meting out punishment, what is an appropriate response to genocide, using chemical weapons, and wasting a nation over a 24 year period? I simply don't understand how jail-time is a fair way for Iraqis to show their disdain for Saddam's crimes. Sometimes, with appropriate evidence and appropriate aggrievement, states can and should decide that the actions of an individual are so egregious that they only proportional response is death.

Saddam’s guilt is beyond the shadow of a doubt; he videotaped many of his crimes, bragged about them, and used them to subdue his populace. Saddam, ever the legal scholar, has confined his complaints largely to procedural matters and screaming exhortations. Was his trial 100% perfect? No, and what trial is? The fact that he received a trial at all is remarkable in a state embroiled in civil war with only the tatters of government. Hell, when Saddam came to power in 1979, he did so personally at the barrel of a gun. Where is your concern and compassion for this? When I read opinions criticizing the trial, I can’t help but note a lack of commiseration for his millions of victims. Critique at will, but at least acknowledge the man’s crimes.

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