02 January 2007

Hussein Hanged: guess what - it makes things worse

Over on Slate.com, Christopher Hitchens directs the full force of his vitriol at the shameful execution of Saddam Hussein's, well, execution: "The zoolike scenes in that dank, filthy shed (it seems that those attending were not even asked to turn off their cell phones or forbidden to use them to record souvenir film) were more like a lynching than an execution." Is Hitchens, the great defender of the Iraq invasion, working on a change of heart?

Possibly the most important point that he makes in generalizing the Hussein execution debacle into something approaching a critique of the death penalty: the cruel spectacle of a fallen dictator mocked by those he once tormented is not so far removed from the slightly more civilized executions that occur regularly in the United States. Although an extreme example, it points to the motivations underlying every killing performed by the state in the name of justice, and suggests that the value of the death penalty to society may be much less than we like to think.

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