The execution of Saddam Hussein has brought those who oppose the death penalty out of the woodwork from coast to coast as well as internationally. Their mantra is, as one would expect, that no one deserves to be put to death, no matter how heinous or extensive the crime.

For example, Saddam was tried and convicted of ordering the killing of 148 Shiites in 1982 because of an assassination attempt against him. Other crimes for which he might have been tried include the deaths of 180,000 Kurds, most by poison gas, in 1987-1988. Of the Shiites who were murdered, some were inserted feet-first into wood chippers and meat grinders.

Still, the death penalty opponents moan and wail about how inhumane Saddam’s execution was (actually, hanging, if done correctly, is one of the most humane forms of execution), and that “even the worst of humanity,” according to James Fallows, a former speech writer for President Carter, does not deserve capital punishment. Various organizations, such as the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Human Rights Watch, say they are more determined than ever to abolish the death penalty. One British newspaper, the Economist, proclaimed that “capital punishment is wrong, however wicked the guilty party.” More on that in a moment.

To be sure, Saddam’s execution was botched. Witnesses were allowed to shout insults as he was led to the gallows, and someone used a phone camera to record the proceedings. These miscues were ready-made ammunition for critics of the death penalty. But what are they actually saying? That Adolf Hitler, had he been captured, should not have been put to death? One might also interpret this to mean that putting Hitler to death would not have begun to punish him properly – so let’s forget it altogether.

Let’s consider for a moment Charles Ng (correct spelling) and Leonard Lake, two of the most barbaric killers in recent times. In the 1980s in California, Ng and Lake tortured men, women and children in a secluded cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills. These two subhumans put infants to death in front of their mothers, burned victims alive, and made women sex slaves for weeks before eventually killing them in equally horrific fashion. Lake managed to commit suicide after he was captured. After one of the most expensive and prolonged trials in U.S. history, Ng was found guilty of the murder of six men, three women, and two baby boys. The judge followed the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Ng to death. He remains on death row in California.

The most familiar arguments made by death penalty opponents are that innocent people are sometimes executed, that present forms of execution constitute cruel and unusual punishment, and that the death penalty is not a deterrent to others. But these assertions do not address instances in which the accused is undeniably guilty (as in the cases of Saddam and Hitler) and whose loathsome lists of committed horrors demand no less than death by whatever means. Nor does the argument acknowledge that Saddam’s execution certainly is a deterrent to any further crimes that might be committed by him in the future.

While opponents of the death penalty have every right to have their arguments considered, and deliberate cruelty for cruelty’s sake is to be condemned, the taking of a human life is not in all cases morally wrong. We have a right to take the life of a thug who is about to take ours. We have the right to kill the enemy in a just war. So too does the state have the right to take the life of an individual who is undeniably, certifiably a mass murderer and whose defense fails to prove otherwise. If society cannot administer the ultimate penalty for the ultimate offense, then we are conceding that not only is man capable of every wickedness, but that some make it possible by giving sanction to it. If ever one needed proof that the world is out of kilter, consider this: the death of one of the most evil men in recent times has become ammunition for opponents of capital punishment.

– Chase.Hamil



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