Saddam: verdict right, sentence wrong.

I just saw news come through that Saddam Hussein has been found guilty of crimes against humanity and has been sentenced to death by hanging. The verdict seems completely right to me and the sentence seems utterly wrong.

There are very few things that I think are unequivocally right or wrong in virtually all circumstances. The death penalty is one – I find it hard to think of a single instance where it should be carried out. It is easy to oppose the death penalty when it’s inflicted on Australians, or on other people who one feels sympathy for for some reason or other. The rest of the time, it is easier to stay quiet.

It is hard to think of a more unsympathetic character than Saddam Hussein, who almost without doubt is personally culpable for the carrying out of some horrific slaughters and whose actions and directions have led directly to many thousands of unnecessary deaths, and lifelong trauma and anguish for many thousands more. I felt it was therefore as good (or bad) a time as any to voice again my total opposition to the death penalty.

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  1. “After all, it wasn’t the Australian Democrats who were arming Saddam Hussein and counting him as an ally at precisely the time he was carrying out the crimes against humanity for which he has just been convicted.”

    No, it was mainly the communist block and France. (Though even half a percent is too much)

  2. I can’t access Andjam’s link from where I am, but the UK and US supplied the chemicals he used against Iran and the Kurds.

  3. Evil Pundit:
    What Andrew said on post 29 sums up my position too.

    Muzzmonster [post 45]:
    I’ll go for fixing the system. Slower, messier, always imperfect but a lot better in the long run than Might Is Right.


    ” The fact remains that even after Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988, the Bush administration thought it proper to keep sending these materials until at least a year after what is now Saddam’s most infamous atrocity (though not his most heinous act).”

    “…And even though Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz admits in his book “Turmoil and Triumph” that reports of Iraq using chemical weapons against Iranian troops first began “drifting in” at the end of 1983, he still helped to convince the National Security Council to sell Iraq 10 Bell helicopters that same year.

    The helicopters were supposedly for crop spraying though it’s now known that Iraq used them in the 1988 chemical attacks against the Kurds at Halabja.”

  5. Spot on, red crab, post #48.


    We need the U.N. to lose the yellow stripes running up their backs and act with some integrity whenever civil or international conflicts occur.

    You know – world leaders working together as a team, instead of only being out for their own countries.

    Sometimes I think the world would be better off if there was a complete ban on religion – since it seems to create a lot of racial, sexual and religious strife.

    Having said that, there are numerous other types of destructive groups that are equally or more dangerous than extreme branches of religion.

    Religion has some good things to offer, like anything else. I think Australia was a much better place when more children attended Sunday/Sabbath Schools.

  6. Here’s my UK reference EP.

    John Reid, the British Home Secretary, said that Saddam’s hanging “was a sovereign decision by a sovereign nation”. Thank heavens he didn’t mention the £200,000 worth of thiodiglycol, one of two components of mustard gas we exported to Baghdad in 1988, and another £50,000 worth of the same vile substances the following year.

    We also sent thionyl chloride to Iraq in 1988 at a price of only £26,000. Yes, I know these could be used to make ballpoint ink and fabric dyes. But this was the same country – Britain – that would, eight years later, prohibit the sale of diphtheria vaccine to Iraqi children on the grounds that it could be used for – you guessed it – “weapons of mass destruction”.


  7. With due respect to opinion expressed on these pages I am stipulated to remind that among societies and upon epochs notions sustaining the modern Western-style judgments are being purified and developed to reach some universal applicability at a planetary level with the UN approval through a set of international agreements constituting so-called “international law”.

    To your respondent understanding, such universal applicability is definitely postponed by de facto existing national environments, where traditional customs and mentality substantiate any local judgment if even on merits of internationally accepted legislation.

    Ruling a tribal country by sword and terror, Saddam Hussein deployed forbidden chemical weaponry while annihilating Iraqi civic minorities to stabilise a rule of own tribe. His death sentence for crimes against humanity is a sound precaution on degree of acceptable to many other national rulers and itself as much martyrdom as at the time a death of Soviet despot Stalin he is an admirer of, was.

    The numerous procedural irregularities if any, do not substitute a very core of Saddam’s crimes embedded and might formally be acknowledged and taken into account during an appeal process.

    Regrettably, a ban on a death penalty highly appreciated by your respondent, being gradually introduced more and more round a globe, does not work properly in, especially, places where terrorism rules and a group rape is still a punishment for a rape occurred for even innocent family members of rapists.

  8. muzzmonster: #56

    I think we will find that the British prohibited the sale of diphtheria vaccine to parents of Iraqi children in order to limit the size of their army. It’s a sad day when people want to deny children proper medical care for their own ends.

    After the tsunami affecting Indonesia and surrounding countries, many people (including myself) were concerned that the Indonesian government might use the millions of dollars (raised for flood relief) to build their army.

    For several years, I have thought that Indonesia was one of the countries most likely to invade us. I think this is why John Howard is eager to stay on good terms with their government.

    My son and I gave food aid to Sri Lanka, which was supposed to be distributed by the Red Cross.

    Instead of purchasing one large sack of rice that someone might run off with, we bought 5 of each of the following items, in the hope they would be shared between 5 families: 2 kg rice, red lentils, green split peas, cans of mackerel, full cream milk powder.

  9. Michael (I wonder if you’re a legal academic because your language seems rather obscure), are you suggesting that because Iraq was less civilised than us, it’s okay for them to execute Hussein?

    My understanding is that Iraq was, despite a rather cruel dictatorship which included oppression of upstart minorities like the Kurds, a modern, educated and generally secular country.

    As to the interplay between “civilised and less civilised countries” surely debate and suggestions are what assists other countries become more civilised.

  10. When Gandhi was asked what he thought of English civilisation, he said he thought it would be a good idea.

    Capital punishment is not about the criminal. It’s about us. Our society. Our “civilisation”.

    By ruling out capital punishment, we affirm the sanctity of life within our law. I’m in favour.

    Of course, our alliance with the USA and our warm ties with China challenge our position. Both those countries are fervent executioners.

    Contrast Blair’s repudiation of the death penalty for Saddam with Howard’s piss weak acquiescence to un-Australian values.

  11. “I can’t access Andjam’s link from where I am”

    I tried it a minute ago. Are you experiencing a technical fault, or does your ISP not like the site?

  12. First, on the issue, I agree that the death penalty is wrong. Let the mongrel rot in goal.

    Second, EP Comment #38…From your earlier comments in this and other blogs I am aware that you refuse to read information pertaining to the legitimacy of what you are saying, but if you think for a minute that the US will drop everything to save our butts if we were invaded you are sadly mistaken, history has proven otherwise…and no, I will not cite references of this fact as you will not bother to read it anyway (I believe you consider it a “waste of your time”)…perhaps you can just think about it for a while…I do however, offer this analogy :Australia at the moment is like the puny little sniggering friend of the schoolyard bully, standing by feeling all smug and safe whilst the bully beats the crap out of some other poor kid…but there WILL come a time when the bully will either lose his power, or simply be busy doing something else and we will be left to face our part in the wrongs they have perpetrated and get whats coming our way.

  13. Bryan Law (#60)

    -Capital punishment is not about the criminal. It’s about us. Our society. Our “civilisation”. –

    Exactly – it is about OUR civilization (with Z, because it is not always “z” like in Australia) and a supporter of abolishing a capital punishment, I do understand that such a deed is just too often a favor to terrorists demanding freedom to their peers with any means possible – and not in the Middle East only.

    Muzzmonster (#59)
    -Michael (I wonder if you’re a legal academic because your language seems rather obscure), are you suggesting that because Iraq was less civilised than us, it’s okay for them to execute Hussein?-

    “Less civilised” – what measurements have been used to establishing a level of this factor? Did I write something of civilization in Iraq or somewhere?

    I did write and I do write in plain English seemingly – as a Word “Spelling and Grammar Check” testified, that applicability of legislation and judgment vary between nations because they reflect very local understanding of justice based on local environment, and establishing a universal denomination would hardly succeed by simply using the same clauses in recently very different societies.
    Every passage of history even in a particular country presents very specific memorabilia among which Inquisition had left a significant legacy worldwide.

    I hope it is a quite clear response to your question.

  14. I find that attitudes in the local community aren’t very different from those in the global community.

    Locally, most people only care about those within their own four walls. Neighbours don’t even know one another and are unwilling to work together for the betterment of society. In short, we have lost our sense of community.

    In the global community (I use the term loosely), world leaders are mostly only out for themselves, their own countries and their own gain/power.

    muzz: #59

    You are right of course, but barbarians aren’t interested in debate and suggestions. If they were, they mightn’t be such a problem.

  15. Andjam: I can’t access the link because the server where I work has a peculiar preference for blocking certain sites. Perhaps I will remember when I’m at home.

    Michael: no you didn’t say civilised, but I suspect some might take that interpretation. Yes, I agree that laws reflect the society, but I see no reason why we should not suggest to others (people and countries) why what they do might not be the most moral thing to do.

  16. Pardon me, muzzmonster, but I am not quite sure that someone “less civilized” is more willing to hear strangers’ suggestions than an average egalitarian Australian.

    To me, talks of unificated civilization sound nowadays similar to a some sort of historically known “white man burden” of imperial times.

    Moreover, a few hours ago ambassador Bolton told ABC that the USA are ready to discuss Iraq-related issues with Iran and Syria.

    What about their levels of civilization and readiness to listen to an advice concerning human rights and untolerance to terrorism, for instance?

  17. Over 50% of murderers murder again. If the death penalty was quickly enforced on all proven murderers, the one time murderer would never perform his evil again. Dead killers cannot kill again. Our “do good” attitude does nothing to help the innocent victims of proven killers that walk the streets.


  18. Have you got any sources to support that statistic, Youngo?

    Keeping people in prison also prevents them committing crimes.

  19. Youngo:

    You are right. “Do gooder” attitudes have gone a long way towards destroying the very fabric of our society.

    I would like paedophiles executed as well. Anyone who can have anal or vaginal sex with a screaming little child is a pervert who deserves to die.


    They don’t keep people in prison. They let them out again very quickly – that’s if they don’t let them off altogether.

    When the Family First candidate for the recent State election doorknocked my home, he said the government can’t have tough sentencing because the jails are already overflowing.

    I told him if we had tough sentencing, there would be fewer crimes committed and the jails would empty out.

    Our society needs a high standard of discipline from cradle to grave. Without it, we have 30% of adults on anti-depressants, because people treat each other like rubbish and get away with it.

    I don’t think mediation should ever have replaced the law either. It allows selfish people to avoid their legal responsibilities.

    Some years ago, I had a friend who worked with the street kids. They sold drugs and stole cars – but when they turned 18 and knew they could go to jail, they started behaving like responsible citizens.

    These days, those over 18 know they probably aren’t going to be sentenced, so they continue their bad behaviour indefinitely.

    Very young teenagers know they can disobey their parents and move out of home – and be supported by the government.

    I’ve known of cases where social workers have supported exceedingly ill-behaved children against their own parents.

    Then, when teachers have had trouble with the same children, they haven’t been able to call on the parents for support because they have already been disempowered.

  20. Coral, I just think that killing people is wrong. Simple as that. No matter what they’ve done.

    I’m sure we could have a discussion about what does or does not discourage people from committing crimes (which I very much doubt the death penalty does), but that won’t alter what I believe is a basic ethical point.

    As to Michael’s point, I don’t doubt that any country (or individual) appreciates other people’s advice. And the issue of whether one should engage with countries / people whose behaviour one finds abhorrent is vexing. Do you manage to encourage better behaviour by working with them, or by shunning them? I’m not sure, but I’m leaning towards the former.

  21. Muzz:

    A balance of rewards and punishments works well in most scenarios – whether we are dealing with children or adults – or locally or globally.

    The same set of rules cannot be successfully applied to barbarians. They have hides like rhinoceroses, which nothing will penetrate.

  22. Well, would you personally, Muzz and Coral, be happy if one dropped in your place not being invated and started mentoring advice?

    And why do you suggest that your non-asked advice would be reasonable and important worldwide?

    Not much changed to the better even in traditional Australian Bantustans in Pacific so far.

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