Surfing the ‘net today in the aftermath of the Saddam hanging I see the usual suspects decrying the the dictator’s execution in the predictable manners (Hello, Robert Scheer). What interests me more are the objections of capital punishment purists, because I can sympathize with their position. But I think their orthodox views are misguided in this instance. They may even have been blinded by a form of narcissism, by wanting to be considered “good.”
I almost always oppose capital punishment for the usual moral and practical reasons. But in the instance of political mass murderers like Hitler, Stalin and, yes, Saddam, I think public safety vastly outweighs any ideological considerations. Life imprisonment is a great risk with such people. These men (and those like them) have literally millions of adherents who would like nothing more than to free them so they can return to power and kill again. And this is not just the stuff of a Hollywood movie when a serial killer escapes and might add another twenty corpses to his dossier. The numbers here are staggering. The death of Stalin (whether natural or encouraged) more or less ended the horrors of the Gulag. An assassination of Hitler in the thirties would have saved tens of millions. Does anyone really think that an incarcerated Saddam would never be freed? I wouldn’t want to bet on it.