Just Die, Already

The headlines scream "Should Saddam Face the Death Penalty?" It’s asked on the radio, TV, and the Internet. The pundits debate it; editorialists expound upon it, callers to the call-in programs insist upon it. The President suggests it. Would it be terribly foolish to ask, "For what?"

Usually a guilty verdict precedes the sentencing. If one is to die at the hands of the law, it is generally in punishment for having done something pretty terrible. And even in cases when the crime has been horrendous, the death penalty may not be imposed. Many killers, for example, languish in prison without even approaching the needle, chair, noose, or gas chamber. There seems to be a growing revulsion for the death penalty.

Except in Saddam’s case. We make an exception for him; execution is recommended prior to trial, much less a verdict. Gosh, what has the man done? It can’t be those nasty WMD’s he’s been stockpiling, because they do not seem to exist. It can’t be his relationship to 9/11, because there never was any such relationship. Well, how about the fact that he’s just a nasty man that our government no longer likes?

That he might well be a bloodthirsty tyrant cannot be challenged, at least by me. All I know of the man is what I read and hear via the media; and I have a sneaking suspicion that I might be fed lies: lies not only of commission, but of omission as well. For instance, what of the bloodthirsty tyrants of countries that we are not occupying — if such can be found? Old what’s-his-name in North Korea, for example. And how about those Chinese officials? We hear nothing of their crimes, at least not from the major networks or the big city newspapers. Is there some sort of scale of wickedness that we use to determine which leader gets bumped off next?

And can you be tried for "war crimes" when you didn’t start the war? Of course, there were prior wars, such as Iraq’s war against Iran, and its invasion of Kuwait, but in the former instance, the U.S. seems to have provided Saddam with the materials for the poison gas, and the invasion of Kuwait took place with the administration’s knowledge and officially stated indifference. In either case, the U.S. could be seen, at least by unfriendly eyes, as aiding and abetting.

Of course, things may not be, and probably aren’t, as they seem. The WMDs and complicity with 9/11 may never have been anything more than excuses, to be discarded if found to be baseless. The somewhat vague charge of generalized nastiness is less easily refuted, being nebulous at best, but seems rather a puny basis for launching an invasion resulting in the deaths of thousands and expenditure of billions.

It may be nothing more complicated than a desire to extend U.S. hegemony in the mid-East, with nice oil reserves thrown in for good measure. That, of course, doesn’t have the ring to it that fighting oppression, or disposing of tyrants, or waging war against terrorism, has. In fact, it sounds rather grubby and base. So that’s probably the reason!

But Saddam has to die. In fact, it would be ideal if he would die soon, like Jack Ruby, who contracted cancer and died — just like that — before he could be brought to trial. Maybe some infuriated Iraqi freedom fighters could break into the jail and drag him out into the street and kill him. Or his health, like Ruby’s, could suddenly fail. Whatever.

Saddam knows where a lot of skeletons are buried, and who buried them. Saddam must die! Nothing is to be gained from a trial and testimony. We already know he was a meanie. Let’s shoot him!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a semi-retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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