Monday 15 December 2003

How to Dispose of a Monster

Can we take it as read that Saddam Hussein is a mass-murderer responsible for hundreds of thousands of gruesome deaths? Good.

I'm against the Death Penalty.

There are some very exceptional circumstances where I consider it tolerable. Not desirable, but tolerable. In cases of Cruel and Unusual Crimes, it may be a lesser Evil. It may bring such vast relief to relatives of victims that Justice has been seen to be done that the harm is greatly outweighed by the good. But that alone is not sufficient for me to approve, merely not condemn. In cases where the mere existence of someone as a living breathing entity will cause danger and human suffering - such as the threat of sypathisers taking hostages to procure his release, then on Utilitarian grounds the criminal should be disposed of, and quickly, and that I'd thoroughly approve of without reservation. Both grounds apply in this case. So although I'm against the Death Penalty, for Saddm Hussein I'm more than willing, I'm almost enthusiastic about making an exception.

But I'd never ask anyone - a hangman or executioner, to do something I wouldn't do myself, nor approve of it. And that leads to a moral quandry.

Justice, even tempered by mercy, cannot be done to Saddam Hussein. His crimes are so enormous that there is literally no punishment I can think of that is even remotely appropriate to fit the crime. Even such barbarities as slowly feeding him into a shredder feet-first, or giving him a succession of sub-lethal doses of mustard gas until he's insane with the pain isn't enough. It's a mere shadow of what he's done to others, and he only has one body, so the process couldn't be repeated even once, let alone hundreds or thousands of times. And even that inadequate measure is not something I could ever condone, nor bring myself to do. It sickens me. I'm sure there are many medically trained people who can think of far worse things, while keeping him alive for far longer. But that way lies Madness, the philosophy of such physicians as Dr Mengele. Similarly any medical experimentation involving vivesection, even if it would do physical good. Because it would do us, the executioners, irrepairable spiritual harm.

Several solutions commend themselves though:
  1. Let him go - to walk free from the Courtroom, and into the tender mercies of the Iraqi populace. You know the phrase "He was torn to pieces by the Mob"? Well, it can be literally true. Everyone can get a bit. This may be the solution that gives greatest closure while not soiling our own dainty hands with his blood. We may have to do this, as in any Adversarial system of Law, there's no way he could be given a "fair trial" in the accepted definition of the term. But this smacks of acting as Pontius Pilate.
  2. Pretend we hadn't found him. Put him back where he was, in the spider hole. Fill the entrance with bricks, just as it was when they found him. Then park a Tank on top for, oh, six months. Let the relatives of his victims visit the site, and allow them to listen carefully to see if he's still screaming. A more humane (because quicker) variation would be to Install a toilet whose drain leads to his personal septic tank and sepulchre. But even that I find personally distasteful, even thinking about it makes me feel soiled spiritually.
  3. Televise the Torture Chamber, take him in there, close the door and cut the TV coverage, and play pre-recorded fake screams for a few days while quietly killing him immediately. By all means harvest all usable organs, and I'm not too bothered about whether the anaesthetic merely paralyses him, or causes unconsciousness. Keep the head (minus corneas) for placing on a suitable pikestaff.
The last of the three seems to me to be the best solution. It provides comfort to the grieving, perhaps saves a few lives, and causes minimal damage to our souls with minimal hypocracy. He's done enough damage already.

But I'm open to other suggestions, ranging from the traditional (burning at the stake) to the modern (radiation poisoning).

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