Saddam Hussein Is Still Dead

I’m a utilitarian, which leads to a complicated view of the death penalty (though, it should be noted, John Stuart Mill was an unmitigated supporter). I find the evidence on deterrence too indeterminate, and until a consensus is reached among criminologists I think it’s best not to tinker with the machinery of death, as Blackmun would say. However, there are still specialized cases where the death penalty is appropriate from a utilitarian perspective. Hussein’s is one of them. Allowing Hussein to live would have left open the very real possibility of his escape, which would have had disastrous consequences; moreover, the happiness and solace that the execution provides to Hussein’s victims – the Marsh Arabs, the Kurds, dissidents – more than outweighs his own personal pain at the event.
However, I cannot endorse the execution. Hussein’s trial was not conducted with an iota of fairness. If it had occurred in any developed nation, the conviction would have almost certainly been overturned on appeal. A fair trial would have certainly had the same outcome; however, Hussein should have received one anyway, on principle.

2 thoughts on “Saddam Hussein Is Still Dead

  1. Saddam Hussein has become a martyr. I expect to see a huge increase in violence. True, he was a murderous scumbag, but he was more useful alive, as a bargaining chip, than he is dead. Seeing him rot away in jail would have been a more ignoble end rather than seeing him executed in such a big way. If he did have to be executed, letting him starve to death alone in a jail cell would have been a better way to do it.

  2. Hussein was so obviously guilty that whether or not his trial was fair could be viewed as a theoretical, academic point. But there is another, very tangible problem with his execution. It was played not as a victory for justice and human rights, but as a theocratic Shiite victory. In fact it was played specifically as a victory for Muqtada al-Sadr. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

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