Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Back in action

After a much-too-long break, during which what little readership we had has almost certainly given up on this blog, we're back for another year of posts with which we would be ill-advised to try to generate ad revenue.

I note that a recent Ipsos poll has placed George Bush's disapproval rating at a new high of 65%. This makes him the the third-most unpopular president in American history. Only Nixon, at 66%, and Truman, and 67%, have done worse. Truman's numbers came before polling became reliable (Dewey beats Truman, etc.), and Nixon was impeached! George Bush should be impeached, too, but that's another story. For now, absent any real possibility of impeachment for, you know, actual crimes, as opposed to lying to a bunch of blow-job inquisitors, we can revel in his historic unpopularity. (We can also take this opportunity to link to an excellent op-ed making the case that Bush is the worst president in American history.)

Note to the American people: you should have been able to realize this two and a half years ago.

Also since the last post, Saddam Hussein has drawn his last breath. I confess that I don't really understand the objections of a lot of people, who seem to congratulate themselves on taking the absolute position that if the death penalty is wrong, it's wrong in every case. That depends on why you think it's wrong. I disagree with the death penalty because if it's admitted to the judicial process, it will inevitably mean that we execute innocent people. Beyond that, it will tend to be prejudiced against people who are poor, poorly represented, visible minorities, or murderers of pretty little blond girls - all factors that should not affect whether someone lives or dies. But it's not wrong because mass murderers have an inalienable right to life.

The more serious the crime, the more serious the punishment should be. Given the monstrous nature of Saddam's crimes, I fail to see how any punishment short of death is sufficient punishment. It's easy to throw around words like "monstrous crimes," but the scale of Saddam's crimes really does set him apart: only a handful of people in the world have as much blood on their hands as he does. He bore direct responsibility for hundreds of thousands of murders, and tens of thousands more cases of torture. He was responsible for the attempted genocide of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs. And let's not forget the wars he launched against Iran and Kuwait, which together claimed almost two million lives. I suppose that you pretty well have to say that the death penalty is always wrong if you want to let Saddam live. But then you get to explain why people who kill hundreds of thousands or millions of people have not sacrificed their right to live.

There are practical reasons for killing Saddam, too: removing a figurehead for Sunni insurgents, and ensuring that Iraq makes a final break with its past. But Sunni insurgents will fight on without him, and had he languished in a jail cell in the Hague, it is unlikely that anyone would really think he would come back to power. (Though if he were in the Hague, there would doubtless be lots of people claiming that Iraqis had been denied justice, and that this was victor's justice by the West. Better that it be victor's justice by the Iraqis.)

Praticalities aside, justice demanded that Saddam die. His crimes were too great for any other punishment to suffice. His guilt was not in doubt. He should have been treated with greater dignity in his last moments, though I have trouble getting exercised that the people he oppressed and killed so indiscriminately decided to rub it in. It was emblematic of the Middle East: tribal, revengeful, ugly. Certainly offensive to Western sensibilities. Not as good proper and dignified execution. But on balance, better than letting him live.


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