Why Saddam Must Hang

The news that Saddam Hussein has lost his final legal appeal and that he will be hanged sometime within the next 30 days should be welcome news for war-weary Americans. Thus, Saddam will receive the just punishment for his crimes against humanity that Adolf Hitler avoided with a suicide's bullet in the closing days of World War II.

Of course, the Human Rights Watch crowd has already begun the drumbeat about how brutal and inhumane such a punishment will be and have complained about how the trial was unfair. The trolls of Daily Kos and Democratic Underground are echoing this theme by tying the "inhumanity" of this verdict to the supposed immorality of "George Bush's War".

To get lost in the cobwebs of the mind of the Left is to obscure the real issues here. We should remember that even in America, defendants are entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial. No perfection exists as long as there are humans involved. But the reason why Saddam Hussein must hang is because we value his rights as a human being and we recognize that he too - no matter how despicable his conduct and how horrible his crimes - was created in the image of God. To deny him the hangman's noose is to say that he - and all of us for that matter - is less than a human.

This point of punishing a man to remind him and us that he is a man is lost on those who believe that man is merely an animal and who reject any notion of sin as outdated and mentally deranged. The British author C.S. Lewis addressed many years ago the practical consequences of the therapeutic approach to crime that underlies many of the arguments offered by Saddam's defenders. This approach, which rejects any notion of retribution or of desert in proscribing punishment, is the subject of Lewis' short essay, "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" (now found in his collection of essays, God in the Dock). He describes the theory in this way:
According to the Humanitarian theory, to punish a man because he deserves it, and as much as he deserves it, is mere revenge, and, therefore, barbarous and immoral. It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that all crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic. Thus is appears at first sight that we have passed from the harsh and self-righteous notion of giving the wicked their deserts to the charitable and enlightened one of tending the psychologically sick. What could be more amiable? (pp. 287-288)
But Lewis identifies the utter inhumanity of this theory:
My contention is that this doctrine, merciful though it appears, really means that each one of us, from the moment he breaks the law, is deprived of the rights of a human being... when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a ‘case'...But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better', is to be treated as a human person in God's image. (288, 292)
In the rest of his essay, Lewis identifies the practical outworking of the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment: gone are the objective standards of the law, replaced instead with the subjective assessments of psychologists and therapists; and the nexus between Justice and Mercy is effectively severed, making the whole system an unmerciful instrument of inhumanity.

Under this view, punishment is not imposed on the basis on the just deserts of the individual and his responsibility to his fellow man, but the collective goals of society. This sets up a utilitarian scenario of an innocent man being punished if society (and more accurately, society's masters) believe it will benefit the public good. This, of course, is what we are seeing in the ongoing Duke rape case, where young privileged white men are being put through the legal ringer to atone for the supposed iniquities of a racist white society, not on the basis of whether they actually committed the crime or not. And there are many people in that community who have no problem making these innocent kids pay, even knowing now that the evidence nowhere comes close to supporting their guilt.

Lewis also describes in frightening detail how the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment would play right into the hands of a tyrant:
For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call ‘disease' can be treated as crime; and compulsorily cured. It will be vain to plead that states of mind which displease government need not always involve moral turpitude and do not therefore always deserve forfeiture of liberty. For our masters will not be using the concepts of Desert and Punishment but those of disease and cure. We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis. When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hind government from proceeding to ‘cure' it? Such ‘cure' will, of course, be compulsory; but under the Humanitarian theory it will not be called by the shocking name of Persecution. No one will blame us for being Christians, no one will hate us, no one will revile us. The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, and though all will be in fact as compulsory as the tunica molesta or Smithfield or Tyburn, all will go on within the unemotional therapeutic sphere where words like ‘right' and ‘wrong' or ‘freedom' and ‘slavery' are never heard. And thus when the command is given, every prominent Christian in the land may vanish overnight into Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound, and it will rest with the expert gaolers to say when (if ever) they are to re-emerge. But it will not be persecution. Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic. (p. 293)
Anyone believing that Saddam's life should be spared would do well to read Lewis' penetrating critique of their worldview. The Humanitarian Theory of Justice advanced by organizations like Human Rights Watch destroys, not defends, human rights because it is predicated on treating all of us as subjects, not as men.

We should hang Saddam so that the world may know that as a responsible man with free will, he really was his brother's keeper.

Those condemning Saddam Hussein's sentence of death but still deploring his actions, rather than seeing how closely his depravity is to theirs, would rather identify him as a monster (excepting those 9/11 Truthers who believe that he never committed the crimes he was accused of) to avoid looking into the moral mirror. In that case, what blame can be attached to an animal that is merely acting according to its nature? As Elton John tells us, it's the Circle of Life! What kind of society is possible when men are allowed to indulge and gratify their basest desires? Doesn't it look very much like the utter chaos and grotesque brutality found everyday on the streets of Baghdad? Say whatever you will about the presence of American troops in Iraq, but make no mistake that it is solely the presence of those troops that is preventing a bloodbath the world hasn't seen since Rwanda.

And it is Saddam's regime that has bred this culture of inhumanity in Iraq. Saddam himself embodied the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment and he should be held to account. What better statement can we offer to those who have spent most of their lives under his jackboot brutality that as a man, he is responsible for his crimes? What better testament can we offer to international justice than to demonstrate to the people of Iraq that the untold misery and death of Saddam's victims demands his life be forfeit for his actions? To do anything less than hang Saddam Hussein is to engage in double-speak and to undermine the very principles of human rights we were told that we invaded Iraq to instill.

It is interesting to note that those complaining about Saddam's death sentence do so in the safety knowing that they will probably never have to live in the culture he helped create, nor will they ever have Saddam Hussein as a neighbor. If Saddam were allowed to live, Iraqis who suffered under his regime would not have those same assurances. Many of those critics are saying that the death of Saddam Hussein will not serve as a deterrent to other tyrants. But making deterrence, rather than desert, the basis of justice is to revert to the Humanitarian Theory of Punishment. What we can assure the Iraqi people of on the day when Saddam dances at the end of a rope is that he will deterred forever from ever resuming his reign of terror.

May God have mercy on his soul.

Patrick Poole is an occasional contributor  to The American Thinker. He maintains a blog, Existential Space.
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