Hitchens: “Don’t Hang Saddam”
Christopher Hitchens captures here exactly why the death penalty is a mistake in the case of Saddam Hussein. I have been surprised throughout the process at the IST how many American human rights lawyers have worked for and with the tribunal, knowing that death by hanging was a likely outcome. Surely, if there is one “international norm” that relates to post-regime/post-conflict justice it is that the death penalty should be off the table. And it is just bad policy. Perhaps one of the few things the CPA did right during its time running Iraq was abolishing the death penalty.
The attempts to declare the verdict and sentence a victory for international justice (as Michael Newton does here over at the WaPo) are admirable, but ultimately unconvincing. (See Kevin’s discussion below.) Enduring peace, justice, and reconciliation are difficult to achieve even after a war. Injecting the execution of a former dictator into an ongoing civil war — before the full truth of his heinous deeds and the grievances of the citizenry have been properly aired — may prove devastatingly counter productive.