We just expedited a hanging. The hangee was by all accounts as well deserving of such a fate as anyone you could name. He was a defiant nuisance in court, audaciously claiming the court's illegitimacy while ignoring the recounting of the murders he committed or had others commit. Except a few of his tribesmen from Tikrit, not many wanted to hear his vile bluster.
Even so, when is a hanging the right way to silence a party line? Are the forces that made some people join the Baath party weakened or strengthened by this hanging? Are there any political positions or agendas so toxic that they fall outside the bounds not only of free speech but of the sanctity of life? As a common criminal, Saddam would have been guilty as hell anyway so this is not really the case in which to seek my answer. As a politcal criminal, would his tactics for maintaining stability in Iraq have killed more people than the Bush administration's tactics? Want to play a game of "surge roulette"?
In looking about for a better instance from which to answer the question of whether killing people is ever a legitimate political tool, I need not go as far as Iraq. We have, for instance, the wilted wonder of manufactured outrage-as-marketing-ploy: Ann Coulter. Talk about abusing freedom of speech! She variously hints or openly suggests that particular persons or categories of persons with whom she disagrees be killed. Well, I don't agree with her. Nor do I agree with most of what is said by most of the conservative talk radio personalities who gargle the same sewage as Ann. But I don't think it better to shoot Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh or Mike Savage when they can be discredited by holding their exagerations and mistakes, selfishness and self promotion in clear juxtaposition with the facts they omit and the norms of decency they violate. If we insist no government and no corporate media monopoly have the power to control what we can know, then a potent remedy is available far superior to inadvertantly proving the importance of an unimportant person by killing them: we just need to make sure that collectively, we have a long and detailed memory. Death is memorable so it is a favored tool of those who want to make their point stay in mind but don't want to spend a lot of time proving their point. Go back. Dig up the claims and the bogus inferences and out-of-context facts. Remind your friends and readers they were lied to or fed simplistic or biased interpretations that have served us ill. The instances are many and mounting. Yes, it is more work to check facts and refute the lies...and you don't listen to them anyway so why give yourself a headache honoring this nonsense with a rebuttal? But imagine what our democracy would be like if the average voter could recite the five most inaccurate things any prominent wingnut had fed their listeners. Far better than a corpse and a headline would be the laughter...and the anger. In some cases, the work has been done and you only need to read it. And it is not work done by hacks. And it can be fun. But in general, it is the business of anyone who wants to have an opinion to have done their homework. In your quest to be part of our society's long memory, you can just drop Reuters from your reading list..you will not miss much truth that way.
Is it worth the trouble? We have some evidence that if you don't do the gruntwork citizenship of double checking your pundits and leaders, eventually there is a hanging.
UPDATE I: here is a particulary clear and tidy example of the discrediting work: we don't need to shoot Mr. Hitchens...but it would be nice if someone buried the stinking remains of his humanity.
UPDATE II: Not all these odious fools are the same but clearly, I could make a whole blog out of calling BS on these sycophants who must now find a food source to replace the son of a Bush.