Through a glass darkly

Friday, December 26, 2003

I read all sorts of columns on the Web, trying to keep up with what other people are concerned with. I came across Richard Cohen's column Monday in the Washington Post's online edition and I had to read it a second time to be sure I wasn't hallucinating. Cohen was calling for those responsible for judging Saddam Hussein to let him live.

Cohen said he doesn't have any doubts that Hussein is a killer on a massive scale but that the message sent by letting Hussein live is that death by judicial decree is no longer acceptable. No longer acceptable? Please, save me from these yahoos who want to save the world from itself!

Mr. Cohen, I'm sure you want to send the message that death sentences are barbaric and are sometimes handed out to innocent people. I don't have a problem with saying that in some, if not many cases, innocent people have been sentenced to death. I agree that innocent people should never be given death sentences but we do not live in a perfect world and we never will. Sometimes things, even in the best human designed systems fail. That is no reason to stop everything.

If we waited until perfection were attained before trying anything we would never try anything. We would all still be sitting in a cave somewhere scratching our nether regions and picking lice off of each other hoping that we could find enough food to make it through another night. We wouldn't even have fire to keep us warm, fire isn't perfect and it might get away and burn the cave down.

You also have to remember that there is a cost to keeping Saddam alive. I'm not talking about the food and board someone would have to pick up to keep him from expiring. I'm talking about other lives, innocent lives that would be taken because Saddam lives. As long as Saddam is breathing there will be some fanatics so consumed with putting him back in power that they would attempt anything to accomplish it. A plan to kidnap Chalabi and other Iraqis who are working in the coalition government to trade for Saddam has already been disrupted. How many more such plots will come to light in the period before the Iraqi people can put Saddam out of reach of even his most die-hard fanatics?

To top it all off we don't even have the right to say that he should live even if we as a nation wanted it. It is for the Iraqi people to say. It is they who have borne the burden of having Saddam rule their lives for the past 30 years. It is they who have paid with their lives in the several wars Saddam has initiated by his bellicosity. It is their family and friends who have died in his prisons and torture rooms, their wifes and daughters who were dragged into the rape rooms that he and his sons kept for their perverted pleasure. It is the Iraqi Kurds who were poisoned by the thousands in their villages for daring to wish to have some freedom to be themselves.

Yes, Mr. Cohen, you face a formidable task trying to keep such a beast alive. His victims cry out from their graves and his guilt is too well established for death penalty foes such as yourself win on this one. You have set yourself a sisyphean, nay, a herculean, task if you hope to sway anyone but the feeble-minded with your efforts. Why not save your efforts for something truly deserving?