Kathleen Parker

Perhaps we're curious to witness death because we know it awaits us all. We're curious about hanging because we've never seen or heard it before -- the sounds of a trap door dropping or a human neck snapping. Who knew the knot would be so big? It wasn't like that on ``Gunsmoke.''

With someone like Saddam, we feel justified in our prurience because he was a murderer and deserved to be punished. Justice and closure permit us immunity from the guilt we might otherwise feel from such a forbidden satisfaction, if not precisely pleasure.

But then what? We've stood by and watched a man die. Not in the heat of battle or the throes of passion, but passively, dispassionately. That is to say, with the cool detachment of an executioner.

We are all executioners now.

The case against capital punishment might be better reserved for a more sympathetic character than Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, when again will so many be so familiar with the raw anatomy of a government execution?

State-administered death is always a greater horror than any other by virtue of the methodical reasoning that precedes it. French philosopher Albert Camus wrote that ``capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated, can be compared.

``For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date on which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not to be encountered in private life.''

One can argue without fear of rebuttal that Saddam, in his way, was a calculating executioner, and that the Iraqi people were confined at his mercy for decades.


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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