Update 13.00 London time. Comment resubmitted under new title "Justice or Revenge ?". Original comment sent yesterday had still not appeared, needless to say.
Update: 12.56 London time. Still not appeared. In the past when this had happened, like yesterday for example (details later) one's first reaction is to think that the Comment was never received. But that has rarely if ever been the case. When one persists, by sending complaining emails etc. the Comment is always found, and does finally appear. But why was it held up in the first place ? Is it an attempt at half-hearted censorship ? If so, of the particular Comment, or the individual who sent it ? Does anyone else have this experience ?
At 1300 I will re-submit the Comment to see what happens !
This is what I previously called a "piton post". It's one that appears in instalments in real time. Updates, as they appear, will go at the top.
The starting point is the following Comment that I sent yesterday (4th Jan) at 19.00 hr approx London time to Ben Fenton's latest Telegraph blog post. It's entitled "We've played into Saddam's hands".
Here's what I wrote, which I consider relevant to the topic, and which makes a serious point at the end.
It begin's by quoting a line from Ben's post:
"To others, the only good that can come from a bad deed is by the careful and judicial exercise of revenge."
Judicial exercise of revenge ? Is that not a curious juxtaposition of the sublime and ridiculous ? Since when has justice, and the entire apparatus of courts, been about revenge ?
The whole point of having proper legal channels for prosecution of crime is surely to prevent a relapse into a lynch mob society in which everyone feels it necessary to take the law into their own hands. Justice and subsequent punishment are about holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions, so that the victims of crimes, or their surviving relatives, do not suffer the added insult of feeling that criminals are allowed to get off scot-free.
Wanting revenge is natural, and some may indeed gloat over the imposition of a heavy sentence, but that is surely not the purpose of the punishment: it is to bolster confidence in the rule of law, and hopefully (but not assuredly) deter others from committing the same crime.
There are many, myself included, who in general oppose the death penalty for even the vilest of crimes. That can be for any number of reasons - on grounds of principle (all human life is sacred), or to avoid acting as God, or merely out of recognition that judges and juries occasionally get it wrong.
But in the case of Saddam Hussein, there were special, almost unique, circumstances. Given the man's track record in exacting the most terrible revenge on entire communities - women and children included, it could be seen as a gross injustice to Kurds, Shias, Marsh Arabs, Kuwaitis and others to have allowed that monster to get off with a prison sentence. It would have left open the possibility, no matter how remote, that he might one day have been released, say as a result of terrorist blackmail, to return to power as Mr.Invincible, only to initiate a whole new cycle of revenge.
I believe, reluctantly, that the death sentence was appropriate. What I do not understand is why he was denied his stated wish to die by firing squad, instead of a hangman's noose. Is it not enough that someone forfeits their life? Why inflict the added ignominy of selecting a particular form of capital punishment deemed appropriate for a common criminals (hanging) ? And with the wisdom of hindsight, admittedly, a firing squad gives less opportunity for sadists to surround the condemned man at the moment of death with their taunting and gloating.
On a final technical note, is it not time that we dropped the use of the "hanging" as a generic term. Saddam Hussein died by virtually instantaneous cervical dislocation , ie severing of the spinal cord in the neck, which is altogether different, and more humane, than hanging as carried out elsewhere, eg Iran, where the condemned are hoisted up on cranes. That type of hanging does not involve a drop, and so causes an unspeakably brutal, protracted death by slow throttling. Sorry to end on such a grim note.
At the time of writing ( 13.40 London time today, 5th Jan) my Comment has still not appeared, despite the latest crop of comments starting to go up at about 11.00 hours London time .
Now why is that you may ask ? Watch this space for further developments !