Sunday, December 31, 2006

Televised execution

Just been listening to Broadcasting House on Radio 4. They're discussing the televised execution of Saddam, which yes, I saw yesterday. I saw it at least three times, because it was there, in someone else's house, and I was there too. I've seen lynchings in movies - usually involving a horse and a tree - but, of course, this was so different. In fact, it was unlike anything in my experience, and I found it horribly disturbing.

Judicial killing. Judicial murder? I've heard a former Nuremberg prosecutor say that it shows the victims that their grievances have been taken seriously; I've heard a politician say that "of course" he didn't watch the images, as if, somehow, we're all soiled by having done so. I don't think so. I think that to avoid seeing this keeps you in movie-mode, able to push out of your mind the reality of the death penalty. Perhaps the fact that it has always in the West been carried out off-camera does the same.

Too early in the morning for me to be judicious and measured. But the very civilised nature of the proceedings - the cloth round the neck, the careful explanations, the calm demeanour of Saddam - all these underlined the horror of taking a life in cold blood. Shooting him on sight as he emerged from hiding might have been one thing - except that the Iraqis wouldn't then have been involved. I know why it was done. But I'm damned if I can feel that it was right.

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