11 February, 2008

If not for 3000 dead, why capital punishment?

NYTimes discussed in an article today about what to do with 6 Guantanamo detainees charged with central roles in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Surely if anything, this warrants the death penalty.

The six include:

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the former Qaeda operations chief who has described himself as the mastermind of the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people; who is said to have presented the idea of an airliner attack on the United States to Osama bin Laden in 1999 and then coordinated its planning.
The official identified the others to be charged as Mohammed al-Qahtani, the man officials have labeled the 20th hijacker; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, said to have been the main intermediary between the hijackers and leaders of Al Qaeda; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, known as Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of Mr. Mohammed, who has been identified as Mr. Mohammed’s lieutenant for the 2001 operation; Mr. al-Baluchi’s assistant, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi; and Walid bin Attash, a detainee known as Khallad, who investigators say selected and trained some of the hijackers.

The last military execution was in 1961, when an Army private, John A. Bennett, was hanged after being convicted of rape and attempted murder.

There have been many differing views on whether this would just give a status of martyrdom to those that view it as a reward or if it would help refocus the public's attention on such a brutal act that has been largely forgotten.
if the death of 3,000 people isn’t sufficient for a death penalty in this country, then why do we even have the death penalty?

In my own opinion, I find no situation warranting our government's [and essentially our own] decision in taking life; it does not play out as a form of justice in my understanding.
I guess my opinion isn't necessary since the military commission system has only completed one case since the beginning in November 2001.
Some countries have been critical of the United States’ use of the death penalty in civilian cases, and a request for execution in the military commission system would import much of that criticism to the already heated debates about the legitimacy of Guantánamo and the Bush administration’s legal approach there, some lawyers said.
Where is our country headed?


Elliot said...

I didn't realize that the last military execution was so long ago.

I am also against the death penalty generally, but I think in this case it makes particularly little sense - for the same reason Guantanamo has become more trouble than it was ever worth, and the same reason waterboarding will always be more trouble than it will be worth. If a primary front (I would say "the" primary front) in decreasing anti-American extremism is winning hearts and minds, harsh US practices will but continue to tarnish our credibility and turn away potential allies.

Cassady said...

I don't know that I could agree more completely, with both statements. The very act of killing those prisoners would have a larger impact (of martyring them) to their supporters than it ever could in bringing justice (to the American people). I am completely opposed to the death penalty in every instance and form for this reason. It doesn't work to solve an isssue.

I agree especially with the sentiment that Elliot is getting at, namely, that if we as a country can show a true sense of humanity (meaning justice, forgiveness, compassion, love, and unity, to name just a few) in sparing and punishing appropriately these prisoners, that the world at large who in all honesty and some fairness hate the United States, we will take a step toward national security that outweighs a bit of feel-good American reactionism that this debate represents.

Cassady said...

I suppose, upon further consideration, that I'm against the death penalty unilaterally not only because it doesn't work, but because it fails to respect the humanity of even a prisoner.

I was fortunate enough to be allowed to sit in on a meeting of a newly formed prison-ethics committee, and it was startling to see the injustice operating even in non-death penalty states.

Certainly, I believe that the person responsible for a crime forfeits many of their rights within society by willfully damaging the fabric of said society. When, however, does society at large have the right to assume the position of God as judge over life and death? Personally, I say never, although this leaves the open question of what to do with our prisoners. That question is, I feel, somewhat easier to answer than that of our authority over life in general.