Friday, January 12, 2007

Saddam Hussein's Death - A Reply

Yesterday, a columnist in SinChew Jit Poh wrote an article about Saddam's death and the rights to kill him [view it here], and I couldn't help but to write a reply to rebut his message. I would like to share it with the rest of the world, and forgive me as the letter below will be in Chinese.

郑先生:

您好,我是一位来自吉打的星洲日报读者,目前在澳洲就读大学.今天在星洲日报力读了您所著的"沙旦胡先该不该问吊",心里有些感想,希望和您分享。

首先,谢谢您分享的故事,如阿蒂花如何惨死在不人道的手段里,革命、战争里多少人遭到了惨绝人寰的悲惨待遇等等。我本身到网上找了一些关于阿蒂花的新闻,读着读着心里真的好酸好酸,不住地感叹着这世上不知有多少个一出生就没有公平待遇的女孩。读到您所说的"如果告诉长辈就是家族的耻辱;如果报案自己就是娼妓",那是多么地不胜唏嘘呀!

可是郑先生,您用这些故事所带来的结论,恕我有些异议。 您用一句话来终结您的文章:"想想,怎样才是残忍"。这世上,有多少人不正是因为这种心态而大动干戈,以冤冤相报的心态燃烧战火呀!一个回教恐怖主义分子难道不是都会想:"嘿,说我残暴,那美国喂我们吃了多少粒炸弹,想想怎样才是残忍?" 而支持战争的美国人,对于反对战争的人,还不是每天都说:"哼,你那么同情那些被杀死的伊拉克百姓,那么我们那在双峰塔里丧生的亲友就不值得同情吗?想想怎样才是残忍。"

正义,真的可以用残忍的高低来衡量吗?当对方干了一件残忍至极的丑事,咱们就有资格来凑热闹,也来做一件不人道的事?如果有一天一个凶手杀了我的至爱,那我就有资格去他家里让他浴血以解心中大恨?电影里所描述的"杀父之仇,不报不快;血债血还,我一定亲手让他偿命",难道已成为了人道所许的正义行为?

郑先生,我想说的是,确实,这世上没人能否认沙旦罪大恶极,他所犯下的滔天大罪是人神共愤的。读了他的所作所为,我可以想象如果我是他下手杀害死者的家属,我一定也会忍不住想要摘下他的头来雪恨,向他干尽我所想象得出侮辱至极的举动来发泄、来报复。现实生活中远在大马过着平安生活的我,单凭在媒体上所读到有关沙旦的新闻,我也是认为他是狼藉鼠辈,罪有应得。可是,在制裁他这方面,我们绝不该沦落至他的程度。他不仁,不代表我们也应报以不仁;他残暴,不代表我们因此有权对他残暴了。

当然我知道他罪该万死,甚至可以说是死有余辜。我想您一定也知道,许多不满这次处死沙旦的人不都是反对死刑这项刑罚,还有更多,包括布莱尔,是因为他在死刑里遭人凌辱,以及他所受到不公平审判程序而感到不快。关于不公平审判,也许有人会说:"哈,你难道需要十年才能判出他的罪吗?"可是司法是司法,他的意义在于当人被情绪及煽动蒙昧时,有一个不可动摇的基础,让人终究会作出廉正的判断。再罪大恶极,司法都不应为其折腰,因为司法是我们廉正的资产,更是我们文明社会的体现! 至于死刑这刑罚,世界各国各有自己立场,而反对死刑的人自有宗教、人道等立场。我最近也读到了有关"死刑比起终身监禁的经济成本还高"的论点,同时也了解这死刑争议里立场皆是主观所导。可是,无论如何,我觉得我们都不应说"甚么残忍,难道他不残忍吗?",因为这和"你杀了我父亲,我亲手杀你偿债是合理的"没多大差别。您所叙述的悲惨故事让人心碎,可是冤冤还是不应相报啊!

在逻辑缪观(logical fallacies)里有一项著名的叫"两个错误不代表就变成对的" ( two wrongs don't make a right). 隔壁的小强偷了我家的荔枝,不代表窝偷摘他芒果就变成合法的了. 我觉得在沙旦这方面也是这样.我们为了显现我们的文明,以司法来制裁沙旦;可是因为人情的积愤及政治的手段,我们也成了不文明的人,何苦呢? 我重申,多少生命是赔在那思想,好像说"你那么残忍,我来报复让你也常常残忍的滋味"?

我所读的部落格中,有个人为这件事写了一封感想,我想和您分享:

The big news over the last couple of days has been the execution of Saddam Hussein. I want to put in my own two cents about it. It's not math, but it does at least involve a bit of logic.

I wish I could remember who first said this, but I really don't know. But the important thing, in a moral sense, about the whole mess with Saddam is that he was a thug. A vicious, bloodthirsty, sadistic, evil thug who believed that power justified itself. He was the strongest thug in Iraq; therefore, according to his own worldview, he got to do whatever he wanted until someone stronger came along. Rape, torture, murder were all perfectly acceptable to him - he had the power to do it, therefore he was allowed to do it.

We, Americans, claim to not believe in that calculus of power. We claim to believe in the idea of law: a set of fundamental rules that transcend the individual humans who are in positions of power, that limit them and their actions. No matter who you are, no matter how strong you are, no matter how many guns or bombs or soldiers you have, there are some things that you simple are not allowed to do.

And that's where the problem with the execution of Saddam comes in.

Did he get what any objective observer would call a fair trial? No. The justification we keep hearing is "we know he was guilty". But that's not the point: if we really believe in the rule of law, then even if the accused is obviously, undeniably, unquestionably guilty, we have to give them a full and fair trial, with the right to hear the evidence against them, confront their accusers, and present their own defense. Not because they deserve it - but because we require it. The laws, the fundamental rules that make us different from thugs like Saddam, say that we must do it; if we ignore our laws, even in the case of an outrageously evil person like Saddam, then we validate the things he did, the way he acted.

After the trial is over, and a sentence is selected, the way that the sentence is carried out is also dictated by laws. Even in the case of a death sentence, there are rules that must be followed about how the condemned criminal is treated, and about how and when his execution must be performed.

Under pressure from the American government, the Iraqi government executed Saddam in violation of their laws concerning executions. In the execution chamber, being led to his death, the guards spit at him and cursed at him. Witnesses were allowed to bring in cellphone video cameras and tape his execution, and take souvenir photos of his dead body. His execution was illegal under the law of the land, and it was carried out with the same kind of spectacle as the executions that he commanded when he was in charge.

Saddam himself summed it up well. On the way to his execution, he said "I am a militant and I have no fear for myself. I have spent my life in jihad and fighting aggression. Anyone who takes this route should not be afraid." He spent his life as a thug ruling because he had the power to do it. Now we came along, and we were stronger than him. So by his own standards, his own rules, he did nothing wrong. He wasn't being punished; he was simply being killed because his opponents were stronger than he was. He knew it; everyone who sees the video of reads the news reports about his execution will know it. He was killed by a mob of thugs.

We could have done something different. We could have given him a fair and open trial, with all of the charges against him clearly set out, enumerated, and presented with evidence. We could have allowed him to try to defend himself and justify his actions. We could have seen a genuine, fair conviction of him on the basis of public, open evidence. If (as one would expect), the fair trial ended with the sentence of death, we could have executed him in accordance with the law, with the dignity that he denied to his victims, but which is required by law.

We could have shown that we were different from him. But we didn't. In the end, we and the Iraqi government we created acted as a gang of thugs. We allowed Saddam Hussein to die secure in the knowledge that his view of power was correct, and that he was justified in doing all of the evil things that he did in his life. We betrayed everything we claim to stand for, everything we claim to believe, and everything we claimed that this war was meant to bring to the people of Iraq.

It's a crime. Literally.

这只是我个人的感想,我绝不是指摘您,我只是觉得世人该让仇恨有个了结,我们不该被"他那么残忍,我一点点残忍就别多说话"这种思想蒙蔽了正义的判断。在一个暴君临死前凌辱他虽然比不上其他罪恶来得残忍,可是我们评价那残忍程度同时,别忘了提醒自己小小的残忍还是一个不该犯的错误。

谢谢您。



尤长扬
I would like to hear more about your thoughts on this issue. What do you think? Are they right to have done what they did?

7 comments:

Voon Seng said...

woah... that's an amazing piece of writing. Really, I would not have written with such authority, may i say, and in such powerful yet respectful manner. Good stuff!

heng Liang said...

i agree with you on this one. up till the moment he dies, we never really "treated" him like a human being. although he may have done many unforgivable things, but, like you said, he still deserves human rights, for after all, he's human. At the moment he died, we should at least show a little respect for he is a human being. I'm not saying we should acknowlegde what he did at his point of death, but let him go peacefully and not being treated shamefully (e.g. I do not acknowledge the spitting incident as well as videos of his execution him shown publicly)

Jiun Wuu said...

For me,if a man should deserve to die,he has to die.A dictator actually already lost the rights to live in this world anymore,if his dead can end a war,y not?We r not the ppl who lives in war country,thats y we said war is bad or we shouldnt kill sadam because of his human rights.But what if u r the victim under his dictation?You won't say that again.So,who r we,who lives outside Iraq and US have the right to say we should or shouldn't execute him?We only can read news about the next chapter of the story.

Yet,what I feel sad abt is he was being treated shamefully before died,that is showing how uncivilized our human being are.Shame on themselves by shaming other people.A dead of Sadam,is just showing how uncivilized human kind is.

kyh said...

political stage has always been a dirty and dangerous place to be. if we can avoid it, pls do. and yeah... i do agree with ur "yuan yuan xiang bao he shi liao"! good phrase!

youngyew said...

Voon Seng: Hi so rare seeing you here.. :) I think you have flattered me, it's not really very nice, it's just my lamenting that Mr. Zhen has not been sharing the spirit of forgiveness despite writing in a column called 人间有情. :(

Heng Liang: Ya neither do I. I think the English post I quoted inside sums up your sentiment pretty much. :) I actually strongly recommend reading that post instead of mine, it's the real great stuff.

Jiun Wuu: Thanks for sharing your thoughts.. seldom hear from you about such issues... Anyway I am not arguing whether he should die, because that's really quite out of the question and is up to many philosophical debates, as I mentioned in my post. I agree with you that those people who were running the hanging were an embarrassment of the whole judicial system. :(

kyh: Can you tell me what you mean by "if we can avoid it, please do"? Do you mean we as a commoner should not be involved in political stuff, or a country should not be involved in worldwide political wars? If you mean the former, what do you mean by avoiding - don't join politics, or don't talk about it?

kyh said...

Basically, wat i mean is to avoid joining political parties and stuff like that. Most politicians are hypocrites, rather than heroes who fight for the rights of the civilians. Most of their promises prior to elections are usually boiled down to zero.

And racial plus religious sentiments have always been used as a political tool to incite the emotions of the people, and history has proven to us that this method is overwhelmingly effective --- i can say that 99.9% of all wars and genocides in human history are born out of this route.

Malaysians are not spared either. Looking at the incident during the annual UMNO conference and also various other issues being played without limits on political stage, I'm very worried about our country's waning future.

Anonymous said...

hey, indeed a good post, in that you have helped to bring out "the other side of the story" . Too often we are too anxious to "have justice prevail" to avoid using unacceptable means to achieve a final result that all (or almost all) would agree is the only, acceptable outcome. Thank you for a thought-provoking piece, it is not often that I am able to look at and ponder upon things from the other point of view :P