Vengeance and maturity


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 10:56 p.m.

President Bush was disappointed by the ugly executions of Saddam Hussein (hanged while being taunted) and his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim (decapitated while being hung). Bush says it only goes to show that the Iraqi government "has still got some maturation to do."

Adds Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "We were disappointed there was not greater dignity given to the accused."

As the former governor of a state, Texas, that has executed more than 380 people, Bush can claim some expertise on the "dignity" of capital punishment. On the other hand, enough executions are still being botched right here in America that Florida and California have called a time out for state-sanctioned killings until a presumably more "mature" method of ending a human life can be devised.

Meanwhile, the savage nature of the Iraq executions is only adding fuel to Shiite-Sunni violence and is spreading resentment throughout the Mideast. Certainly, the decision to employ capital punishment as an instrument of state justice has done nothing but make an already bad situation worse.

The Iraqis are learning rather more quickly what Americans are still coming to grips with after decades of living with capital punishment. Sec. Rice's protestations aside, there is no dignity when state exacts a death for a death in calculated fashion.

The notion that a flawless execution is proof of a democracy's "maturation" is as dangerously wrongheaded in Baghdad as it is in Tallahassee.

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