Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On Saddam's execution

In response to some of the discussion I started on Saddam's execution, I would separate three questions.

1) Does Saddam deserve death, and does the Iraqi government have the right to our support in carrying out the execution. I'm no big fan of the death penalty, but I will accept, for the sake of this discussion, the rightness of execution for a mass murderer, and the claim that Saddam was a mass murderer. However, I would insist that the execution was at best a necessary evil, and not a cause for rejoicing.

2) Was the process leading to the execution a due process. This is where serious doubts emerge for me.

3) Was the execution of Saddam an act of justice or an act of vengeance? It looks to me to have been an act of revenge on the part of Shiites for years of repression under Sunni Saddam. Charles Krauthammer, who is a conservative columnists, explains my problems with the execution very well.

The most favorable explanation I can give for the invasion of Iraq (since the idea that Saddam was a threat to American security doesn't hold up) is that we hoped to bring a democracy to the Middle East so that people over there can see how wonderful freedom and democracy is and move in that direction. This, in my estimation, was insufficient to justify invading another country, but I think it also demonstrated a certain naivete about Islam and Iraq.

No democracy can succeed so long as the religious majority is unwilling to grant religious freedom to religious minorities. In Christian Europe this was hard enough to achieve, hence the wars of religion in the 17th Century. However, nothing about governing is built into the essentials of Christianity. What the NT says about government is "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." It says nothing about what to do if you are Caesar. And to that I say,
"Praise the Lord!" At this point I am inclined to quote Alexander Campbell's slogan: "We are silent where the Bible is silent." Shoot, Christians went some 300 years before they had any political clout at all. So, so 1700-1800 or so years after being founded, Christian Europe was willing to accept the idea that the Church and the State could do different jobs.

Islam is a different kettle of fish. Islam began by governing, and the Qu'ran is all about what to do as the government. The idea of separation of church and state is antithetical to Islam. To make matters worse, Iraq if a country with a Shiite majority who believes that the essence of Islam was distorted in the early days after Muhammad and the people who should have been running things were murdered. Without religious freedom for religious minorities, the closest thing to democracy you can get is a tyranny of the majority. President Bush's attempt to evangelize the Middle East for democracy is therefore a pipe dream.

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