11 November 2009

An Execution of the Eve of Veterans' Day

In a very, very dark sense, it's fitting that John Allen Muhammad was executed on the eve of Veteran's Day. I unequivocally oppose the death penalty--yes, even for someone like Muhammad--and war, for any reason. For one thing, I figure that if a man who won a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in World War II (but who wrote, ahem, Thank God for the Atom Bomb) could tell me, "There is simply no way to justify one human being to kill another," what argument is there for any war or the death penalty? For another, I have come to understand that the only people who benefit from either one are the men (and, yes, almost all of them are men) who are the powers behind the social, economic and political systems in which both are conducted. There is never any justice for the loved ones of the victims of either monstrosity; there is no such thing as "closure" after such a loss. And revenge is not justice.

Also: No one has ever corrected or prevented a crime by committing the same sort of crime. The "war to end all wars" indeed! Finally, I simply cannot stomach the idea of a state, no matter how benevolent, having the power of life and death over any human being. Now, I know someone is going to say, "Well, would you rather that John Allen Muhammad have the power of life and death over someone else?" Of course I wouldn't. But he didn't have such power once he was captured.

As for war: What in the world are American troops doing in Afghanistan? What were they doing in Iraq--under Bush I or Bush II? And what, pray tell, were we doing in the Balkans region under the Clinton regime? How can anyone who has any respect at all for life put another person in a country where he's hated just because he's there by people who did nothing to harm him or the country he hails from?

Even if you accept the premise that American invlovement in, say, World War II was justified, how can you have so little respect for what your sons, fathers or neighbors accomplished and sacrificed in such a war that you would so cavalierly put them in some place where they face danger for no useful purpose?

I am thinking again about the story "Gunnar Berg" posted on his blog. How many people would refuse to fight, or set their "enemies" free if they could see the common humanity they share: That the desires and dreams of their enemies aren't so different from their own, and that perhaps their adversaries' children are, in some ways, like their own. Then perhaps they would understand the truism that war is between brothers. And that is the reason why nobody wins, ever.

Plus, in killing someone, you place him and whatever he represents above all else. Muhammad, as a result of his execution, will have had more attention paid to him than any of his victims ever had. And in a war, so much effort and materiel go into tracking down and killing "ememies" that those enemies take precedence over everything else--whether it's the economy, education or one's own loved ones

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