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January 4, 2007

Shouldn't President Bush watch the uncut Saddam execution video?

This post about the Saddam execution video and death penalty aesthetics has drawn lots of traffic and lots of interesting comments about who should watch Saddam Hussein's final minutes.  Intriguingly, this New York Times article reports that President Bush has "not seen the video of the execution Saturday." 

Why not?  Doesn't he have a responsibility to watch this video, especially now that there is an international debate over what transpired? 

January 4, 2007 at 08:56 AM | Permalink


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The hand-wringing about the fate of a guy who had people put into industrial shredders feet first (nice touch)is stunning.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 4, 2007 9:15:55 AM

And the folks over a Volokh think that sarcasm never works. Nice point, Professor.

The suggestion that I have to jump certain hurdles set up by other people, and dependent on *their* moral beliefs, in order "validly" to have *my own* moral beliefs is simply ridiculous.

The President should watch the video if he wants and not watch it if he doesn't. And he can still support the death penalty (in this case or generally) just as validly either way.

Posted by: | Jan 4, 2007 9:17:05 AM

Why is that? What sort of democratic choices are we making in this country if we refused to even make informed decisions about the choices we make?

Judging by comments on CNN and on blogs, I think that a number of Americans that are generally pro-death penalty are pro-war see that this execution was a screw-up. It wasn’t the pseudo-hygienic executions that Americans are used to witnessing (I saw such executions on “Reno 911" and that movie with Susan Surrandon (sp) playing a nun). It looked like a haphazard, lynching. Thankfully, even if you are in favor of the death penalty (or the war), watching this video shows what our democratically-made decisions have brought us.

As to whether the president should watch this video, perhaps it doesn’t matter. The president has made it clear that he doesn’t really care about the means we use to achieve and end. He has Saddam’s pistol, which he intends to keep, regardless of its evidentiary value. However, most other Americans that support the death penalty as a facet of criminal justice (rather than an aspect of war) conceive of the death penalty as precisely the opposite of what was depicted on the video.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 4, 2007 10:05:38 AM

Maybe he keeled over drunk and his dog didn't wake him; or it conflicted with re-runs of "Leave it to Beaver". You do remember that on 9/11 he was more interested in finishing the children's book than on the WTC. But, I have no doubt that bush watched it; likely with some popcorn, joined by dick and rummy. Would he be affected? this is guy who executed women and retarded people. please.

Posted by: Bernie Kleinman | Jan 4, 2007 11:18:01 AM

^^^ How incredibly articulate and sincere. And people wonder about the fleeting respect for our profession. Hmmmm? Bernie, kindly take your hollow rhetoric elsewhere because it has no role in the marketplace. FWIW, it takes more courage to finish the book than to send children into a panic.

Posted by: SPD | Jan 4, 2007 11:32:23 AM

Bernie, In all fairness there is a difference between not paying attention to exogenous affairs in a democracy (i.e. acts of terrorism) and not paying attention to affairs on which one exercises some degree of choice.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 4, 2007 11:33:06 AM

SPD: "fleeting respect for our profession"? Attorneys have been excoriated for at least 500 years, so I doubt that I have done anything to exacerbate the situation. "Hollow rhetoric": perhaps, but accurate nevertheless.
"FWIW"? sorry no idea what that means.
Oh, yes, you are right. The reason he finished the book was so as not to worry the children. BTW: I have a bridge for sale between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Perhaps you would be interested in purchasing it?
S.cotus: the problem is that he pays too much attention - the wrong kind, mind you - to both exogenous and domestic affairs.

Posted by: Bernie Kleinman | Jan 4, 2007 12:50:08 PM

FWIW = "for what it's worth"
I agree that public opinion of lawyers is low, but there's no need to continue to prove them right.

Posted by: James Madison | Jan 4, 2007 4:06:35 PM

I don't think it really matters whether Bush watches it.

But I think it's very telling that his staff would publicly announce that he didn't. It conveys an "I couldn't care less" attitude.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jan 4, 2007 4:15:51 PM

Bush not watching the video doesn't convey an "I couldn't care less" attitude. It conveys an "avoid the problem" attitude. My 3-year-old does the same thing - if I close my eyes, everything goes away!

Posted by: Anon | Jan 5, 2007 1:18:11 AM

And now we know that the hanging has consequences. From the AP:

Boy hangs himself while apparently mimicking Saddam's execution
HOUSTON — A 10-year-old boy was apparently mimicking Saddam Hussein's execution when he hanged himself from a bunk bed, police and family members said.
Sergio Pelico was found dead Sunday in his apartment bedroom after watching a news report on the execution of the former Iraqi leader, said Webster Police Lt. Tom Claunch.
"Our gut reaction is that he was experimenting,'' Claunch said after officials spoke with family members. An autopsy of the fifth-grader's body was pending.
Julio Gustavo, Sergio's uncle, described the boy as happy and curious. He said Sergio had watched TV news with another uncle on Saturday and asked the uncle about Saddam's death.
"His uncle told him it was because Saddam was real bad,'' Gustavo said. "He (Sergio) said, 'OK.' And that was it.''
"I don't think he thought it was real,'' Gustavo said. "They showed them putting the noose around his neck and everything. Why show that on TV?''
Sergio's mother, Sara Pelico DeLeon, was at work Sunday and her children were being watched by a relative when one of them found Sergio's body, Gustavo said.
Police said the boy had tied a slipknot around his neck while on a bunk bed. Sergio had been upset about not getting a Christmas gift from his father, police said, but they don't believe he intentionally killed himself. Gustavo said the boy's father lives in New Jersey.
Family members held a memorial for the boy Wednesday in the apartment complex activity center. Gustavo said the family is trying to put together enough money to send Sergio's body to Guatemala for burial.

Posted by: Tragic | Jan 5, 2007 12:11:12 PM

I comment as a death penalty supporter and someone who watched the illicit execution video. I was disappointed by how that execution was carried out, but the images in no way changed my support for executing those who, with premeditation, wrongfully take a human life. Such executions should be carried out in a reasonably humane way, but need not be painless or visually pleasing.

It also seems reasonable to note that Saddam was a vicious dictator who ruled by force and fear. It does not make it proper, but does render it understandable, that some of those present at his execution who also suffered under his regime might look for one last chance to verbalize their disgust.

I must also say that I find the rantings of Mr. Kleinman quite pathetic. Especially his equating "women" with "retarded people."

Posted by: Trent | Jan 5, 2007 6:41:56 PM

Trent, you miss the point. A civilized society does not engage in the state taking a human life. It descends the ladder even more when the weak are executed. Executing women, the mentally deficient, the young, are all further heinous exaggerations of an uncivilized policy. If this be "ranting", so be it. As to Saddam being a viscious dictator - many of his policies were carried out with our complicity or purposeful turning of a blind eye towards them. We should be ashamed of this act; as we should be ashamed of the dolt occupying the White House.

Posted by: Bernie Kleinman | Jan 6, 2007 9:04:34 AM

Mr. Kleinman, I'm not sure I buy that a "civilized society" is simply whatever you say it is. If you want to define it based on not killing anyone via state power, that's fine and you're entitled to your opinion. But, of course, in the real world that excludes pretty much every society--certainly every large, complex society--whether by capital punishment or warfare.

I certainly don't buy that someone is a "dolt" simply because you say it's so. I'm not a huge fan of our current President, but I do believe he's probably smarter and a better leader than either of the last two Democratic Party alternatives.

Posted by: Trent | Jan 8, 2007 2:49:33 PM

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