Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has appealed for Saddam Hussein's life to be spared, saying the deposed Iraqi president was not beyond redemption.Living in peace with others demands certain conduct. Fall outside that conduct (as in the case of Saddam, whose hands are drenched in the blood of thousands) and one makes one's self not only the enemy of one's specific victims, but of all mankind.
"The death penalty is said to fulfill a preventive function, yet it is clearly a form of revenge," the Nobel peace laureate told reporters as he ended a two-week visit to Japan.
"However horrible an act a person may have committed, everyone has the potential to improve and correct himself," he said.
"I hope that in the case of Saddam Hussein, as with all others, that human life will be respected and spared."
An Iraqi court sentenced Saddam, ousted in a US-led invasion in 2003, to hang on November 5 for the deaths of 148 Shiites in an Iraqi village in 1982, after an attempt to assassinate him.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he expected Saddam to be hanged before the end of the year. [Agence France Presse]
Why then should either Saddam's victims or mankind itself tolerate Saddam's continued presence on this earth? Saddam's departure punishes the man for his wicked acts, and relives the peaceable men of the world from having to contend with his further existence. If some future dictator is deterred by Saddam's demise, all the sweeter, but putting Saddam down by itself is its own reward.
So why argue against putting Saddam to death for his crimes? The Dalai Lama says that even a man like Hussein has potential. Perhaps he does, yet the Dalai Lama's hope of his potential nature in no way outweighs the demands of his actual nature. So vicious was this nature-so brutal and threatening were his crimes-that Saddam hardly deserved the pretense of the trail that he did receive. Saddam, as dictator of Iraq, was the weapon of mass destruction. America's declaration of force was all the due process he deserved. Once captured and his identity confirmed, Saddam should have been summarily executed, and his memory relegated to the ash heap of history. Sic semper tyrannis.
And thus we move to the question of justice for the Dalai Lama, who gets much better press than he deserves, in no part due to the infatuation of some in the West toward his brand of Buddhist mysticism. The Dalai Lama's supporters claim that he is a man of peace, yet how does calling for a murderer to go half-punished achieve peace-not of the spiritual kind that comes from spinning a prayer wheel all day-but the practical, this-worldly kind that comes from being free from those who think their mere existence gives them the right to subjugate and kill you? The Dalai Lama's fellow Tibetans have suffered brutally under the hands of the Chinese, and yet the experience has not make their spiritual leader more sensitive toward the plight of people who also have suffered equally at the hands of other nationalist regimes. In fact, the Dalai Lama's altruistic creed all but damns the victims of cruelty to continued injustice and misery.
At root, Saddam's many victims (including the families of every American killed in the effort to dethrone him) deserve the opportunity to move on with their lives knowing that one of the key leaders behind their suffering is no more, having been expunged from this earth by a firm and just people. Shame on anyone for standing in the way of this righteous justice.