Friday, October 28, 2011

"Off with their heads!" (New York Times op-ed/Qaddafi version)

Historian Simon Bebag Montefiore has an op-ed gushing over the edifying spectacle of disposing of dictators by lynch-murder in the respectable Gray Lady, the New York Times, Dictators Get the Deaths They Deserve 10/26/2011. His flimsy justification:

The problem with such dictatorships is that as long as the tyrant lives, he reigns and terrorizes. As Churchill put it, "dictators ride to and fro upon tigers from which they dare not dismount."

Only death can end both the spell to bewitch and the prerogative to dominate - and sometimes, not even death can snuff out power. "The terror inspired by Caligula’s reign," wrote Suetonius, "could be judged by the sequel." Romans were so terrified of the emperor that it was not enough to assassinate him. They wanted to see him dead: fearing it was a trick and lacking cellphone footage, they had to be convinced. The mile-long line of Libyans who were keen to see Colonel Qaddafi'’s cadaver in its shop-refrigerator-tomb would understand this perfectly.
If what one wants is to strenthen the rule of law, as opposed to providing opportunities for the voyeurism that has always drawn eager crowds to public executions, the approach Argentina has taken toward officials who committed gruesome crimes during El Proceso, the military dictatorship of 1976-83, works much better. They give them the kind of fair trials they denied their victims. And if they are convicted in a court of law that produces sufficient evidence of their crimes, they are sent to prison. For a very recent example, see Argentina's "Angel of Death" sent to prison CBS News 10/26/2011. Here's a report on the case from Euronews (YouTube date 10/27/2011):

Glenn Greenwald has some useful thoughts about the corrosive effects of disposing of our Bad Enemies through summary execution in A remaining realm of American excellence Salon 10/22/2011.

Simon Montefiore obviously prefers the spectacle of lynch-mob justice.

I prefer to see the Argentines in the Euronews video above cheering for justice being done under the rule of law.

I hope one day that we also see those American officials responsible for torture crimes and illegal assassinations face justice in US courts.

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