Europe Condemns McVeigh Executiongreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
from cnn: June 11, 2001 Posted: 11:56 AM EDT (1556 GMT)
LONDON, England -- Europeans condemned the U.S. execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as barbaric and blood-thirsty. The criticism came on the eve of U.S. President George W. Bush's first official visit to the continent.
The president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly condemned Monday's execution as "sad, pathetic and wrong."
Lord Russel-Johnston said the execution gave McVeigh the notoriety he sought and called on the United States to reconsider the use of the death penalty.
"Timothy McVeigh was a cold-blooded murderer. He will not be missed. But the way he died was sad, pathetic and wrong," said Russel-Johnston in a statement.
"It demonstrated the futility of capital punishment to act as a deterrent, giving him the notoriety he sought in committing this horrendous crime.
"It is high time the United States rethought its attitude to the death penalty and aligned its position with the great majority of the free and democratic world."
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International said the execution was a triumph of vengeance over justice.
In Italy, where Pope John Paul II had joined with human rights groups in appealing in vain for Bush to spare McVeigh's life, there were protests outside the U.S. embassy.
A Paris-based group opposed to the death penalty described McVeigh's execution as "useless and ridiculous."
The execution was also heavily criticised in Spain, Germany and Portugal.
In a statement, Amnesty said the execution was a failure of human rights leadership in the highest levels of government in the U.S.
"By executing the first federal death row prisoner in nearly four decades, the U.S. has allowed vengeance to triumph over justice and distanced itself yet further from the aspirations of the international community," the statement said.
McVeigh was killed by lethal injection for the deaths of 168 people when he bombed a government office building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Amnesty said many of the 152 state executions that occurred during Bush's governorship of Texas were in breach of international standards, such that some European media have dubbed him a "serial executioner."
"By refusing to step in and impose a moratorium on federal executions, he has further damaged his country's reputation," the Amnesty statement said.
The head of a France-based group fighting the death penalty around the world called the execution "useless and ridiculous" and predicted it would spur debate about ending capital punishment in the U.S.
"I don't think the execution of Timothy McVeigh will change the problems of America," said Michel Taube, president of Together Against the Death Penalty.
"The question was: does the execution avoid a new Timothy McVeigh .... Unfortunately, the answer is no," Taube told the Associated Press.
Taube's group is organising the first worldwide congress against the death penalty June 21-23 in Strasbourg, expected to feature a call for a moratorium on capital punishment to be made from the chambers of the European Parliament.
For Taube, McVeigh's execution shows that the death penalty "is absurd and useless and ridiculous ...."
"When a man kills, and especially when he kills 170 people, there is no equivalent. It serves no one for the state and the criminal to outbid each other over death."
Sentiment against the death penalty is strong in France, which abolished capital punishment in 1981.
The last person executed in the European Union was killed by guillotine in France in 1977.
The McVeigh case presented an opportunity for the U.S. government to cease their support of a policy "that allows the murderer to set society's moral tone by imitating what it seeks to condemn," said Amnesty.
"Instead, the U.S. government has put its official stamp of approval on this policy; killing, it says, is an appropriate response to killing."
Pepe Mejia, spokesman for a Spanish group planning protests against Bush's stop in Madrid, told Reuters: "This (the death penalty) doesn't solve anything. The politics aren't based on justice."
In Berlin, the German government released a statement saying it "remains opposed to the death penalty, including as far as the execution of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh is concerned."
But it added: "This does not imply any kind of sympathy with the perpetrators of this awful crime."
Antonio Maria Pereira, president of the Portuguese human rights group Law and Justice said: "The death penalty is a barbarism inappropriate to our times."
America's use of capital punishment puts it ethically at odds with its European allies, who have all banned it.
Many Europeans are puzzled that a nation parading itself as a model of democracy and human rights continues to carry out death sentences.
"The death penalty is a barbarism inappropriate to our times," Antonio Maria Pereira, president of the Portuguese human rights group Law and Justice, told Reuters.
Sergio D'Elia, secretary of a protest group that demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Rome, said: "McVeigh committed a horrible crime. What he did or why he did it is not being discussed -- what is being discussed is the death sentence."
"Bush has built his race to the White House on a road paved with those have been put to death," she added.
-- At Least the Rest of the World (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 11, 2001
It won't make you even, it won't bring them back
-- Elvis Costello (email@example.com), June 11, 2001.
The death penalty may be "barbarism", but in the USA it is popular barbarism. The Europeans just can't seem to get that through their heads.
When it was discovered recently that DNA evidence exonerated several convicted inmates on Death Row, the public seemed to be glad that some innocent guys were released. But it is equally obvious that the public quietly accepts that the government kills a certain number of innocent people each year. They don't care enough to keep them alive - if that means giving up the death penalty at the same time.
Obviously, being carped at by Europeans isn't enough to change Americans minds about the death penalty.
So, here's a valid question:
If you accept the death penalty as a useful tool of justice, what would it take to change your mind and decide it wasn't worth it?
-- Little Nipper (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 11, 2001.
Don't you think tnat capital punishment advocates will use DNA evidence as justification for future executions of those who have been scientifically shown to be guilty. Would that be enough to "change your mind"? Of course not.
As far as European judgements of American justice, I say "gimme $.25 and I'll call someone who gives a shit". These are the same nations who gave us the 20th century mass-murder ideologies of Communism and Naziism. Who are they to lecture anyone else?
-- Lars (email@example.com), June 11, 2001.
I agree. Europeans telling us what to do won't cut any ice with me, either. We gotta figure this one out on our own.
DNA evidence is already admissable in courts, so it is already being used in death penalty cases. And, yup, no doubt the prosecuters are referring to it as scientifically clinching the defendent's guilt - so I'm not sure about your point.
I was asking the question as a clarifying tool. If you discovered , for example, that the justice system was just a front for a CIA operation that manufactured evidence of guilt of crimes in order to prosecute political dissidents, and the most effective dissidents were framed for death penalty offenses, would it change your mind?
Of course this is a fantasy - a hypothetical case from past the fringe. But, if you discovered that, say 3% of executed criminals were innocent would it matter? What about 12%? What if you discovered that, of the innocents who were convicted, all of them shared some innocent trait like illiteracy? What if you shared that trait in common with the innocents that were exectued?
Just what would it take in the way of injustice associated with the death penalty to make you want to bag it, because the price didn't cover the cost?
-- Little Nipper (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 11, 2001.
I used to believe that the death penalty was justified in certain cases, but I no longer believe this. It wasn't an argument that changed my mind, or an overnight experience. It was a gradual realization that violence as a tool of punishment is incompatible with a civilized nation.
McVeigh was sent to Iraq to avenge Saddam Hussein's violence. There he saw firsthand that the Iraqi people were just like us -- loved their children and families and countrymen just as we do. He perceived the U.S. military as a bully toward Iraq, and later perceived the feds as bullies at Waco and Ruby Ridge. To avenge these perceived violent injustices, he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma and murdered 168 people. Ever since then, he has taken pains to couch his language in military terms, reminding us that America bombs and destroys civilians overseas and cavalierly calls it "collateral damage."
In return for his violent retribution, the government today sought its own revenge. And thus the cycle of violence and revenge is perpetuated.
It is up to the government to stop the cycle, to end the violence, to stop seeking violent means to punish violent ends.
When one realizes that nonviolence is the bedrock of any true spiritual life, then one can no longer perceive the death penalty as viable in any situation. When we can stop avenging those who have wronged us, we are imitating Christ, the master of nonviolence. All great spiritual masters have taught nonviolence as fundamental to any mature spiritual understanding -- nonviolence toward humans and animals and this planet we call home.
Further, when one perceives that God is in all of us, and that we are all of God, then to kill any person is to commit violence against God and against ourselves. A bit of all of us died today spiritually in Terra Haute, Ind.
Finally, I believe we can learn much from Europe. Yes, it saw fascism and Naziism, but also saw the means to overcome them, and to learn from such state-sponsored violence. Europe has given us wars, and it has also given us Beethovan, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, and Goethe, as well as most of the luminous philosophical minds of the last five hundred years.
Our fascination with execution is more akin to that of Muslim extremist nations than our western allies. We are still young as a nation, and our infatuation with violence, even state-sponsored murder, is perhaps a raw outgrowth of our adolescence. (It was only a hundred and fifty years ago that we engaged in the real "single largest terrorist act on American soil" -- the genocide of thousands of Native Americans.) Instead of thumbing our noses at our neighbors across the Atlantic, perhaps we might learn from the voices of our western ancesters overseas and take counsel from their long history of violence and peace.
-- Moratorium on the Death Penalty (email@example.com), June 11, 2001.
Victims of the McVeigh Bombing.
-- (Paracelsus@Pb.Au), June 11, 2001.
The spectacle aspect of this execution is a throwback to an unpleasant past of public hangings. It's a reminder of the coarsening effect on public values of state-sanctioned killings, which usually take place far out of public view.
The wide interest - almost enthusiasm - in this execution is due to the magnitude and malevolence of Mr. McVeigh's crime, his lack of contrition, and his hatred of federal power. With so many Americans supporting this final resolution, those who oppose the death penalty may feel defensive. They needn't.
Since 1976, when the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty as constitutional (under strict standards), 707 individuals have been put to death by states. McVeigh's will be the first federal execution since 1963.
But some states are now considering a temporary halt to executions after many death-row inmates were found to be innocent or inadequately defended. One state, Illinois, has a death-penalty moratorium.
Such doubts are a valid starting point for rethinking capital punishment. But they're just a start. Society has more at stake in this issue than the risk of wrongful executions.
A civilization's core reason for existence lies in its ability to uphold the sanctity of life and perpetuate it. How much is that purpose diminished when the state executes criminals for reasons of justice? It's worth looking at those reasons in this case:
Avenging the wrong done to victims and the harm done to their families. Ending the life of someone who takes life so coldly is seen as the ultimate act of retribution. Some family members of the Oklahoma City bombing victims understandably seek closure to their hatred of McVeigh by having him die. Some doubt the execution will settle anything for them.
But one father whose daughter died in the blast, Bud Welch, has become a fervent campaigner against the death penalty. He has said he realized his initial desire to see the bomber dead sprang from the same sources as the bombing itself - hatred and vengeance. He decided he didn't want to perpetuate those motives, which rely on the archaic eye-for-an-eye sense of justice.
Trying to find finality in the death of another human being is to treat criminals the same way they treat their victims: as unworthy objects. Where's the healing in that?
A deterrent to crime. The death penalty may give some would-be murderers second thoughts. Most experts doubt it does; death-penalty states have higher murder rates. If anything, the threat may make a murderer desperate to kill if trapped. And it's unlikely to keep fanatics like McVeigh from terrorist acts. He saw himself as an avenger against government actions like the federal attack on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Now he seems to welcome being a martyr in hopes his cause will rise again and inspire future martyrs. So much for deterrence.
A penalty befitting the crime. Meting out a punishment that somehow matches the severity of the crime is the basis for most sentencing of criminals. For McVeigh, whose act was the most heinous in US history in terms of loss of life, just taking his life will hardly measure up. For most murderers, a life behind bars would be a daunting punishment. That's almost certainly the case for McVeigh.
He should remain in a cell for life, compelled to discover a conscience, and perhaps compelled to recognize that he, too, can stand for the sanctity of life within the very society he so perversely thought he was correcting by killing federal workers and others. His execution means that both he and the government will have one thing in common: They both kill to prevent a society from killing its own.
Finally, beyond these reasons for capital punishment in the name of justice lies a simple dictum that has stood the test of nearly 3,000 years.
It's a four-word commandment, brought down from Horeb by Moses, that continues to challenge mankind:
"Thou shalt not kill."
-- Christian (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 11, 2001.
LN, I think the key may be in your phrase, "the government kills a certain number of innocent people each year."
Suppose that everyone eligible to serve Jury Duty was also eligible to serve "Execution Duty." A person would be called to "pull the switch" no more than once, but there'd be no deferral. The person to be executed might be someone you had or had not heard of, convicted on evidence you never saw and for a crime you may or not feel warrants the death penalty.
If this is found to be morally unacceptable, then I don't see how our government's carrying out the death penalty could be viewed as morally acceptable.
-- David L (email@example.com), June 11, 2001.
Well said LN.
-- poppy (dumbya@ate.HisDad), June 11, 2001.