We’re No Better than the Terrorists

You may have read that an al-Qaeda-linked group of rebels in Syria recently beheaded a man by accident and have apologized. My research doesn’t explain to whom they apologized. Was it to his fellow rebels, or to his family? If it was the family, I bet they took the apology (I always accept apologies from murderous thugs with scimitars) but would have preferred something in a head.

The problem with beheadings is optics. You pick up the wrong guy’s head, you’re going to look foolish. Even if it’s the “right” guy’s head, it’s a freaking head. Makes you look a little brutal.

Here in the States, we do things in a more civilized fashion. We inject people with something so they can’t feel excruciating pain, then something so they can’t move, so even if they wake up and start feeling the excruciating pain, who can tell, since they can’t move? Then the third injection kills them. Or it’s a single shot, gets it all done without all the dancing around. There’s less muss, less holding up heads, just another body on a slab. Also, justice.

Unless we got the wrong guy. Call me a stickler, but I think the whole justice system is flawed. You sometimes get the wrong guy, so maybe you shouldn’t do anything permanent like kill him. It’s a sound argument against capital punishment.

But what if you get the “right” guy? The horrible mass-murderer, say, or someone you think was fighting for the other side? Or a drug kingpin? Or someone whose gun went off during a fight (white vigilantes excluded)? It depends on how tough on crime some politician wants to be, or what part of the country you’re in. Still, for many people there is a “right” guy to execute, and usually it’s someone who seems to have done horrible things.

I say don’t kill the miserable bastard. Why? Because killing is wrong. American moralists like Larry Flynt agree with me. We just killed the guy who tried to assassinate Flynt because the porno mag he publishes depicts interracial couples. He shot Flynt and left him paralyzed, and also killed a bunch of less famous people, for awful, racist reasons. This is the “right” guy to kill. Please note that when I put “right” in quotations, I’m implying that “right” isn’t right. (Similar to the way the New York Times talks about Iran’s “rights,” but that’s a different rant.) Flynt has said he’d like to exact revenge, but he sees the difference between justice and revenge. We all want revenge, but giving the government the power to kill isn’t justice, it’s just feel-good murder. I don’t care how much you want to kill some evil creepl; don’t kill.

If you kill the “right” people, you become a killer state. And then, when al-Qaeda or China kills people they say are the “right” people, who are we to tell them they’re wrong? You kill people and you give up the moral high ground. Isn’t moral high ground better than revenge?

Don’t like that argument? Okay, then there’s the whole “sometimes we execute the wrong guy” thing. It’s bad when Al-Qaeda does it; it’s bad when we do it. It’s like the problem with drone strikes. When someone straps a bomb to his chest and blows up a bunch of people he sees as invaders, we call it terrorism. When we kill people with flying robots, we call it “the War on Terror.” Outside of our bubble of self righteousness, a lot of people just see killing as killing.

Killing is killing. There’s a commandment against it, not to mention a few laws, so stop it. Look, you people didn’t stop using water bottles, so now it’s time to stop capital punishment.