I just want to take the opportunity to state, once again, my complete, utter, and exception-free opposition to the death penalty, even when the executed is Saddam Hussein.
There is never, in my opinion, a justifiable use of the death penalty. I firmly believed this in the case of Timothy McVeigh, and I firmly believe it today.
The death penalty serves absolutely no purpose. It is not a deterrent; to pretend otherwise is to lie about actual motives for insisting upon capital punishment.
The death penalty is about revenge. People talk about "closure," but I submit that for the family of a murdered victim, there is no "closure," or if there is, it has nothing to do with the death of the murderer. Closure, if closure there be, is something that is personal and that each person will find--or not find--on his or her own. The hanging of a perpetrator does not bring the victim back. It does not allow a grieving family, or a grieving society, to experience--nor even to imagine any more fully--the years, experiences, dreams, growth, strivings, even disappointments, of which the victim has been robbed. All an execution accomplishes is a sense of getting revenge.
And revenge is not something the state should encourage. It is among the lowest of the low emotionally-induced actions. Law exists in part because we cannot, as a civilized society, give in to the desire for revenge. Just because revenge is, at times, state-sanctioned does not make it justifiable. Indeed, it arguably feeds blood-lust.
In the case of Saddam Hussein, execution may well fuel another horrific cycle of increased violence. His trial was a sham. The crime for which he was tried was chosen in order to sidestep all the ways in which the United States aided and abetted him throughout the years, before the US decided to single him out as the newest Hitler. The United States was just about as implicated in some of his worst crimes--the gassing of the Kurds, for example--as it is possible to be. Thus, his execution at our hands is hypocritical and cynical as well as immoral.
Beyond the particulars of Saddam's case, however, this I believe is true: it is never, ever justifiable or morally correct for the state to execute a person. And revenge is not an emotion that should ever be reinforced or encouraged, if we wish to strive for a moral and civilized society.