(By Ray D.)
Majorities in USA and Europe Favor Saddam Execution
The recent results of a poll conducted by Novatris/Harris for the French daily Le Monde on the death penalty shocked the editors and writers at Germany's left-leaning SPIEGEL ONLINE. When asked whether they favored the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, a majority of respondents in Germany, France and Spain responded in the affirmative. Here the results by country:
Percentage of respondents in favor of executing Saddam Hussein:
Great Britain: 69%
Clearly, there is a gap between the United States and the European nations polled. On the other hand, the western Europeans polled demonstrated that there is majority support for the death penalty in particular cases. In other words, the gap that exists across the Atlantic is not at all the clear-cut, "black-white" divide that some in media make it out to be.
Die Zeit: "The Europeans condemn the use of the death penalty" / Do they? The poll numbers above contradict that assumption.
Frankfurter Allgemeine: "President Bush praised the execution, from Europe came sharp criticism." / A tempting -and in the media oft used- opportunity to again pit "Europe" against Bush. A more intellectually honest headline would have pointed out that the majority of the criticism coming from "Europe" has emanated from a tiny media-political elite. The rest of society is evenly divided.
ZDF Heute Online: "Bush Welcomes Saddam's Execution - Criticism from Europe: Divided Reactions to Death Penalty: US President George W. Bush greeted the execution of Saddam Hussein as a milestone on the way to a democratic Iraq. In contrast, criticism came from European countries and human rights organizations - they reject the death penalty as a matter of principle." / ZDF is clearly attempting to create an "us versus them" - "Europe versus Bush and America" wedge issue out of the death penalty. This piece also totally ignores the opinions of the average German.
Deutsche Welle: "Europe condemns death penalty" / But what about the more than half the population in Germany and other European nations that does not condemn it in Saddam's case? Do they simply not matter? Do they somehow not exist for certain media-political elites? Why are their views systematically ignored?
Sueddeutsche published a piece entitled: "Worldwide Sharp Criticism of the Execution." The piece goes nation by nation and lists criticisms as if they represented the view of the entire country. It does not mention poll results that indicate majorities in many of the same countries actually favored Saddam's execution.
Other media outlets, including Financial Times Deutschland and even SPIEGEL ONLINE have actually treated the death penalty question as a debate instead of falsely claiming that an imaginary, monolithic "Europe" has "sharply criticized" Saddam's execution. Another major theme in most of the Western media is that Saddam's execution does not help Iraq - in other words, more of the usual pessimism.
Additionally, there has long been a heated debate on the death penalty in the United States. Several U.S. states do not legally permit executions or do not make (wide) use of them. From the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s, executions came to a near standstill in the United States, in part because of legal challenges which culminated in the Supreme Court's 1972 Furman vs. Georgia decision. Recently, a botched execution in Florida led Republican Governor Jeb Bush to suspend the death penalty as a federal judge in California imposed a moratorium halting executions in that state.
Put another way: There is a lively debate on the death penalty on both sides of the Atlantic, with significant numbers and powerful factions on either side. Unfortunately, many in the German media have made death penalty out to be a divisive, "good versus evil" wedge issue. This stems in part from the transatlantic legal contrast: Most European nations have banned the death penalty while it remains legal in much of the United States.
The desire in influential segments of German media and society to reduce the death penalty to the level of a transatlantic wedge issue is also deeply rooted in another key factor: Ideology. The far-left in Germany is a political force to be reckoned with. Its representatives dominate wide swaths of the media, academia and certain political parties including the SPD, Greens and the PDS. Not only do representatives of the far-left reject the death penalty in all cases (putting them at odds with many ordinary Germans), they also oppose American-style free-market capitalism, smaller, less restrictive government, and the projection of American power in the world. This movement consists largely of an assortment of 68-radicals (including ex-Maoists, Leninists, RAF sympathizers, and your run-of-the mill Socialist demonstrators); ex-eastern-bloc-Communists; young people radicalized through academia, media and far-left political parties and movements; and out-and-out America-haters. Quite honestly, these folks would have rejected the execution of Hitler and Eichmann just as they reject the execution of Saddam. Ironically, they see the issue as a "black-and-white" - "with us or against us" issue. (Sound familiar?)
Nonetheless the death penalty remains contentious. Conservatives, libertarians and European Liberale, who traditionally favor a less powerful, less intrusive government, must ask themselves if they trust the state to determine who should live and who should die. Furthermore, they must consider whether the death penalty in the United States has become so legally contentious (filled with endless appeals, challenges and expenses) that it is practically (if not also ethically) questionable?
These are the debates that citizens on both sides of the Atlantic should be having with one another and not against one another, as many on the far-left would have it. The real "wedge", in this and many other cases, is not a transatlantic one. The real "wedge" is and has long been firmly lodged between the Angry left and the rest of society.
As the poll numbers above demonstrate, the peoples of the United States and Europe are not nearly as far apart on the death penalty as some would have us believe. Sadly, in a media culture that thrives on creating new controversies and divisions and exacerbating old ones (whether real or imagined) you might never know it.
UPDATE: Watch the full Saddam execution here:
A quick and painless death for a tyrant responsible for the murder and torture of so many.
UPDATE #2: Another poll conducted for the far-left publication stern confirms that significantly more Germans support the death penalty for Saddam than oppose it. The results of that poll:
In favor of executing Saddam: 50%
Against executing Saddam: 39%
Don't know: 11%
Stern graphic: "No Mercy for Saddam: Should the death penalty be enforced against Saddam Hussein?"
Stern may be a populist, trashy, anti-American media outlet, but they sure can put together a good graphic!