How About 'Please Go to Hell'?


I do and don't understand the dismay at the behavior of witnesses to Saddam Hussein's hanging. On the one hand, it's a sad commentary on the state of Iraq's security forces that the government was unable to find a few guards disciplined enough to keep their mouths shut during the execution instead of shouting "Go to hell!" and chanting "Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!" (One of the guards reportedly has been arrested, not for his disorderly conduct but for recording the scene on his cell phone.) On the other hand, I'm a little puzzled by the expectation that one really should be polite to a gentleman one is about to kill. A prosecutor who was present at the hanging implored Saddam's hecklers, "'Please, no. The man is about to be executed.'" Well, yeah. He's being executed because he's a savage mass murderer. Does suggesting his ultimate destination go too far, rendering his punishment excessive?

No, the taunts bother people because they're undignified and emotional, revealing too much about the true nature of the event, which is a dressed-up, cold-blooded version of vengeance, prescribed and limited by law. They bother people for the same reason we don't have public executions anymore, with crowds gathering to jeer and cheer after a nice picnic lunch. But what is the right way to kill a man who deserves to be killed? Calmly, professionally, and rationally, or angrily and triumphantly, while shouting "die, motherfucker, die"?