Current dilemmas facing the US are the death penalty (see Troy Davis) and the killing of Anwar al Awlaki. In light of these events and when considering our laws, Government stances, and public discourse I can’t help but turn to Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”.
In my younger and more impressionable days I sided with the use of death penalty as justified punishment: detestable human-beings deserved to forfeit their lives. Looking a bit further I found that States often convict criminals who are later found innocent, witnesses lie, evidence is faked, new evidence is found, trial processes have flaws, and so much more. Criminal court cases can prove tenuous and confusing. Given inherent error with rebuilding the past, the death penalty is hard to stand-by and the associated monetary costs are abhorrent.
Yet, there are times when we can say with 99.98% certainty that this criminal committed a most heinous crime and evidence proves it beyond a shadow of the doubt. Locked up, tried, and found guilty: is it then OK to kill? Perhaps, if the risk of escape is high and the opportunity for the criminal to commit further human harm is also high. In US society though, in maximum security prison, that chance is extremely low. The purpose of the death penalty then becomes what, revenge/justice? Does it assuage relatives or friends of the victims? Does it gain justice for the victim? Is it not enough that the convicted is locked up for life? Is blood for blood the right and only answer? At what point must we become murders? Individually, these are questions we need to ask ourselves. My preference stands with, what I’d like to believe, the moral high-ground. Namely that murdering the incarcerated is plainly wrong. Attempts to reason superfluous killing of another human-being falls short, reasons for capital punishment do nothing to improve society but rather damage our integrity and humanity.
Then there is the murder of Anwar al Awlaki, taking shape in a more muddy and shoddy form. International law, The Constitution, Rules of War, Government secrecy, and conspiracy blend to create a confusing episode. Not entirely obvious are the facts Obama and his defense (really offense) staff had at their disposal. At many points it feels like Bush-era we’re going into Iraq cause we know they have WMDs. In Awlakis case it doesn’t sound like a third-party arbitrator or judge/judicial panel was consulted (just legal professionals). Certainly, Awlaki was denied legal representation. Awlaki’s death, on top of Guantanamo and CIA prison-cells in Somalia, make for patriotic discomfort and bad-taste nonpareil. When the facts come to light I bet we won’t be comfy and cozy with the truth, rather it will rival Cambodia bombings, Iran-Contra, and the like. Or maybe, Awlaki was a treasonous war-criminal, plain and simple. Unfortunately, secrecy keeps us in the dark and many US citizens could care less.