Help Wanted: Must be handy with a sword; dry-cleaning allowance negotiable (Updated)

Saudi Execution

Apply to the House of Saud. (from Yahoo)

As our “ally” ramps up their liquidation of their surplus population, they are advertising for 8 vacant executioner positions. They have already executed 85 people this year, for crimes ranging from apostasy, drug trafficking, rape, and murder. Applicants must also perform amputations on those convicted of thievery and other “lesser” crimes.

As I dug deeper, I cam across this informative if somewhat long article from Vox. “Why Saudi Arabia is poised to execute a dissident cleric and publicly display his corpse” explains the balancing act between the House of Saud and the Wahabist clerics and examines the history of this power-sharing arrangement. In a nutshell, the royal family depends on placating the clerics and executions are an effective way of letting them have their way.

From Vox:

“Sharia law does actual harm to the Saudi economy and thus the regime’s coffers, the monarchy has been hesitant to try to reform the religious courts.

“This situation puts Saudi Arabia at odds with the rest of the Arab world, where modernizing governments have steadily hemmed in religious courts,” Dickinson College historian David Commins writes. “It appears as though the Saudi rulers lack the confidence to challenge directly the Wahhabi ulama, perhaps from a sense that the dynasty’s claim to legitimacy is questionable.”

And don’t expect an end to beheadings soon. The Wahhabi establishment, and its harsh vision of criminal law, are deeply embedded in the Saudi state, and seen by the monarchy as essential for keeping itself in power.”

Personally, I am against the death penalty. That being said, there are certain people (Tookie Williams or the more recent example of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev come to mind) that I am not going to lose any sleep over. I just fundamentally have a problem with giving the State the power to execute its citizens. From a purely practical point of view, it is cheaper to just lock someone up and throw away the key than it is to fund the insanely drawn out appeals process. From a moral and ethical point of view, there are equal protection arguments at play. A 19 year old who makes the dumbest mistake of his life in practice does not get the same defense as OJ Simpson, and when the penalty at stake is a man’s life at the hands of the State, this disparity is not something that I can support.

While I abhor the Saudi system of “justice”, I will say that it has one thing going for it. It is public and gruesome. If we as a society are going to allow for state execution, it ought to be brought out of the shadows and the faux-clinical setting. Instead of hiding executions behind walls, we should be doing it in public. Beyond that, bring back firing squads. They are actually more humane than lethal injection, even if they are a bit messy.

If we do not want to witness the State taking a citizen’s life, or require that this death be “clean”, we must ask ourselves what it is we are doing, why we are doing it, and is it serving justice. If we can’t stomach the punishment, maybe we should reconsider what it is we are doing.


Update 5/21/15 09:30:

By sheer coincidence, George Will published a piece on the Death Penalty this morning. In Capital Punishment’s slow death  he describes the Conservative (in this case it largely overlaps with my Libertarian position):

The conservative case against capital punishment, which 32 states have, is threefold. First, the power to inflict death cloaks government with a majesty and pretense of infallibility discordant with conservatism. Second, when capital punishment is inflicted, it cannot later be corrected because of new evidence, so a capital punishment regime must be administered with extraordinary competence. It is, however, a government program. Since 1973, more than 140 people sentenced to death have been acquitted of their crimes (sometimes by DNA evidence), had the charges against them dismissed by prosecutors or have been pardoned based on evidence of innocence. For an unsparing immersion in the workings of the governmental machinery of death, read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Third, administration of death sentences is so sporadic and protracted that their power to deter is attenuated. And the expensive, because labyrinthine, legal protocols with which the judiciary has enveloped capital punishment are here to stay. Granted, capital punishment could deter: If overdue library books were punishable by death, none would be overdue. But many crimes for which death is reserved, including Tsarnaev’s crime of ideological premeditation, are especially difficult to deter.

His point about Government malfeasance and incompetence is also very poignant and is part of my personal opposition.


  1. Rick says:

    I’m not against the death penalty. I do think the rules for the type of evidence that can be used to get a defendant the death penalty aren’t strict enough. I don’t think simple circumstantial evidence is enough; it’s fine for a jail sentence that can be revoked if more evidence is found later, but it’s not good enough for something as final as death. I don’t think the death penalty should be permitted without eye witness testimony.

  2. David says:

    I am for the death penalty because it is far less cruel than caging a man for the rest of his life. If we are going to lock people up for life we must ask ourselves the “what” and why” type questions. If we are going to take away all that a man has let society own up to and do the deed in one clean swoop; don’t take away a man’s humanity a day at a time.

    And death by decapitation has got to be one of the fastest ways to die that is out there.

  3. Spencer says:

    For most of my life I was a proponent of the death penalty for certain crimes. Except for a few exceptions, I no longer support it because of the numerous instances where it was carried out only to learn many years later, though DNA testing, that the hapless executed person was innocent. In my opinion, we only should reserve the death penalty for crooked politicians and larcenous CEOs, bankers and Wall Street brokers. Given those individuals noticeable cowardice, the death penalty likely would be a deterrent and just might benefit society.

  4. Adrian says:

    “I don’t think the death penalty should be permitted without eye witness testimony.”

    Except that eyewitness testimony is no more reliable than circumstantial evidence.

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Help Wanted: Must be handy with a sword; dry-cleaning allowance negotiable (Updated)

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