International Noose

By Art Buchwald
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hanging a war criminal is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

The Iraqi High Tribunal said that Saddam Hussein should be hanged for killing 148 Kurds. People have been hanged for a lot less and also a lot more.

First of all, I wish to set something straight. There are many ways of hanging someone. There is the short drop, the suspension drop, the standard drop and the long drop. Each has its advantages.

India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Singapore and the United States all have a history of hanging. The short drop, which frankly I don't care for, places a condemned person on the back of a cart, horse or other vehicle with the noose around his neck. The vehicle is then moved away, leaving the person dangling from the rope. Before 1850 it was the most popular method used, and is still widely used in Middle Eastern countries.

The standard drop involves a drop of between four to six feet and came into use in the 19th century. It was considered an advance over the short drop.

The long drop was introduced in 1872 by William Marwood as a scientific advancement. Instead of everyone falling the same standard distance, the person's weight was used to determine how much slack was provided in the rope, so that the distance dropped would be enough to ensure that the neck was broken.

I won't go into the medical effects of hanging, other than to say if done correctly there would not be a lot of pain.

Saddam Hussein had his day in court -- a lot of days in court. And although he was sentenced to the gallows for crimes against humanity, they were religious as well as sectarian slaughters. The tribunal felt they would have more luck if they tried him for 148 Kurds than all the different Iraqis that everyone knew he had killed.

You would think with a sentence handed down that everybody would be happy, but instead the world was split between those who thought the sentence was a fair one and others who were against the death penalty.

Countries in the Middle East believe in hanging and still practice it.

Western countries might agree with the death penalty, but not by hanging.

I watched Hussein -- he made a lot of noise at his trial. Actually, he was a lousy prisoner. At the beginning of the trial, I thought he made a case for himself. But as days went by, it was obvious he was putting on a show and he wanted the whole world to know that his atrocities were not as bad as the court said they were.

As usual, the United States was in the worst mess because, although it captured Hussein, it felt if he were hanged he would be made into a martyr. In the United States, there is very little hanging going on, and when you have capital punishment it is either by lethal injection or the electric chair.

And then there are the polls. Eighty-five percent say he should be hanged. Ten percent are for life imprisonment, and 5 percent say they are undecided.

Here is where I stand. I'm for the long drop over the standard one, as long as the punishment fits the crime.

2006Tribune Media Services

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