‘Chemical Ali’ goes to meet his maker
He was notoriously responsible for the gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988, in which around 5000 men, women and children were murdered. He was also implicated in the murder of thousands of Shi’a Muslims in the Sadr City district of Baghdad in 1999. His capacity for genocide and crimes against humanity puts him among the world’s most notorious tyrants. And now he has gone to meet Allah.
Cranmer is not in favour of the death penalty.
But not dogmatically so.
There are some who might deserve it.
When one has tortured, slaughtered and butchered so many innocent people, why should one not be executed?
Yet the state-sanctioned killing of people like ‘Chemical Ali’ pushes many on the Left to ideological consternation.
It has been said numerous times (whichever party is in power) that ‘the British government does not support the use of the death penalty (in Iraq or anywhere else). We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime.’
But today you will not hear much opposition in the UK to the hanging of ‘Chemical Ali’.
Is it because he is Muslim?
Or because his name has been rendered quite literally toxic?
It is a serious question.
If we were talking about the execution of Alistair Hardcastle, the Prime Minister would doubtless issue the usual condemnation. But we are concerned here with one Ali Hassan al-Majid.
And the sanctity of his life might not be quite so inviolable.
In the UK, the Left generally berate anyone on the Right who supports capital punishment: they are, quite naturally, 'extremist'. Yet the hypocrisy of the Left is manifest when most of them hold the morally vacuous position of opposing it domestically while justifying exemptions in other countries (usually by going Trappist).
Cranmer recalls Tony Blair’s silence on the news that Saddam Hussein had been hanged. With his typically inimitable ‘Third Way’ resolution of an otherwise intractable dichotomy, he appeared to simultaneously hold mutually-exclusive positions. Margaret Beckett said on his behalf:
I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation.
It is a curious moral philosophy which can simultaneously welcome the fact that Ali Hassan al-Majid ‘has now been held to account’ whilst insisting that the United Kingdom, along with the rest of the European Union, opposes the death penalty in all circumstances.
Or are there exceptions?