US policy on killing is confusing

With its unending contradictions, life is at best confusing and at worst inexplicable. The U.S. is in the minority of nations today that embraces the death penalty. Since I endeavor to avoid self righteous mobs known as majorities, I like that. But the one troublesome aspect to the death penalty is its stingy application. Our justice system, otherwise known as the employment service for lawyers and clerks, is unfairly inefficient; and as regards the death penalty the unfairness of its lethargic foot-dragging bears not against the guilty, but against society.

If you can pardon the expression, I’m just dying to know why in capital offenses we dally in applying the appropriate punishment when there is no reasonable doubt of a person’s guilt. Death penalty opponents contend that capital punishment is cruel and unreasonable, and the irony is in the fact that those opponents usually come from the political left, where atheism and a general disregard for things divine seem to flourish in abundance.

Non-believers think the death penalty immoral. Believers think it righteous. (This is a generalization, but I subscribe to that word’s definition as being “a huge truth, highly disconcerting to sociologists and others who have earned like degrees from correspondence courses, community colleges and equivalent universities.”)

The paradox thrives in the fact that those who oppose the death penalty do not necessarily oppose war and all its much talked about collateral damage. That euphemistic term means, “Oops, we may have destroyed a town full of civilians.”

At present our government has elected to enter into yet another war, this time against the leadership of Libya. Never mind that Libya is a sovereign nation conducting its own affairs. No, the U.S. and its acolytes now think it necessary to get involved in that country’s internal affairs. Citing some abstruse moral code, our leadership tends to play down the fact that Libya has valuable oil reserves. This could lead some to believe in the insincerity of altruism. I’m one of those.

I frankly do not care anything at all about Libya, or what goes on there. If the people in that nation desire a civil war, let them have one. I don’t care. The quarter-billion dollars in cruise missiles the U.S. recently fired into the sand dunes over there is money that might have been better applied in paying down the national debt. As far as I know, we don’t owe Libya a dime.

See how confusing it is? Unlike an electric chair or tablets of cyanide or a syringe or two of poison, cruise missiles are somewhat indiscreet. They blow up, and anyone nearby gets blown up too. Conversely, an electric chair has room for only one. So why do we whimsically risk blowing up people whose only crime is misfortune, while here at home we debate and quibble and appeal and protest over the execution of deranged killers? Our political leadership calls Muammar Qaddafi deranged, and is ready and willing to kill him for it. Yet we allow deranged killers to languish on death row for 20 or more years. Worse, we sentence deranged killers to life imprisonment.

The Unabomber is now doing life without parole for blowing up people with dynamite. Serving the same sentence right down the hall from him is Eric Rudolph, who killed people in a like manner. They killed American citizens on American soil, but it is wrong to execute them? It is wrong to execute them yet it is right to execute people on the other side of the planet who may not have committed any crime against anyone?  

Are you confused too?

(Scott Muirhead lives in Haywood County. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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