Monday, January 01, 2007

"You shouldn’t have killed Saddam Hussein!"

"You shouldn’t have killed Saddam Hussein!"

By Stephen J. Kohn

"You shouldn’t have killed Saddam Hussein!" This condemnation by European prime ministers, leading leftist newspapers and anti Iraq War personalities in the United States has filled the airwaves and editorial pages following the execution of this notorious killer.

This is part of the religion of the left. Whether a "religion" is based on a belief in the Divinity or a set of man established edicts, the stronger, more unbending and inflexible the pre fixed belief set, the greater the risk that rationality and common sense will be abandoned.

For as sure as there are Islamic fundamentalist views justifying wholesale slaughter that are inspired by a belief in a divinity, there are equally strong beliefs on the far left based on the supposed divinity of pure intellectual logic. The defenses of the illogical conclusions stem from almost the same set of considerations – "there is a higher authority that allowed me do it”. Freethinking is not in lexicon of either the far right or far left. Thus, Saddam Hussein is worthy to save and the memory of those he killed can be too quickly forgotten.

Consider one of the major inconsistencies on the far left. While common sense can comprehend a reluctance to execute prisoners, especially when there are mitigating circumstances, most free thinkers can understand that there is a significant difference between the mass murderer, who with premeditation, slaughters hundreds of thousands and the semiliterate deprived individual, poorly represented in court, and perhaps subject to racial bias, and whose life should be spared.

When one mixes politics and religion, like two chemicals that alone are harmless, a dangerous compound can emerge. In Judaism, we are lucky since many rabbis recognize that interpretation is essential. Circumstances are reality. There is nothing as comfortable, and as irrational, as having an absolute rule that fails to consider reality. That is why some traditional religious positions are sometimes criticized and why leftist positions are increasingly equally deserving of that criticism since they share a situation-neutral and mindless rigidity.

One example of the blending of strict religious law with reality is the issue of violation of Shabbat when life is threatened. A roaring infection or a faint heartbeat and many other conditions cannot remain untreated over Shabbat. Most rabbis recognize that taking a chance with life over Shabbat is so radically against Jewish principles that it cannot happen. Any religious law can be violated to save a life! When life is the issue, leniency is the only solution. Reason holds, and mechanical decision-making is abandoned, under these circumstances.

However, how different is the left that has a strong position about the inappropriateness of the war in Iraq and the deaths resulting from it but can also speak of saving the tyrant who clearly was responsible for wanton killing, with premeditation, in Iraq.

Again, one can be much more tolerant of the leftist position, of saving life at all costs, if as much energy were spent demonstrating outside of the Iranian and Syrian embassies around the world as is spent criticizing American policy and the execution of Saddam Hussein. While more than 3,000 American soldiers have been killed, perhaps a hundred times as many Iraqi civilians and been slaughtered, primarily by mercenaries being directed and supplied from Iran and Syria. Moreover, Iran now promises a new, nuclear holocaust. Where are those protests?

The Torah and many commentators on it, such as Rambam, speak of a middle road where balance is vital. Absence of balance is one of our most pressing problems in an era where extreme solutions from the far right or the far left seem to attract the greatest number of fervent adherents and the role of common sense remains far behind. And, often, mixing of religion (of the right or left) and politics creates impractical and even dangerous suggested solutions.

Perhaps the time has come for a more rational approach to the very difficult issues of life and death—understanding the nuances needs to become far more important rather dependence on static doctrine. Conclusions, not based on the high-risk blend of politics and religion, but on a rational analysis, not prejudgment, of a specific situation, are mandatory.

If there is a criticism of what is deemed a fundamentalist position, it is that reality and understanding are abandoned and a ‘belief’ – immutable and unchallengeable – replaces it. When that approach is taken, as has become all too common among the leftist leadership around the world, reason is trumped: “I have an absolute rule and it can’t be broken”. From the left’s rules: “Murderers, no matter how heinous their crime, cannot be executed. American troops in Iraq should be condemned for every death they cause. Suicidal/homicidal murders are exempt from moral judgment, since their cause is just. Troops that try to stop suicide bombers may not attack them.”

Perhaps it is time for those who pled for Saddam Hussein’s life to re-examine their thinking and the moral absurdity it generates.

Stephen J. Kohn is an American businessman who moved to Israel 15 years ago with his wife and son. He frequently writes commentary on political issues. He has always been an independent voter so his views are governed by his analyses not any party line.


From my understanding, Jews can violate any religious law to save life except the laws against idolatry and immorality. If I'm wrong, somebody will correct me. - DBA

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