Hell on Earth
Eugene Volokh finds something to like about the Iranian government--namely, the way they execute murderers:
I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him ... I am especially pleased that the killing ... was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging ...
I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.
... such a punishment would probably violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. I'm not an expert on the history of the clause, but my point is that the punishment is proper because it's cruel (i.e., because it involves the deliberate infliction of pain as part of the punishment), so it may well be unconstitutional. I would therefore endorse amending the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause to expressly exclude punishment for some sorts of mass murders.
To the objection that taking part in such cruelty would diminish one's humanity, he responds:
Why would my humanity be diminished by participating in the killing of a monster (he had sexually abused and then murdered at least about 20 children), or even by deliberately inflicting pain on him? It seems to me that this is the reaction to a natural, understandable, and laudable human impulse to avenge (even if in a ridiculously inadequate way) the abuse and death of so many innocents. Why shouldn't one say that our humanity is diminished if this monster is allowed to live on, or even to die a painless death, when his victims and their families endured unimaginable pain?
Though he wouldn't approve of the needless suffering, Kant would say that it is precisely in order to respect a murderer's humanity (and our own) that we must put him to death, and that it is our duty to do so:
Even if a civil society resolved to dissolve itself with the consent of all its members as might be supposed in the case of a people inhabiting an island resolving to separate and scatter themselves throughout the whole world the last murderer lying in the prison ought to be executed before the resolution was carried out. This ought to be done in order that every one may realize the desert of his deeds, and that blood-guiltiness may not remain upon the people; for otherwise they might all be regarded as participators in the murder as a public violation of justice.
I don't know if I agree with Volokh or not, but unlike some other bloggers, I can see the appeal of treating murderers the Iranian way. It's hard for me to muster any sympathy for someone who brutalizes innocents, like the man who raped and killed 11-year old Carlie Brucia. I just can't bring myself to care even one tiny bit about their suffering. I'm not sure I would promote their suffering ... but I'm not sure I wouldn't, either.
Frankly, I don't know how to respond to these crimes--not just to the evilness of them, not just to the perpetrators of them, but just to the sheer fact of them. Just the fact that things like this happen.
What a wretched place this planet can be. Christians preach about Hell--who's going there, how you can avoid it. Did it ever occur to these folks that we are already in Hell?