Thursday, May 21, 2009

No death sentence for Steven Dale Green: this is a good thing, but critical reflection is needed

Jurors couldn't agree on a penalty for the soldier who raped 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi in Iraq, killed her and her family, and set fire to her house.
Steven Dale Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, will instead serve a life sentence in a case that has drawn attention to the emotional and psychological strains on soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you're categorically against the death penalty, then you have to acknowledge the desirability of sparing Green's life. At the same time, he was not spared on principle, and if he'd done this to Americans, he probably would have received the death penalty. Even AP's spin, drawing attention to the psychological condition of U.S. soldiers, is a positive spin with a double-standard underside. The American public is likely to look with sympathy on the U.S. soldier in Iraq, and rightly so, but is unlikely to sympathize with domestic murderers who may very well be under analogous psychological strain.

Nevertheless, I would urge those who would "normally" be against the death penalty but find themselves longing for the ritual execution of Pfc. Green, and the symbolic power of the execution of an occupying soldier, to instead direct your indignation toward the power of the state to control life and death. That's what put Green in Iraq in the first place, it also executes the innocent and the guilty here at home, and it must be confronted systemically.

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