On Executing Terrorists

Indonesia is this week free of three murderous thugs – and Australia does not like it. Australia is intent on lecturing Indonesia and the world about how wrong capital punishment is. Even though the three Bali bombers have been given their just deserts, our country is lecturing others about justice and right and wrong.

But first, a bit of background. The terrorist trio were responsible for the deaths of 202 people – including 88 Australians – on 12 October 2002 in a tourist district on the Indonesian island of Bali. It was the worst terrorist attack on Indonesian soil, with a further 209 people injured.

The three men – all Muslim militants – of course thought they were doing Allah a favour by savagely wiping out innocent civilians. And they fully expected upon their weekend execution to pop straight up into paradise, with 72 brown-eyed virgins awaiting each of them. But it seems to me that their final destination will be a rather different place.

Indeed, given their hopes for a non-stop sensual holiday in paradise – the very thing they did not like foreign tourists getting involved with in Bali – it is curious how many protests and appeal processes the three went through, seeking to avoid their fate.

But Allah was evidently not with them in their attempts to avoid the firing squad, and they went down in a hail of bullets. Most people would be saying, ‘good riddance’. But not everyone. Our high-minded Australian government – and some of our intellectualoids – seem to think that state-sponsored capital punishment is just as evil and terrible as terrorist bombings.

So now we have an Australian delegation planning to go to the UN to campaign for an end of the death penalty. Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt takes up this story. He begins: “Hands up if you said ‘good’ when the three Bali bombers were finally shot dead. Gee, that many of you? Then why, given how you feel, is Australia now leading an international campaign to ban capital punishment even for just such smiling mass murderers?”

Andrew Bolt rightly asks why Australia should be leading this campaign, given our bloody record of how we treat genuinely innocent victims, such as unborn babies. Who are we to lecture others when we have so much blood on our hands?

“Who are we to get so moral about the sanctity of life when we no longer observe this principle ourselves? Only last month, Victoria passed new laws to allow the killing in the womb of healthy babies just weeks from birth. Yet here we now are, having just backed the killing of innocent children, lecturing other countries not to kill unrepentant terrorists. Hypocrites.”

“We’ve long dropped the Christian habit of judging each human being as deserving of life, and have instead issued a string of qualifications. What about the deformed? The aged? The terminally ill? The not-yet born? What about abortion? Euthanasia? The rationing of medical services? Take Green senator Bob Brown, who said the executions of the Bali bombers ‘dehumanises’ us: ‘I am with the Government and Opposition in saying the death penalty is never warranted.’ Yet the same Bob Brown fought to restore euthanasia laws in the Northern Territory, which had already been used to kill seven people, most of whom, as Lancet revealed, were unmistakably lonely and none of whom was in severe pain. Talk about dehumanising us.”

“If we can contemplate killing our innocent sick and helpless, let’s not get too huffy if others kill a terrorist. And by what right do we use international institutions to force other democracies to end a form of punishment that I suspect both their citizens and ours support? Campaigners like to cast the debate over the death penalty as between barbarians and the civilised, yet most nations still have the punishment on their books, and many are just as civilised as we pretend. There’s Japan, the United States, Israel, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Latvia, India, South Korea and Peru. And let’s not forget that spiritual home of the militant chic, Cuba. Castro kills, yet Leftists thrill.”

He continues, “And are the Australians who support the death penalty also barbarians? Is Maria Kotronakis, who lost two sisters and two cousins in Bali, a barbarian to cry with relief at hearing their murderers were now dead? ‘We’ve waited a very long time for this, and this is our justice,’ she said. ‘We lost four beautiful girls that did nothing wrong’.”

Not only is the moral ground of the anti-capital punishment crowd a bit shaky, but so too is the reasoning behind it. The arguments are weak at best, and seem to be all about self-interest: “Take the most popular this week – that executing terrorists just turns them into martyrs, inspiring new crazies to start killing. That’s the line, for instance, of Melbourne barrister Julian McMahon, who warned that killing Bali bombers would turn them into ‘heroes’. Former magistrate Brian Deegan, who lost his son in Bali but still campaigns against capital punishment, agreed. ‘I have trepidation as to what might happen as a result of this.’ This is the kind of pragmatic argument – we’ll suffer if they’re shot – that’s about all we’ve got left.”

“I agree, killing the bombers isn’t worth it if Indonesians and Australians are left no safer. But it seems these three killers became heroes more through being kept alive than by being shot. In prison, Imam Samudra gave boasting interviews and published his memoirs, glorying in the 2002 bombing. Mukhlas held court to a stream of visitors and had his preachings published on the internet. From his cell, he even denounced his brother-in-law as an apostate for helping the police. But dead men cannot preach, and corpses struggle to lead.”

Dead men can no longer kill others. “Saddam Hussein, hanged two years ago, can never again command his fascists in Iraq, and his followers lost fight the instant he fell through a trapdoor. If we’d have got Iraq to ban the death penalty, how many Iraqis would have then died for our fine feelings? Mussolini, hanged from a lamppost in 1945, likewise died so disgracefully that his own fascists never made him a martyr, and the Nazis hanged in Nuremberg in 1946 never got to rally the faithful again in beer halls or Argentinian cafes. If only we could have hanged Hitler, too, for the shaming example. Let such monsters live and you may come to regret it, for few grow into saints.”

Sure, not everyone executed is a monster, and it is possible for mistakes to be made. But that does not invalidate the rationale for capital punishment. “We may well argue that the death penalty shouldn’t be imposed so lightly or freely, but to ban all executions everywhere is not especially humane – or a decision that’s ours to make or impose. Some countries are battling such threats and such monsters that they cannot afford to be as delicate as we can, far away in our suburban safety. Yes, let us fight against the execution anywhere of the innocent and the merely inconvenient. Yes, let us be profoundly aware that executions often cheapen life, leaving us less safe rather than more.”

I for one will not lose any sleep over the death of the three killers. And I will not lose any sleep if the world still allows capital punishment. But I will get a bit bothered if Australian officials think they can jump on their high horses and push their anti-death penalty crusade on the rest of the world.


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15 Replies to “On Executing Terrorists”

  1. Great article Bill

    Capital punishment to suit the crime such as the three bali bombers did against humanity, to me (and to Indonesian authorities) is a simple powerful deterrent for any one who wants to follow in their steps,

    Even Ted Bundy on death row in US said he deserved to die for the death he inflicted (even though he was repentant, which to me was demonstrated by his attitude and not blame shifting etc–he apparently became a Born again Christian on death row) .

    Australian delegations could spend more time lobbying UN on stopping death of innocents in West Papua etc.

    Stephen Lewin

  2. Yet another example of the agnostic Andrew Bolt defending so well Christian concepts of the sanctity of life as it should apply to abortion, and justice as it should apply to murderers. That Bolt an agnostic does this so forcefully and loudly, should embarrass church leaders whose silence on these types of issues is often deafening.

    Ewan McDonald.

  3. Pity the ‘enlightened ones’ of finger wagging compassion don’t show the same ‘concern’ re the execution (without trial) of unborn babies via abortion. It is indeed ironic that the public concerns about the ‘uncivilised behaviour’ of the firing squad merit more breast beating than the ‘civilised’ solitary executioner with a scalpel/syringe killing an unborn child.
    The terrorists had a choice, their victims had none. None of us gloat over the formers deaths however they are the authors of their own misfortune.
    Doug Holland

  4. Actually – as a bit of an aside – abortion highlights two types of hypocrisy when claims are made about killing that assume the high moral ground. Of course, capital punishment is one, but the other is the concept of war itself. The figures of dead humanity due to abortion are staggering – even if only calculated from 1980, the numbers well over double those killed in warfare in the last 2000 years or so.

    People getting all self-righteous about religious wars or wars in general better be pro-life, otherwise their position is manifestly weak.


    Mark Rabich

  5. I agree with Ewan McDonald’s comment.
    Further, however, I applaud the Aust Govt’s call for the abolition of capital punishment.
    Yes it is hypocitical where they fund doctors who engage in the surgical death of unborn children. I do not support hypocrosy. Rather I support the explanation to politicians that they should understand that abortion is about the wilful destruction of human life.
    Whether it is abortion or capital punishment is just the reason . God said we are not to kill. So with limited exceptions, such as the use of reasonable force in self defence or in a just war (defending against an attack), there are no exceptions.
    Frankly I would have thought that for the terrorists to have to spend the rest of their lives in a Bali jail doing say hard labour would have been harder for them then being killed.

    Sometimes doctors argue that it is necessary for an abortion to be performed so as to save teh life of the mother. Naturally every effort should be made to save both. If in the efforts to save one another dies that is not taking life but trying to save it – the opposite in motivation to the taking of a life.
    The Indonesian Givernment may want to send a tough message. Good . I wholeheartedly agree. But if the message is that you spend the rest of your life in the confines of an Indonesian jail, I doubt that too many would find that appealing. No release, no reduction in sentance for a terrorist . Just mandatory life in prison. Besides, you can’t call a live person a martyr for the cause!!

    David Grace

  6. Thanks David

    One correction however. The Bible does not condemn killing, but acts of murder. The sixth commandment says “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The Hebrew is quite clear here. Thus as you say there is God-ordained killing, as in self-defence and just war. But there is also God-ordained capital punishment (Genesis 9:6) which is not abrogated in the NT. But if interested, I make the biblical case for this here:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  7. David Grace overlooks the fact that the mass-murderers might be released at a future date, e.g. when their buddies kidnap hostages to exchange them, or are pardoned by a more radical Islamic government. And while they are alive, they can incite more terrorism, or could kill people within the jail.

    There is a good reason why leading Nazi and Japanese war criminals were hanged after WW2: no chance to keep their evil regimes going or undermining their democratic successors, resulting in far more lives lost.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  8. Excellent article Bill! Couldn’t agree more with what you have written. What a bunch of hypocrites and short-sighted people we have in government. Complete hypocricy! I would love to hear a response from one of these idiots.
    Teresa Binder

  9. Love your comment Ewan. I think there should be a mandatory no-questions-asked, flat, across-the-board sentence of death for anyone who takes a certain number of lives, say 3 eg. Yes the odd one gives their life to Jesus on death row, and yes there are cases where someone is drugged up to the eyeballs (but who held them down and forced the drugs into them) it was free choice. Martin Bryant chose 33 times to take someone’s life, and we all pay over $150/day to keep him in jail.
    Ian Brearley

  10. Perhaps we should point out that great atheist counter cultural revolutionary icon Che Guevarra was a great proponent of firing squads , personally shooting a 14 year old boy and overseeing executions of hundreds in post revolutionary Cuba. Free from the ‘opiate of the people’ Comrade Che organised quite a few executions by firing squad thought that’s rarely seen on his t-shirts.

    Ah well whatever todays truth is ….

    Doug Holland

  11. I am saddened by the direction that our penal systems are heading in the West. I see more and more cases where I am shocked by slaps on the wrist of criminals who are committing crimes, especially more serious crimes. What ever happened to the saying “if you can’t do the time then don’t do the crime”. That saying has died because the ‘time’ today is so often short enough that it could be bearable to the criminal and not much of a deterrent. (Look at the state of some prisons today as well. They are nicer living conditions than many low income families have. Talk about bearable conditions.) I wonder if we will ever see the days of true justice. By the looks of it, and from what Bill is saying about the Aussie governments responses here, we are heading in the other direction.
    And I totally agree with those comments on the area where there is much hypocrisy; that the government is so strong at wanting human rights for criminals but disgracefully are destroying any human rights of the weakest and most helpless ones in our society, unborn babies. I think there was a parable about this in the Bible… something about removing the plank in your eye before trying to remove the splinter in your neighbors eye.
    I think something is wrong here.
    Oliver Ins

  12. The Bible is also truly compassionate towards the victims of crime. Its policies sought as much restoration as possible, e.g. thieves had to repay their victims with interest.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  13. I will be the first to admit that the three disgusting excuses for men deserve to die for what they did in col blood and i am developing my own opinion on the relevance, pros and cons of the death penalty in Australia (in very limited cases). The only thing I am wary of is that their religion, Islam, in certain interpretations will promote them as martyrs. How I wish journalists just stayed away from Bali so their hateful and poisonous messages wouldn’t be a beacon of light to some unintelligent, vulnerable followers!

    Despite this belief, something inside me strikes a contradiction. I believe that life should be valued, however, I will admit I eat meat and enjoy it, but prefer products with less suffering, e.g. free range chicken.

    I believe it is a contradiction, irrespective of whether the human is innocent or guilty of the most heinous crime or somewhere in between to believe that the death penalty is beneficial, but abortion in all cases no matter what is wrong. Who are we as mere humans with many flaws to determine who is deserving of life and who isn’t. Further, who are we to determine what species are to be allowed to live and which should be condemned to death?

    On what criteria do we base this argument? On what criteria SHOULD we base the argument? And what are the potential ramifications for when we get this criteria horribly wrong?

    Emma Earley, Sydney

  14. Thanks Emma

    But because you have not declared your hand here as to where you are coming from, it makes it difficult to rightly respond.

    But the case for the death penalty can be argued both on secular grounds, and on biblical grounds. If, for example, your difficulty is based on your understanding of Scripture, then I have dealt with the various objections here:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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