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.