An American soldier allegedly killed 16 Afghan citizens, including 11 women and children, in an unprovoked act of murder. The slaughter—What else can it be called?—took place a short distance from an American base.
Afghans from President Hamid Karzai to local citizens to members of the Taliban are understandably incensed by this brutality. The increased tension and potential for violent response has put all troop contingents on alert and calls into question once again, Why are American troops still in Afghanistan?
But my interest here is not whether American armed forces should be withdrawn expeditiously from Afghanistan (they should as I’ve said before). My question is: Should capital punishment be employed if the actual perpetrator is given due process, legally tried, and found guilty?
Capital punishment, taking a life for a life, has been employed by virtually every civilization since creation. In the modern era some countries have ceased implementing capital punishment even for the most heinous crimes because these countries have concluded the state should never take life. Yet, of course, it is interesting to note that many of these countries have also legalized abortion. Some have experimented with euthanasia. But again, those are issues for another day.
From 1942 to 1961, some 160 American soldiers were executed for murder, rape, and other infractions of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. They were executed because these American soldiers’ actions took human life, assaulted law and order, or undermined authority among troops at war and the moral momentum of the cause. Without such justice, most believed at that time, more soldiers would be put at risk.
Since 1961, no American armed forces personnel have been given the death penalty. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan reintroduced the death penalty in the military, and in 2008 President George W. Bush approved the death penalty for a soldier convicted of multiple rapes and murder. To date this soldier has not been executed.
I think the same concerns should be considered in Afghanistan in this case. I believe the perpetrator of this latest crime should be given the death penalty.
Lest I be misunderstood, I am not arguing for capital punishment as the result of a summary judgment, kangaroo court, lack of evidence, due process, or conviction, or as a political statement.
I am supporting capital punishment in the case of the latest incident of mass murder in Afghanistan if the accused Staff Sargeant is duly and properly convicted in a military court of law. I argue for this not because it necessarily becomes a deterrent to future crime, although it may. Not because this action may assuage understandable angry emotions among Afghanis, although it may. I argue for capital punishment because this form of sin and crime is like no other and it demands a just response.
The scriptural basis for this view is Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”
Taking human life in revenge is not the province of individuals. Taking human life as a form of justice is the province of government, in this case the United States Military. The death penalty is extreme, but so are the limited number of crimes that demand it.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
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