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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But my interest here is not whether American armed forces should be withdrawn expeditiously from Afghanistan (they should as I’ve said before).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

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Justice has been served to former Iraq President and dictator, Saddam Hussein. The method? Capital punishment.

At about 6:00 am Baghdad time Saturday (10:00 pm EST last night), Hussein was executed by hanging. He was convicted in Iraqi courts of ordering the 1982 deaths of some 148 Iraqis in Dujail. He is also considered responsible for the brutal deaths of literally tens of thousands of Iraqis during his reign, including a chemical action against northern Kurds resulting in upwards of 100,000 deaths.

It’s early, but so far the world’s reaction is some form of “Good riddance” or, as we sometimes say in America, “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” So far, no one has lamented the use of capital punishment. But someone will.

It’s difficult to express outrage or even concern for the state-ordered death of a man like Saddam Hussein without sounding like a wimp, a “flaming liberal,” or worse, a sympathizer. By the same token, it’s difficult at times to express support for capital punishment, even for an evil mass murderer like Hussein, without sounding like a warmonger, a “redneck conservative,” or worse, a blood thirsty religious fanatic.

One traditional argument “for” capital punishment is that it acts as a deterrent to future crimes. Opponents of capital punishment often ably demonstrate that this goal isn’t always realized. On the other hand, it’s not necessarily cynical to observe that at least the convicted and executed individual will commit no more heinous crimes.

This is the case for Saddam Hussein. He’s dead at 69. He’s no longer a threat to the well-being of the Iraqi people. Since you cannot execute a person more than once, perhaps it is small justice to the multitudes he murdered, but it is justice nevertheless. He had his day in court, was found guilty, and was sentenced. His sad record is now complete.

Certainly the death of any human being is an occasion for sadness. No less so for Saddam Hussein. His life was not simply a waste. It was destructive. He chose evil over good, and that is a sad fact that did not have to be. So of course we shouldn’t enjoy another person’s death. But death is not God’s ultimate concern.

Biblical teaching supports capital punishment for murder (Genesis 9:6, for example), because evil exists. Capital punishment is one key way God empowers human government to establish order and justice so that we may enjoy life and liberty. What ultimately matters is not that capital punishment is always a deterrent to future crime. Rather, what matters is that God made human beings in his image and murder is a direct transgression against the Sovereign God. Capital punishment serves notice that God exists and that evil does not reign supreme.

Saddam Hussein will not be missed. His demise closes a cruel chapter in Iraq history and further liberates the Iraqi people to forge a future without Hussein’s brand of evil. In this instance, capital punishment accomplished what it was divinely ordained to accomplish. Justice.

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Kenneth Lee Boyd acquires a dubious distinction today. He will be the 1000th person executed for a capital crime since the death penalty was reinstituted in 1976. The North Carolina man will receive a lethal injection for murdering his estranged wife and her father in 1988. Boyd emptied his gun in a rage into his two relatives while one of his sons was pinned under his mother’s body. When he tried to reload, another son got the pistol away from his father.

Capital punishment is not fun, not something to be celebrated, and not for the squeamish. It is, after all, punishment, death by lethal injection, the electric chair, or in some few cases, firing squad. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t trivial. But it is necessary and appropriate.

I do not like the death penalty, but I have always supported the right of duly appointed governmental authorities to exercise the death penalty. I assume this position, not so much because I believe the death penalty is a deterrent to crime (though it might be; the evidence is ambiguous), but because I believe crimes like murder and rape are an ultimate transgression of the law of God.

In the Old Testament, Genesis 9:6, God said, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.” In the New Testament, Romans 13:3-4, God says, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

God vested in governmental authority the right and responsibility to establish order and restrain evil. Nowhere in Scripture does he rescind this mandate. While it is true governments have done evil and that men and women in authority have at times acted arbitrarily, ignorantly, and cruelly, this does not change God’s design for human government. In most cultures, capital punishment for the most heinous crimes has always been the purview of government in order to protect individuals and preserve their civilization.

Yet in recent years public support for the death penalty seems to be declining. In part this is due to new technology and DNA testing that has demonstrated that a few innocent (at least of the crime in question) men have been consigned to death row.

I recognize this. My support for capital punishment does not mean that the criminal justice system through which we arrive at such ultimate sentences should not be evaluated and improved or reformed. DNA testing is a significant advance in forensic science and should be used in every appropriate opportunity. Generous and thorough appeals processes, though often lengthy, should be made available in this most serious of decisions. Clemency, the legal means through which state governors may show mercy to inmates, is and should be exercised when extenuating circumstances warrant unmerited grace.

All of these lawful protections—guilt determined by evidence, opportunities to appeal, and potential clemency—were instituted to help assure the American criminal justice system is as fair, conscientious, and ethical as humanly possible. Capital punishment for guilty individuals only results after all these avenues of legal redress have been exhausted.

Consequently, I favor continued scrutiny of the process by which capital punishment is determined. I favor improving that process as advances in evidentiary technology allows, and I favor maintaining capital punishment. I care about Kenneth Lee Boyd, but the system has treated him with more respect than he treated his family so many years ago.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at