Friday, November 25, 2005

10 People I'm Happiest We Fried

10. Marion Pruitt, sicko spree killer of five.
9. Aileen Wournos, murdered seven johns.
8. Alton Coleman, spree baby-rapist, eight victims.
7. Kenneth McDuff, sicko spree murderer of 14.
6. William Bonin, homosexual "Freeway Killer," 14 victims.
5. Douglas Gretzler, spree torture-killer of 16.
4. Ted Bundy, 22 victims.
3. John Wayne Gacy, child-rapist, 33 victims.
2. Gerald Stano, Florida torture-killer of 41.
1. Pee Wee Gaskins, psycho Southerner who may have killed more than 100.

And, of course, Tim McVeigh is hors de categorie.

These people are so morally foul that I just can't see leaving them alive, whatever the other arguments on capital punishment are.
A big stink is being made over here about a Spanish citizen under a death sentence in the Philippines. The alleged criminal, Francisco Larrañaga, is the son of a Spanish jai alai player and an upper-class Philippine woman, whose family has political connections. The victims are two young women, about 20 years old, whose surname is Chiong. Their father works for a guy who is a big shot in the local mafia. Supposedly, on the island of Cebu, Larrañaga and seven others, who were spoiled rich brats on drugs, picked up the two Chiong girls one day in 1997, raped them, and killed them. One's body has never been found; the other's was found at the bottom of a ravine. Supposedly. Larrañaga's lawyers claim that it has not even been proven that the body is that of Marijoy Chiong. Larrañaga claims to have an alibi, but the only witnesses--agreed, there are more than 20 of them--are friends or classmates of his. Several other witnesses identified Larrañaga and the other seven in a car with the two Chiong girls. I am not sure if any of these people are telling the truth. Especially not the main prosecution witness, a guy named Rusia, who was one of the eight. Rusia, who turned state's evidence and got off, says he and the other seven did the crime, raped and killed the girls. However, he's been in prison twice in the US and his whereabouts are unknown. There seem to have been irregularities at the trial as well; Larrañaga's lawyers claim he was not allowed to testify on his own behalf. He and the others were convicted and got life in prison. Then, something very strange happened: the case was reviewed, and the punishment changed to death. I wasn't aware that such a thing could happen in any legal system. Oh, yeah, in here somewhere the judge, who had convicted these guys in the first place, there was no jury, committed suicide. Maybe.

Larrañaga's family is mounting a media campaign to save him. Philippine president Gloria Macagapal Arroyo says she will not sign any death warrants, which means that Larrañaga is at least temporarily safe from lethal injection. However, temporarily is not permanently.

My attitude is that I am not in favor of coddling criminals, and I think those convicted of heinous crimes deserve the death penalty. Kidnapping, raping, and murdering two young women is about as heinous as it gets, and if these guys did it, fire up the syringe. The problem is I am not convinced these guys are guilty. Exhume the body of the girl said to be Marijoy Chiong and DNA-test it to see if it's her, and to see if any of these guys' DNA are on it. Then proceed from there. But don't execute people if there's a reasonable doubt to their guilt. Hell, you're not supposed to convict people if there's a reasonable doubt to their guilt.

One thing to remember is that Larrañaga is getting all the attention because he's an EU citizen and his family has money. You have to wonder how many people get railroaded by the system, especially in the Third World; I'll bet surprisingly few, but I'll also bet it happens sometimes, and disputes between local elites and mafias are just the sort of context that someone getting railroaded might happen in. Interest in these cases is only taken in places like Europe when there's a Westerner involved.

My understanding, by the way, is that since the US brought back the death penalty in 1977 nobody innocent has been executed.

Friday, November 18, 2005

One reason I haven't posted recently, besides being busy with the Spain Herald and all--I think we've improved it, I really do--is that I've been having a debate with myself over the Iraq war. I don't like blood and killing and death and terror and I think it's a terrible thing for both the civilians and the Allied troops, not to mention the now-legitimate Iraqi government and military.

I suppose what we did was trigger a civil war, mostly pitting two ethnic groups (Shiite Arabs and Sunni Kurds) against one (Sunni Arabs). The Sunni Arabs had run the place since it stopped being an Ottoman colony in 1917, which it had been for the last about four hundred years, and became a British colony. I'm really not sure exactly when it stopped being a British colony, though the year 1932 comes to mind; I remember that the British invaded Iraq in World War II and overthrew a pro-Nazi regime. And grabbed the oil. I do know Iraq had governments somewhere between lousy and horrific between the end of World War II and the overthrow of Saddam by the Allies in April 2003. And those governments were all run by Sunni Arabs for Sunni Arabs. Obviously, in a democratic Iraq, the Sunni Arabs would no longer run everything. Therefore, many Sunni Arabs oppose the democratic government, and a fraction of them are willing to kill.

So we have an ethnic civil war on our hands--again, most Sunni Arabs don't want to fight against the democratic government, only a few do, but that few is enough to cause lots of trouble, which we see every day on the news.

Meanwhile, there is a separate but linked war going on between the Allies and Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. That war is being fought all over the world, as the explosions in Jordan and Pakistan and Spain and Britain and Morocco and Indonesia show. It is also being fought in parts of Afghanistan, on the ground, against Taliban loyalists. And Al Qaeda has joined in the Iraqi civil war on the side of the violent minority of Sunni Arabs.

So how do the Americans fit in here? Well, one of the mistakes we made in Vietnam was to bail out and ditch the South Vietnamese and Cambodian governments. Just look at the horrors that led to. We can't ditch the democratic Iraqis, no matter what. Doing so would undoubtedly lead to much greater horrors than those we see on television news now. So we're effectively in a civil war on one side. I think if we admit that this is the situation, it might clear up a lot of our thinking. We've got to fight Al Qaeda around the world, because not doing so is suicide. And we have to fight antidemocratic forces in Iraq. Let's make sure we can keep the two separate.

Al Qaeda is basically an ideological movement. The Sunni Arabs are basically a nationalist movement. They're fighting on the same side in Iraq. Al Qaeda is also linked to nationalist groups in many Muslim countries, including Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and the Philippines. They're fighting on the same side in those countries, too.

I suppose this means that no matter how much we dislike seeing the results of the latest bombing in Baghdad, and knowing how much people are suffering, bailing out of Iraq would mean giving a victory to Al Qaeda, which would then have a home base even more convenient than Afghanistan to plot terror, and giving a victory to the insurgent Sunni Arabs, who would then certainly genocide the Kurds and Shiite Arabs. I think, practically and ethically, looking back to examples such as Munich and the Vietnam pullout, the West has to beat them here and now in Iraq. This means no American pullout. Even though two thousand of our guys have been killed, and I would guess at least 15,000 Iraqi civilians. Not to mention large quantities of terrorists, both nationalist Sunnis and Al Qaeda, who will bother us no more.

What's our exit strategy? Well, let's admit we don't really have one, just like Roosevelt really didn't have one in 1942. Whatever we have to do to win the war, because we don't want to fight it in New York and Washington. And Madrid.

Does the end justify the means? I don't think so in the case of torture. I think it's pretty clear that nobody's being tortured in Guantanamo. As for those bleeding hearts who seem to care more for terrorists' rights than for Westerners' simple right to live, what do you want us to do with them? Turn them loose? That's not going to happen. If people are being tortured in secret CIA prisons, well, that would be very wrong if it were happening. Although I haven't seen the slightest real evidence that it is. I also think it's clear that the Abu Ghraib tortures, from which apparently no one died, were an aberration and an isolated incident.

Also, let me make this clear, if it turns out there are secret CIA torture prisons, we can't do that. That wouldn't make me want to stop the war or bail out of Iraq, but it would make me want to fire lots of our intelligence, military, and political leaders and get us some new ones who can win the war without torturing people.

And the Iraqi people are going to suffer less if we stay than if we go. So we have to stay now that we touched off the fuse. The fuse was going to blow sometime, Iraq couldn't go on as it was under Saddam, but we lit it and we need to be honest with ourselves about that. I, personally, was in favor of lighting it back in 2003.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't forget to read the Spain Herald.