by Emmanuel Goldstein
March 12, 2001
Like a naughty schoolchild, the United States was told that it really should stop executing murderers. A three man delegation from the European Union came to lecture Colin Powell on the subject. In the first meeting between the European Union and the US administration, they said the Americans were wrong to execute murderers. One of the trio, the Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh, said that there was "strong sentiment" in Europe over America’s system of punishing criminals.
There is strong sentiment in Europe, and this sentiment means that our masters will not let us have a vote on the matter. The British people are overwhelmingly in favour of the death penalty. They argue, reasonably, that since the death penalty has been abolished the murder rate has dramatically increased an effect that John Stuart Mill predicted a century before. Some will look to places like New York City, which has seen the murder rate plummet since the death penalty was introduced, or South Africa where the murder rate rocketed when the death penalty was lifted. Statistics seem to back up the common sense argument that death poses more of a deterrent than a long prison term. After all, a far higher proportion of death row appeal their death sentence than lifers attempt suicide. This must tell us something.
The customary thing to do here is to say that I am personally opposed to the death penalty. I am no such thing. I am a convert from the anti case. This makes me more realistic about them than many proponents of the death penalty. The antis are not advocates of child murder, although I think that it would be fair to say that their concern for murder victims is not all it could be. The reason they oppose the death penalty is because either they oppose the use of lethal force by government or that they believe that innocent people are killed in these cases. The fact that these same people often supported the bombing of places like Iraq or Serbia was due to inconsistency rather than callousness, stupidity rather than evil. The factual analyses are often a smokescreen to cover noble moral sentiments, as is shown by the hysteria when these arguments are inevitably picked apart. The fact that these moral arguments are obscured by fatuous claims that the death penalty does not work are inspired by fear that the great unwashed will not follow them, and a justified fear too.
Lets be clear, this trio, the former NATO boss Javier Solana; the Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh; and the failed governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten did not speak for the people of Europe. They spoke for themselves. The death penalty may not be popular among the European elites, but it is demanded by many European populations. Indeed, it goes further than Parliament denying the will of the voters, now even the will of Parliament is denied. Under the European Convention on Human Rights, to which (although separate from the EU) all EU countries now have to adhere, the death penalty is illegal. It is under the same convention that murderers are not extradited to the United States because of the chance that the courts might rule on the death penalty. To pass the death penalty would be to break with the European Convention, and to break with the Convention would be to break with the European Union. Many legal and political authorities contend that Parliament does not have the right to leave the EU.
This is not, however, the biggest tragedy. The argument over the death penalty is rightly one for sovereign states. What a country does about crime is surely, a home affair. This is the most astounding factor of the European visit. Not only are they misguided and undemocratic, but they are also imperialist. The brutish Yanks must learn to doff their cap to European civilisation. The American government may be, as George Bush himself said, arrogant; but this is European arrogance on sticks. American politicians have little choice but to let the people decide on this issue. These Europeans, like others before them, have taken a particular dislike to the death penalty and they tell Colin Powell to behave like the establishment boy they believe him to be. The real target for their genteel wrath are the people of America, they are the targets of the insult.
The moral imperialism was shown before Bush’s election when a delegation of French parliamentarians wanted to visit the governor of America’s third biggest state and future president just to lecture him on the death penalty in Texas. It’s almost a pity that he didn’t lecture them on the advanced racism that permeates France. Similarly the Council of Europe, a pan European body that acts as a waiting room for the European Union, has sent some busybodies over to lecture the Japanese on their use of the death penalty. Britain has also been guilty, as it has shamelessly used its links to the Privy Council the highest court in many Caribbean countries to slow the rate of hangings in these formally independent countries. Strangely, the pro-Cuban EU ministers will not be delivering the same lecture to Fidel Castro.
This is the formal part of the column. I wish to apologise on behalf of ordinary Europeans, both for and against the death penalty, for the arrogance of our masters. We believe that America’s justice system is America’s business, to be decided by American people. You have made your views known through a far more democratic process than we can hope for, and we respect this although many of us may disagree. Now perhaps if we can go and tend the beam in our own eye first.
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