Hanging Saddam high would be our low: We execute because we are scared not to (DAVID R. DOW, Houston Chronicle)
Those who advocate executing the former dictator say that he deserves to die. That may well be so. Yet whether Saddam deserves to die is not the same as whether we (or the Iraqis) should execute him. The former matter turns on his qualities; the latter turns on ours. […]
Societies execute people as a moral act. It does not make us safer, nor is that the objective. The intention is to communicate the message that someone who commits atrocities has forfeited his right to share the Earth. Too, bound up with the highly ritualized act of execution is the mystical notion that society, by killing the criminal, restores moral order to the universe that, by removing evil, the relative amount of worldly good goes up.
He accidentally stumbles into the truth there: those who oppose the death penalty do so because they are made uncomfortable by morality, or even oppose it. The one semi-serious moral objection to execution is that, humans being so imperfect, we may execute the innocent on occasion. That argument is obviously moot in the case of dictators.