Cruelty

It’s been a while since I have found something interesting enough to rant about. I’m offended and disturbed by recent commentary about executions and I am discovering that I really don’t understand cruelty which is probably quite healthy. This isn’t about the British woman who put a stray cat in a wheelie bin, incomprehensible as it might appear.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as making deeply offensive suggestions at the UN that the US Government was behind 9/11 has highlighted the lack of protest over the execution in the US of a female murderer, which he said contrasts with the “storm” surrounding a woman sentenced to be stoned in Iran. “A woman is being executed in the United States for murder but nobody protests against it,” Ahmadinejad told a group of Islamic figures in the United States last Monday, according to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency. He was referring to Teresa Lewis, 41, a woman of diminished mental abilities, who was executed in the state of Virginia on Thursday. Her death plays into the hands of abolitionists who contend that the protocols governing executions are fatally flawed and morally reprehensible. The Supreme Court has ruled against the execution of the mentally impaired under the US Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Strangely, art mirrors life – I watched a TV movie on a similar theme the other day.
By contrast, Iran has been under international pressure to spare the life of 43-year-old mother sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in 2006. Iran’s judiciary says it has suspended the stoning sentence but she is also guilty of participating in the murder of her husband and that a final decision about her verdict is still pending. Ahmadinejad denounced the “Western media storm” as follows. “Her case is not final yet but Iran is being heavily attacked,” he said. I wonder why. Death by stoning or even the threat of it cannot under any rational circumstances be compared to elimination by lethal injection. Vets do this every day to beloved but terminally sick animals and presumably similarly humane methods are employed to end the lives of those deemed by the State to be unworthy of  their enjoyment of its continuance. Put another way, death by stoning is a sadistic, medieval practice specifically designed to inflict exquisite anguish and suffering. Rubens’s sanitised portrayal of the stoning of Stephen blurs the edges.

It seems the President either fails to understand this or simply dismisses the mental torture which this unfortunate woman suffers daily under the threat of such a terrifying ordeal. The use of torture is embedded in the Iranian mindset – Heaven preserve us all if they ever get their hands on a nuclear device. The Times published an interview in August with journalist and political activist Houshang Asadi, imprisoned with Ayatollah Khameini in the 1980’s whose brutality today surpasses what he himself suffered in prison. The special, undiluted cruelty of ideologues and authoritarian interrogators brutalised by the thumbscrews of Shari’a and the politics of fear must be more than soul and body can bear. I wonder how they can sleep at night.

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