Armchair Torturers, Warriors and Executioners

When Sheriff of Erie County, New York, Grover Cleveland, later 22nd and 24th President of the United States, was accused of lacking the stomach for hangings. To silence his critics he personally carried out the hanging of two convicted murderers, in 1872 and 1873. Former Vice President Dick Cheney should take note from Grover Cleveland’s example. His bent to waterboard terrorist suspects would be more convincing if he would preside over or, at least, witness the act himself.

And ditto for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama for sending young Americans to kill and be killed in open-ended, politically-motivated wars while they read or watch TV reports about it from the safety of the White House on the other side of the planet. The “Good War” rhetoric of the latter and the I’m-Commander-in-Chief struts of the former do not quite wash. Neither having had any military experience (Bush’s sheltered National Guard stint doesn’t count), they should have embedded themselves with an infantry unity in the front lines, at least for an hour or two, to get a taste of the sacrifice they were asking their troops to make. Political leaders with combat experience—Bush Father, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senator John Kerry, among others,--typically tend to be less gung-ho about going to war. And it should be noted that the most strident pro-war commentators—aptly dubbed “chicken hawks”—have no military experience whatever. The highly popular talk-show host Rush Limbaugh avoided the Viet Nam draft by getting his doctor to declare that he had an intractable boil by his anus.

And the same criticism applies to proponents of capital punishment. Mosaic Law required accusers and witnesses in capital punishment cases to participate in the execution of the convicted offender (Lev. 24:14; Deut. 17:6-7). Made good moral sense.

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