What is the point in killing someone who has grievously wronged you, when you can torment him for the rest of his life?
Sergey Mironov, leader of the 'A Just Russia' political party, is proposing to amend Russian legislation to allow for the death penalty for terrorists and their collaborators.
Speaking at a joint meeting of Russia's Federation Council and State Duma, Mr. Mironov stated, 'As an exception we must introduce the death penalty as punishment for terrorists and aides who support the activities of fighters who commit terrorist acts.'
His call to action did not go unnoticed at the highest level of government with the powerful presidential chief of staff Sergey Ivanov weighing in on the issue, saying he had no doubt that if a referendum was held on the subject, that over 90% of the population would vote in its favor. However, he stood firmly against the idea stating, 'Sometimes, it is necessary to act out of reason in compliance with Russia's international commitments. Therefore, I personally believe, though I fully share these emotions, that this move would be premature and inexpedient to put it mildly.'
The operative term in Mr. Ivanov's statement is 'emotion', because that is exactly what the death penalty is - an extension of emotion.
This was summed up perfectly almost 90 years ago by the legendary editor and cynic H.L. Mencken, who, in a 1926 satirical essay, explained why people truly want the death penalty.
'The thing they crave primarily is the satisfaction of seeing the criminal actually before them suffer as he has made them suffer. What they want is the peace of mind that goes with the feeling that accounts are squared. Until they get that satisfaction they are in a state of emotional tension, and hence unhappy. The instant they get it they are comfortable. I do not argue that this yearning is noble; I simply argue that it is almost universal among human beings.'
Mencken continues by describing the phenomenon on a much larger scale when an entire society or a whole people have been afflicted.
'The same thing precisely takes place on a larger scale when there is a crime which destroys a whole community's sense of security. Every law-abiding citizen feels menaced and frustrated until the criminals have been struck down - until the communal capacity to get even with them, and more than even, has been dramatically demonstrated. Here, manifestly, the business of deterring others is no more than an afterthought. The main thing is to destroy the concrete scoundrels whose act has alarmed everyone, and thus made everyone unhappy. Until they are brought to book that unhappiness continues; when the law has been executed upon them there is a sigh of relief. In other words, there is catharsis.'
This is the state in which Russia currently finds itself. However, it does not necessitate a lifting of the moratorium for a select few, as revolting and inhuman as they undoubtedly are. President Putin himself has already stated that he intends to hunt down and punish, i.e., kill, the perpetrators of terror against Russia. So in a very real way, there is already a death penalty in place for terrorists who are outside of Russia. For those who operate inside Russia and are caught, there are fates for them that are far more cruel and effective in delivering hardcore punishment than spending a white hot minute in front of a firing squad.
Take Penal Colony No. 6 for example. Also known as Black Dolphin, it is one of the toughest prisons on earth, and one which houses Russia's most brutal criminals. Home to murderers, rapists, pedophiles, terrorists, cannibals, and other undesireables, this final destination is a much more apt punishment for terrorist swine and those that aide them than any rope or bullet could ever be.
One need only watch the first 15 minutes of this National Geographic documentary to see the power that this grim facility has in crushing human souls. The harsh daily grind of extreme isolation and constant discomfort until the day of natural death is a perfectly fitting punishment for those that Mironov wants to execute, and should be sufficient in satisfying man's natural thirst for revenge.
But even Black Dolphin has its disadvantages. It has limited space and no mechanism for extracting any production from its inmates. As such, if Russia really wants to get serious about punishing terrorists, it would not bring back the death penalty, but rather the Gulag.
The Gulag is an ideal solution for terrorists. It's perfect. Life sentences of back-breaking, soul-bending physical labor in the mines and under the whip would be beneficial both for Russia, as it would provide free production, as well as the terrorists, in that it would succeed in building some badly-needed character.
In these times when disgruntled malcontents have instant access to fanatical, brainwashing, Wahabbi lunatics preaching the need to kill everyone in the world who isn't like them, corrective labor as a method of re-education is in greater need than ever before. Properly instituted and managed, a good old-fashioned forced labor camp at what Solzhenitsyn called 'the pole of cold and cruelty' would almost certainly drain the poisonous spirit of jihadism out of the most fanatical adherent, and very quickly at that.
So, irrespective of whether working terrorists to death or locking them down to rot away in isolation is the best solution, either is preferable to bringing back the death penalty. It will not deter acts of terror, it blackens Russia's image in the world, and interferes with international commitments. It's also crude, primitive, unproductive, and to be perfectly honest, too easy for those who seek to murder en masse.
Plus, consider the graphic below. With the bizarre exceptions of the US, China, and Japan, there is not a single civilized society on the face of the earth that employs this practice. Is this really something to which Russia should be aspiring?
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