Saddam's hanging has elicited a few interesting conversations with some Nepali and Tibetans in the last few days, and I would like to briefly share some of their feelings about it.
Dorje, the Tibetan man that I lived with for 3 months in 2003/2004, who has remained a close friend of mine, has often explained to me why he thinks that G.W. Bush and the Dalai Lama together are the great forces in the world making it a safer and better place. He listens to radio news and watches it on TV, both in Nepali and Tibetan, and loves to argue politics like most Asian men. We sometimes have lively discussions. Although I have often explained to him the many objections I have to Bush's foreign and domestic policy, until yesterday I have never really heard him raise doubt about Bush's actions. He said that although Saddam was really bad, he wasn't sure if killing him was the best option. He wondered if it would actually relieve Iraqis of the fear of one day coming again under Saddam's wrath or whether it would just result in more violence. He is generally pretty sensitive with me when talking about violence in Iraq, because he knows that I lost a childhood friend there this past year. He also expressed the sentiment that most everyone I've talked to about this with has raised: killing is wrong (sinful/creates negative karma/etc), and creates more suffering.
A Nepal taxi driver I was riding with, upon hearing that I was American, timidly asked if it was OK if he asked me a question. I replied "of course," and he asked me what I thought of Saddam's execution. I said it was a difficult question, because although he did a lot of terrible things, I am not sure that one can ever justify the death penalty. I believe that everyone is capable of rehabilitation, and agree with the maxim that if you want to judge a society, you should judge it by the way it treats its prisoners. The taxi driver agreed with me when I said that if you kill, it creates sin, regardless. He thought that it was a bad idea in the end to kill Saddam, but also didn't seem very sure of his opinion.
Today brothers Chris, Daniel and I visited a close Tibetan lama friend of mine, Phagchog Tulku Rinpoche. We joked a lot (he's quite young) and he gave Chris a beautiful Tibetan carpet wall hanging of the Kalacakra mantra as a gift. He has been my meditation teacher for 3 years and therefore I have a great amount of respect for him. He has also many times also argued with me about why Bush is such a great leader, and had a definate opinion about Saddam's hanging. He said that in Tibetan culture (and I imagine it is the same for many Asians), once you or your land has been captured by the enemy, you have already suffered the greatest defeat. Being imprisoned is the greatest shame for the warrior, not to mention the agony of having seen your two beloved sons, brought up by your own hand, brutally killed and displayed mangled all over international news. He said that it would have been a greater punishment for him to live out his days in jail, knowing that he had lost to the enemy, that he was defamed, forgotten and powerless. The final reason that he disagreed with the execution, of course very Buddhist, is that killing begets killing that begets more killing, etc.
Finally, I also should mention that there have been a number of street protests in Nepal by both some Muslim organizations and also so other activists denouncing the execution. The Dalai Lama made a request that his life be spared, and both the Prime Ministers of India and Nepal, where capital punishment has been eliminated, requested that the Iraqi government not execute Saddam in order to maintain stability in the region. The Prime Minister of Nepal, Koirala, gave a statement wishing that all the civilized nations of the world would abandon the use of capital punishment, and prayed the "message of Sai Baba" of peace and love to all people be spread throughout the world.