Gov. Tim Kaine denied clemency Tuesday for sniper John Allen Muhammad, clearing the way for him to be executed for the attacks that terrorized the nation's capital region for three weeks in 2002...Click here to read the AP story.
...Muhammad was sentenced to death for killing Dean Harold Meyers at a Manassas gas station during a three-week spree that left 10 dead across Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
If anyone deserves the death penalty Muhammad has it coming to him. No need to rehash his many crimes in this space.
What response from the government is fitting when a citizen takes fiendish delight in murdering random strangers and terrorizing millions? What should you do to a man who transmogrifies an eager protégé, Lee Boyd Malvo, into a soulless sharpshooting assassin?
Well, if he does it in Virginia and gets caught he gets lethal injection. (I'm glad the electric chair across Belvidere St. from Oregon Hill is gone.)
Yet, if he does many of those same things, but directs his wrath at enemies in another country -- under the flag of war -- he might get a medal, or make millions as a private contractor. Hide and kill 'em when they ain't looking? No problem. There would be nothing wrong with training young men to follow his example.
Muhammad chose the wrong enemy for his personal war, the wrong society. He became a self-styled homegrown terrorist. Whatever his true motive was, he was clever but he got caught.
If I had been the judge to decide his punishment I would have stuffed him into solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Yes, permanent confinement and utter banishment seem totally appropriate to me. That's because I just don't believe executing Muhammad provides any genuine satisfaction in the long run.
For the families of the victims, closure is mostly a myth. And, in my heart of hearts I don't believe the state should coldly take a life in revenge, no matter how heinous the crimes. When the state takes a life, to some extent, it's like living under martial law.
The reason I say "revenge" is because that's what it is. Lethal injection is a state-sanctioned murder, supposedly more humane than electrocution. In our system, capital punishment doesn't save money. Nor does it truly deter crime. People who fear the consequences of their acts don't generally commit random murders.
Like war, an execution is another case of the government saying it's OK to kill some people, sometimes. Which, from a moral standpoint, is a tricky business, at best.
On the other hand, I will not weep for John A. Muhammad (formerly Williams). After tonight, he won't kill anybody else.
No, my tears will be saved for the young Americans who have been trained to kill foreigners who appear to be enemies, sometimes in their own countries. Some of those veterans will come home crazy. Some of them will not be able to leave their haunts or killing ways overseas.
Incidentally, Muhammad was a veteran of the first war in Iraq, remembered as Desert Storm. And, when he dies tonight, we all know it's inevitable there will be unlucky veterans of our current wars who will eventually tempt our society to put them to death.
Since I don't believe in an afterlife, either, I sometimes wonder if believing in heaven allows one -- Christian or Muslim -- to more easily accept the idea that killing other people, without it being a matter of self-defense, is OK.