Extreme Solutions

By Cockburn, Alexander | The Nation, May 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Extreme Solutions


Cockburn, Alexander, The Nation


Extreme Solution I: Priests

The old movies used to feature a priest walking alongside the condemned man toward the scaffold, offering last seconds of comfort, plea-bargaining strategies with St. Peter, a bolstering hand under the elbow. Sometime in the next decade the tableau may be reversed, with a lay counselor assisting the condemned priest as he totters toward that final rendezvous with the executioner.

The death penalty is being vigorously touted as the best way to deal with child molesters. And as the world knows, the Roman Catholic Church has sheltered many a child molester. On the cutting edge here are three states noted for the moral refinement of their legislators: to wit, Montana, Louisiana and Alabama. The first two states have already put Death for Molesters into their statute books, and when Alabama lawmakers convene again next year they will press forward into legislation, after an overwhelming vote from the state's House of Representatives last year in favor of molester executions.

The Montana law allows a person previously convicted of "sexual intercourse without consent" with someone under 16 in any state to be sentenced to death if convicted of the crime in Montana. The law was passed in 1997, but no one has yet been charged under that provision. Since 1995 Louisiana has had a law allowing the death penalty for people convicted of raping a child under 12. Thus far, a few charges, no convictions.

Alabama's bill would authorize the death penalty for people convicted a second time of having sex with someone under 12. No other states allow capital punishment for a sex crime. ABC News quoted Marcel Black, chairman of the Alabama House Judiciary Committee, as saying, "The very serious meaning of this is to send a message to child molesters that it is a bad thing to do."

Molesters can take comfort in the fact that these laws will probably not survive challenges from higher courts. The US Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is excessive punishment for rape. But who knows, in the current atmosphere anything is possible. Maybe that's why Pope John Paul II, a far-seeing man, shifted the Church toward opposition to the death penalty.

Extreme Solution II: Palestinians

Two years ago fewer than 8 percent of those who took part in a Gallup poll among Jewish Israelis said they were in favor of what is politely called "transfer"--that is, the expulsion of perhaps 2 million Palestinians across the Jordan River. This month that figure reached 44 percent.

Professor Martin van Creveld is one of Israel's best-known military historians. On April 28 Britain's conservative newspaper the Telegraph published an article outlining what van Creveld believes is Sharon's near-term goal--expulsion.

According to van Creveld, Sharon's plan is to drive 2 million Palestinians across the Jordan using the pretext of a US attack on Iraq or a terrorist strike in Israel. This could trigger a vast mobilization to clear the occupied territories of Arabs. …

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