Saddam Hussein should not be killed, and not for rational or political reasons but simply because hanging him will be barbaric and wrong.
The rational debate centres around whether killing Hussein will reinforce rifts among Iraqis, further empower insurgent forces, and so on. Hussein’s own theoretical stance is that when you kill somebody, you had better kill all their friends and relations as well. That is apparently what Hussein was thinking at Dujail in 1982, when — after an attempt to assassinate him — he ordered 148 people to be slaughtered. This is the crime for which he has been sentenced to hang.
Every act is a communication. Hanging Hussein tells the world that dictators are not beyond the rule of law, that the world will unite to impose justice. But that is not the only message killing Hussein will convey. State killing of any kind sends the message that nothing fundamental has changed for Iraqis. The new boss is the same as the old boss. The value of life has not risen. Feel free to keep butchering one another.
I was a tourist in Southeast Asia, quite pregnant, when I wandered where I should not have and stepped on a land mine. Lying in greenery watching the sun dapple on the leaves, knowing that the blast had shredded my leg (but not my baby), I received a great gift: the realization that there is never a justification for planting land mines or dropping bombs. I did not think it. I knew it. I still know it. And most people in the world know it.
Now we have to stand up and say it. Refusing to kill Hussein would be a powerful communication: no more killing.