First let me backtrack a bit. I haven't posted on the execution of Saddam Hussein. I may be one of the few bloggers outside of Iraq not to have mentioned it.
The problem, for me, is that I oppose capital punishment of any kind. That said, I did not feel sad in the least that they hanged him. Certainly, if anyone deserves to be hanged, it was Saddam. So rather than deal with my inner conflict, I avoided it completely.
But Dawkins has bailed me out. He has provided a non-moral rationale for not hanging Saddam.
Saddam Hussein could have provided irreplaceable help to future historians of the Iran/Iraq war, of the invasion of Kuwait, and of the subsequent era of sanctions culminating in the current invasion. Uniquely privileged evidence on the American government's enthusiastic arming of Saddam before they switched loyalties is now snuffed out at the tug of a rope (no doubt to the relief of Donald Rumsfeld and other guilty parties -- it is surely no accident that the trial of Saddam neglected those of his crimes that might -- no, would -- have implicated them).
Political scientists of the future, studying the processes by which unscrupulous leaders arise and take over national institutions, have now lost key evidence forever. But perhaps the most important research in which a living Saddam Hussein could have helped is psychological. Most people can't even come close to understanding how any man could be so cruel as Hitler or Saddam Hussein, or how such transparently evil monsters could secure sufficient support to take over an entire country. What were the formative influences on these men? Was it something in their childhood that turned them bad? In their genes? In their testosterone levels? Could the danger have been nipped in the bud by an alert psychiatrist before it was too late? How would Hitler, or Saddam Hussein have responded to a different style of education? We don't have a clear answer to these questions. We need to do the research.
The whole post presents a better argument, but you get the idea.
We can call this the scientific-rational argument against capital punishment in this case. It's likely to carry a lot more weight in many circles than my knee-jerk rejection of murder as a viable form of legal response.
But is it ethical? What do you think?