10 executions that defined the 2000s

23 comments December 14th, 2009 Headsman

With the turn of the tide to the 2010s, we bid farewell to a decade that never did get a consensus moniker.

Like every decade known to the historian’s annals, however, the Aughties found plenty of work for the world’s hangmen.

As we prepare to flip over the calendar, Executed Today remembers ten executions that most palpably captured the decade’s Zeitgeist.

10. Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 2004

Although the world’s second-most populous country retains the death penalty and has dozens of death row denizens, an entire generation of Indians has come of age having never known an actual execution … never, except for the 2004 hanging of Dhananjoy Chatterjee (Update: Not any more). That made this otherwise ordinary criminal a worldwide controversy, and his archaic colonial-era hangman a temporary celebrity.

9. Aileen Wuornos, 2002

Two years after the magnetic prostitute/serial killer was given a lethal injection in Florida, Charlize Theron won an Oscar for portraying her in Monster.

8. Wang Binyu, 2005

This migrant laborer was just grist for the mill of China’s helter-skelter industrialization in the neoliberal economic machine … until, in a fury over wages stolen by his employer, he slew a foreman. Chinese media that picked up his story inadvertently made him an emblematic figure for the untold millions of his countrymen and -women who could sympathize with his sentiment: “I want to die. When I am dead, nobody can exploit me anymore. Right?” Internet buzz about Wang had to be forcibly squelched.

7. Timothy McVeigh, 2001

The Gulf War veteran was the face of terrorism in the U.S. from the time of his arrest for the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building, until three months after his June 11, 2001, execution.

6. Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, 2005

Heart-rending photos of these teenagers hanging in Iran were a worldwide Internet sensation and made them an instant symbol of Iranian anti-gay persecution.

5. Mamoru Takuma, 2004

“I want others to know the unreasonableness that high-achieving children could be killed at any time,” said the author of perhaps the most infamous crime spree in modern Japanese history. The usually glacial Japanese capital system got the former janitor into a noose barely three years after he’d knifed eight children to death in the “Osaka school massacre”.

4. Cameron Todd Willingham, 2004

Something tells us that the ornery Texan — he took his leave of the world throwing an obscene gesture at his former wife from his execution gurney — would have been but pleasantly surprised to discover himself a major posthumous headache for Gov. Rick Perry (who signed his death warrant) and like-minded partisans of pseudoscience arson convictions. The sad part is that the evidence of Willingham’s potential innocence in the recent bombshell New Yorker article was basically all available at the time of his execution.

Rediscovery (with touching, or feigned, naivete) of the timeless problematic of executing innocents has characterized the 2000s not only in the U.S. but around the world.

3. The Bali Bombers, 2008

These grinning Islamic militants orchestrated the 2002 coordinated triple bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202, most of them western tourists. (88 were Australians, the predominant nationality affected, as against only 38 Indonesians.) Then they spent six years gleefully milking their notoriety.

2. Zheng Xiaoyu, 2007

Zheng Xiaoyu hears his death sentence.

While proletarians like Wang Binyu died for pennies and many like Fu Xinrong died for their organs, the more privileged in China’s gangster capitalism played for higher stakes. For a decade the state’s Food and Drugs Minister, Zheng Xiaoyu took payola to rubber-stamp products that turned out to be dangerous to man and beast. His high-profile execution was Beijing’s response to a wave of concern about the safety of Chinese exports abroad … and a pledge, one year in advance of the 2008 Olympics, of China’s readiness for the world stage.

Zheng aside, elites behaving as gangsters (and vice versa) have been a recurring phenomenon on China’s execution grounds of late.

1. Saddam Hussein, 2006

Undoubtedly the decade’s signature execution, the 2006 hanging by America’s Iraqi puppet government of America’s longtime foreign policy bete noir was purchased for trillions that would have been better spent just buying the guy off … especially since cell phone video soon to circle the globe revealed the old rattlesnake taking command of a distinctly undignified scene.


Honorable Mentions

Some other notable executions to remember the 2000s by:

  • Creepy Malaysian pop singer Mona Fandey
  • Anti-abortion terrorist/martyr Paul Hill
  • Dmitry Chikunov, whose secret execution launched his mother on the crusade that would abolish Uzbekistan’s death penalty
  • Draconian anti-drug laws ensnaring foreign drug mules, like Australian national Nguyen Van Van and Nigerian footballer Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in Singapore, and mentally ill Briton Akmal Shaikh in China
  • Vietnamese crime lord Nam Cam
  • Han Bok-nam, whose public shooting in North Korea was filmed and smuggled out of the country
  • The filmed stoning of Du’a Khalil Aswad in Iraq
  • Many people, such as Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, taken hostage in Iraq and demonstratively “executed”

On this day..

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2001: Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City bomber

14 comments June 11th, 2008 Headsman

At 7:14 a.m. on this date in 2001, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.

More ink has been spilled about the 33-year-old Gulf War veteran and his infamous crime than this space can possibly hope to summarize. Books can be — and have been — written debating whence McVeigh sprang and whether he was rightly convicted.

McVeigh tended to keep coy about his version of his activities on April 19, 1995,* but he was never less than frank about his philosophy.

Though his avowed motive, the Waco slaughter that occurred two years to the day before Oklahoma City, has never exactly been secret, the way he’s connected those events has also never been particularly welcome. And McVeigh would say that the fact that he suffered execution while the only parties punished in the Waco siege were the survivors makes his point.

For all its moral monstrosity, the Gulf War veteran’s critique of his violent actions vis-a-vis those the state claims legitimacy for makes discomfiting reading, and is not always so easy to answer. From our distance of time, knowing that three months after McVeigh’s execution another terrorist act to beggar Oklahoma City would propel the United States back into Iraq, it strikes eerily prescient notes.

In a 1998 essay, McVeigh savaged the government for its hypocritical posture towards the country he had once fought, Iraq:

The administration has said that Iraq has no right to stockpile chemical or biological weapons (“weapons of mass destruction”) — mainly because they have used them in the past.

Well, if that’s the standard by which these matters are decided, then the U.S. is the nation that set the precedent. The U.S. has stockpiled these same weapons (and more) for over 40 years. The U.S. claims that this was done for deterrent purposes during the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union. Why, then is it invalid for Iraq to claim the same reason (deterrence) — with respect to Iraq’s (real) war with, and the continued threat of, its neighbor Iran?

If Saddam is such a demon, and people are calling for war crimes charges and trials against him and his nation, why do we not hear the same cry for blood directed at those responsible for even greater amounts of “mass destruction” — like those responsible and involved in dropping bombs on [Dresden, Hanoi, Tripoli, Baghdad, Hiroshima and Nagasaki]?

The truth is, the use of a truck, a plane, or a missile for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction does not alter the nature of the act itself.

These are weapons of mass destruction — and the method of delivery matters little to those on the receiving end of such weapons.

Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the U.S. military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City. The only difference is that this nation is not going to see any foreign casualties appear on the cover of Newsweek magazine.

It seems ironic and hypocritical that an act viciously condemned in Oklahoma City is now a “justified” response to a problem in a foreign land.

Another note sent shortly before his execution to author Gore Vidal travestied government warmaking talking points:

[T]his bombing was also meant as a pre-emptive (or pro-active) strike against those forces and their command and control centers within the federal building. When an aggressor force continually launches attacks from a particular base of operations, it is sound military strategy to take the fight to the enemy. Additionally, borrowing a page from U.S. foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government. Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the U.S. hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option. From this perspective what occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time, and, subsequently, my mindset was and is one of clinical detachment.

He broadcast clinical detachment in the execution itself — the first conducted by the federal government since 1963, technically imposed for the eight federal employees among his 168 victims — from his waiver of appeals to his unnervingly unblinking death mask to the stoic 19th century poem “Invictus” that formed his written (and only) final statement.

* Also — coincidentally or not — the execution date of Richard Snell in Arkansas, a militia man (and white supremacist, which McVeigh was not) who had once tried to blow up the Murrah building himself.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Indiana,Infamous,Lethal Injection,Martyrs,Milestones,Murder,Oklahoma,Popular Culture,Ripped from the Headlines,Soldiers,U.S. Federal,USA,Volunteers

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