The American Bear


Murder by the State | Murtaza Hussain

Executions are not an extraordinary occurrence in the United States, [Troy] Davis was the 36th person to be executed this year and the 1267th since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. It is an accepted part of the legal system that the state has the power of life and death over its citizens, and the exercise of that power is relatively regular and mundane. It is worth nothing that this power is exercised even more liberally over individuals whom the state does not [have] jurisdiction over, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan citizens have come to find out through no culpability of their own.

What was interesting in the outcry over Troy Davis’ execution was the reaction of many individuals to his death. Prospect of his innocence aside, there was a general revulsion and feeling that “something had changed” in the country that allowed such an act of devastating, methodical violence to occur. How could the government, that benevolent if sometimes confused entity which safeguards both freedom and order allow such an event to occur? How could they have had such a callous and relaxed attitude towards the taking of a life? It is good that people ask these questions (although sadly it seems as though the issue is already being drowned out in the hyperactive noise machine which is the popular media). The reality is that the manner in which Troy Davis’ life was taken, one which did not respect life by taking it only in the absence of doubt of innocence, is the modus operandi for the state in how it operates across the world.

“We think its worth it.” is how Madeleine Albright characterized the deaths of an estimated 500,000+ Iraqi children from sanctions when the question was posed to her. The destruction of huge amounts of life, undoubtedly innocent life; the life of children, justified and executed by government technocrats with the same clinical detachment as those who inserted the needle into Troy Davis’ right arm. His execution could only have been shocking to a person who is completely oblivious to how the government operates in their name, without their specific consent or often, knowledge. As much of a miscarriage of justice Davis’ case appeared to have been, he had still been granted the right to some sort of trial and hearing however flawed and inconclusive. On a daily basis people are killed by the state in a way not dissimilar to Mr. Davis, but without even the pretext of a judicial process respecting the sanctity of their life. “Suspected militants” are murdered every day in faraway places just as “suspected cop-killers” are murdered at home; just as much people, just as potentially innocent as Troy Davis may likely have been. Don’t forget about Troy Davis, remember who killed him and scrutinize his murderer as closely as you would scrutinize one who lives on your block. Nothing is new or innovative here; this is standard operating procedure. When you go off fighting monsters you inevitably become one, whether you are taking lives at home or abroad. If his death affected you in any way, please fight to honour his passing by circumscribing the ability of the state to destroy life; and stop it from creating millions more Troy Davis’ in every corner of the world.