Why Do Progressives Want the Boston Bomber to Live?

Federal prosecutors have announced they are seeking the death penalty for Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, murdered three people and wounded more than 260. In addition, they shot a Boston police officer to death.

In keeping with what the citizens of progressive Massachusetts consider to be progressive values, the great majority of them oppose the death penalty for Tsarnaev. Only one out of three citizens supports his execution.

The Boston Globe reported that, when asked to explain the ACLU’s opposition to executing Tsarnaev, “Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said that the union opposes the death penalty ‘because it is discriminatory and arbitrary and inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment.'”

“Rose pointed out,” the Globe added, “how the community rallied around the slogan, ‘Boston Strong,’ and said ‘that means not letting terrorists or anyone else shake us from staying true to our values.'”

The Globe also reported that “opponents of the death penalty — the Boston Bar Association declared its opposition to capital punishment earlier this month — assert that it provides an ‘illusion of ultimate punishment.’ The group noted that death penalties, even when granted, are rarely carried out.”

So, then, a man who placed a bomb next to an 8-year-old boy and blew him up along with other innocent people must not be executed because executing such people is “discriminatory and arbitrary,” is “inherently cruel and unusual punishment,” and because the death penalty provides only an “illusion of ultimate punishment.”

How is executing Tsarnaev “discriminatory and arbitrary?” Against whom? Muslims? Males? Chechens? How is it “inherently cruel?”

Why isn’t life in prison from the age of 19, which may include time in solitary confinement, inherently cruel?

And “inherently unusual” is logically almost impossible. Almost nothing humans do is inherently unusual. Whatever is unusual is so because cultures have decided that it is. Is eating insects unusual? In America it is. In parts of Africa it isn’t. But it is certainly not inherently unusual. Likewise, capital punishment is only unusual in cultures that have declared it so. In fact it is much more accurate to say that keeping all murderers alive is unusual. It violates the most basic human instinct for fairness and justice.

And the Boston Bar Association’s claim that the death penalty provides only an “illusion of ultimate punishment” is either meaningless or untrue. The death penalty is surely more of an “ultimate punishment,” whatever that term means, than imprisonment.

All these arguments are so morally and intellectually weak that one must search elsewhere for the reason people believe that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev must be allowed to keep his life.

Where shall we search? Given that opposition to the death penalty is deemed a progressive position — meaning a left-wing position — one has to place this opposition within the general framework of leftism. Two major characteristics of leftism, as explained in my last column, are a sympathy with, if not full adherence to, pacifism, and an unwillingness to confront evil.

It is true of global evil. The left didn’t fight Communists nearly as much as it fought anti-Communists (“Cold Warriors,” was a common left-wing epithet). In our time, the left doesn’t fight Islamism nearly as much as it fights those who fight Islamism (“Islamophobic” is the epithet for such people).

And it is true of individual evil. The left regards murderers, rapists, thieves and other violent criminals more as victims than as contemptible. Violent criminals do what they do because of poverty, racism and inequality, progressives argue. And these are not the only reasons violent criminals aren’t to blame. Secular progressive thought also denies free will, viewing all our behavior as ultimately attributable to genes and environment.

Between blaming society and denying free will, progressives are more interested in understanding violent criminals than in punishing them. That explains why in Norway, for example, the maximum sentence for murder is 21 years in prison, and few Norwegian murderers spend more than 14 years behind bars.

In their hearts, most progressive opponents of capital punishment think Norway has it right — including with regard to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whom they see as a young, naive victim of his older Islamist brother and his Islamist mother. On the other hand, the hearts of proponents of capital punishment focus on the photo of Tsarnaev placing a bomb next to an 8-year-old, and believe in that moment he forfeited his right to live. On this issue, the right and left not only have differing ideas, they have different hearts.

Dennis Prager’s latest book, “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph,” was published April 24, 2013 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.


  • Vance P. Frickey

    Martha’s Vineyard wants to secede from Massachusetts. Is there ANY hope at all that we can get Massachusetts to secede from the Union and admit, say, Canada from Ontario westward?

  • brickman

    The death penalty did not deter these guys. My experience with criminals is that they never think that they will be caught. The death penalty in this case is correct because it satisfies our need for justice.

  • Bob Olden

    When I posted my opinion on capital punishment I got a message that “this comment is being moderated”. It was not inflammatory or vile in any way. Did you delete it?

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      It got caught up in he filter for some reason. Not sure why. It’s out there now.

  • Bob Olden

    Why was my comment not posted?

  • Brian Stover

    Neither lethal injection nor a firing squad is cruel and unusual.

    What would be cruel and unusual would be placing him in solitary, with an endless broadcast loop of Obama speeches.

    He well might demand a firing squad.

    • What what?


      Hilarious. At least you have wit to replace your lack of supported facts or logic.

  • DanB_Tiffin

    Boston Bomber hates America
    Liberals hate America – Transfer neurosis from their childhood – as they hate themselves.

  • Josh

    I’m torn on the death penalty. To me, it’s one of those oddities like abortion, where there are no clear-cut answers. However, being anti-death penalty isn’t just a progressive stance. I know quite a few right-wingers who oppose the death penalty.

    As for putting this guy to death personally, I’m not really sure what good is does anyone. If people will feel better knowing that he’s dead, I won’t begrudge that. Though to stand on “justice” and to assert that killing someone is somehow righteous, then I do have to question which century their minds inhabit.

    I wouldn’t feel one way or the other about it if the guy was put to death or if he was put into a deep, dark hole. My only question: What’s gained by his death?

    • Darren Perkins

      I would like to point out that it is not inconceivable that this man could escape prison and be free for a length of time in which he would be free to harm others in his desperate state. Also that he could communicate covertly or even outright with those who applaud his actions. I understand he has many female admirers thanks in part to the Rolling Stone magazine cover. Executing him would send the right message to those who would admire evil and those that would attempt similar jihadi attacks on US soil… and again (see response to previous post) why should tax dollars (including tax dollars paid by the families of those murdered) go to keeping this man housed,fed, and cared for medically.

      • Josh

        As I initially stated, I don’t begrudge anyone’s stance. However, most of what you say could apply to any criminal anywhere, and thus would be a justification to enforce the death penalty on a wide range of people for a wide range of crimes.

        Any criminal poses a threat and may possibly escape. Killing a person to prevent a possibility of future wrongdoing is getting into Minority Report territory.

        Tax money is unfortunately wasted on an incredibly broad list of things. Killing off the recipients is more mafia-like than it is justice.

        As far as sending messages: Who’s receiving this message? Throughout history the most atrocious people imaginable have had fanclubs. It’s sick, but if killing the kingpin sent some message that girls should stop admiring killers, it would have been received hundreds of years ago.

        Add in the fact that most murderers are well aware that death is on the table, either via a police shootout, double-crossings, the death penalty, their suicide missions, or a number of other things a criminal may get into. If you’re going to argue that the death penalty is a deterrent for criminals or for the criminal’s admirers, you’ll have to show some data to support that. On its face alone, it doesn’t hold up.

        On an end note about tax dollars: I’m as libertarian-minded as one could probably be, and I loathe that my tax money goes to 90% of what it goes to. But some things get chalked up to the cost of living in a free society. So if my tax dollars need to support a prison that’s secure, I say that’s a far sight better than my tax dollars supporting the lazy, drug-addled baby factories, failing schools, crooked politicians, etc.

        I’m not thrilled about my tax dollars paying for food and shelter for someone who would just as soon kill me than to look at me, though I’m also not thrilled about my tax money supporting a system that kills people. It’s not a black and white issue, for sure, but if I’m being honest, I’m as fearful of those who are gung-ho for the death penalty as I am those who commit murder. “He should die” seems far more about bloodlust than justice.

        • Darren Perkins

          I don’t begrudge anyone their stance either. We all have a right to our opinions. This particular person is not a criminal. Criminals are generally self interested people looking to gratify their own wants and needs through illegal activity. This person is a terrorist serving Muslim jihad at his own expense. He is not self interested. He is a combatant in a war where the accepted rules are not being followed. They do not target their enemies. They target innocent people. Unlike most criminals he does have a much larger group of people who do applaud his actions and seek to support aid and abet him in his mission. I would suggest that this person is much more dangerous than your average murderer/criminal.
          As far as the message being sent: It is not meant as a deterrent at all. Nothing will deter a terrorist. The message is that if you wage war against the United States we will kill you. That’s not blood lust

          • Darren Perkins

            (Continued) that is the nature of war. You kill your enemies. Because they do not follow the accepted rules of war he should not be afforded the rights of a prisoner of war either. The best we can do is to end this persons ability to engage in acts of war which would also include recruitment within the prison. The only way to be sure of this is to kill him. It’s truly the only practical way of dealing with him. This would also save the taxpayers a lot of money. Tax money being wasted on other things does not justify wasting even more on this person.

          • Josh

            Out of the all the arguments one could make for killing another human being, the tax one has to be the silliest I’ve heard. If you wish to continue justifying it, have at it. But the “Well, it’ll save us some money” line is quite sociopathic.

            As to killing captured enemies in war, that’s an area where it does venture into bloodlust, despite saying otherwise. There’s a huge difference in someone firing back and something already apprehended.

            When wars are being fought and people are being killed in battle, that’s one thing. But what you’re saying is that this guy is a POW. He’s an enemy combatant in a war and was apprehended, thus he is a prisoner of war.

            If you’re okay with killing prisoners of war–not a man on a battlefield committing an act, but a person already apprehended–then I’m not sure how it could be called anything but bloodlust.

            It sounds like you’re just trying to justify killing for revenge. Look what he did, so now he deserves to die.

            If it’s vengeance you seek, again, I don’t begrudge that. Though the spin placed on it seems to make little sense. We must kill a prisoner of war, and as a bonus we’ll save on tax money. Eesh.

          • Darren Perkins

            I fully understand your opinion. You fail to understand mine and dismiss it as silly and attribute it to blood lust. I do believe the death
            Penalty is appropriate when there is no doubt as to guilt. I think it is fair no matter what century it is.

          • Josh

            I’ve tried to understand what you’re saying. All I have to go on is what you write. Thus far, I’m getting a clear sense that you hold tax dollars to be a reason–not the single reason, not the most important, but a reason–to kill someone.

            Yes, I definitely feel that’s a silly argument to make. It’s a scary proposition when it pings around my brain. “Hey, at least we won’t have to keep paying if we kill him.” < That's the nicest way I can word it. And if that's putting words in your mouth, then perhaps it needs to be explained better than what I'm reading.

            "This would also save the taxpayers a lot of money. Tax money being
            wasted on other things does not justify wasting even more on this

            If I'm misreading that, I apologize. But I also don't think I'm reaching for inference here.

            As for attributing it to bloodlust: It's a word synonymous with revenge in this context.

            Again, am I misreading you? You seem to be outright saying that a POW should be killed for participating in the war. Caught, contained, controlled, yet still killed for what happened, what could theoretically happen, and to save money. That reads as wanting vengeance.

            Whether or not they kill this guy makes me no never mind. I won't lose sleep. I don't feel for him. People have to reap what they sow. But if someone argues in favor of the death penalty, I would hope–for me personally, of course, not objectively or universally–that the arguments in favor wouldn't stand out as just wanting some payback.

            Maybe to rid the world of a monstrous m'fer who places no value on human life and thus has shown the world that he doesn't want to participate with the rest of us. So we can oblige him, hopefully reluctantly and without pumped fists and cheers. That's more along the lines of what I can personally get on board with. The tax money and POW things aren't exactly striking me as reasons so much as excuses.

    • Gratefulconservative

      It’s called a deterrent. Maybe if it was used more often, there would be less atrocious crimes. Especially, pre-meditated murder; where as people plot, plan and choose to cross the line, full aware of potential penalties but knowing there are plenty of bleeding hearts they can play upon.

      • Josh

        It seems it would be a deterrent in a perfect world, but is it really?

        I don’t know much about this subject, and I won’t pretend to. As I’ve stated, it’s one I’m torn on. In the heat of the battle, in the moment, direct revenge, etc.– these are all different to me than subduing the threat and then killing it at a later date.

        Doing so being a deterrent is something that doesn’t seem to wash once you think about why people kill. Is a for-profit murderer worried about the consequences? I know psychopaths aren’t. What about passion-based murders? Terrorists don’t seem to mind. Rage killers are deterred by consequence?

        Maybe there are some people who would become Dexter if only they could get away with it. I have no idea. I just know that if the only reason someone isn’t killing other people is that they personally don’t want to be killed, then they need some serious help.

        Perhaps you have some good statistics on this deterrent thing you could share.

  • Skip in VA

    I support the death penalty and in the case of the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it should be by firing squad. I believe that if I am bitten by a rabid dog the dog most likely is going to be “put down.” Tsarnaev and others like him, are to society what rabid dogs are and should be treated accordingly.

  • Larry Linn

    Until recently, I supported the death penalty, but I have changed my position. Since 1970, there have been over 142 death row inmates have been exonerated. Several others have been wrongfully executed. Our judicial system may be the best in the world, but it is not perfect.

    • Darren Perkins

      I share your concern and that is why the death penalty should only be used when there is no doubt as to guilt and not just beyond a reasonable doubt. With this case there is no doubt what the man did. He should die. Why should tax dollars be wasted on housing,feeding, and giving medical care to this scum of the earth self appointed executioner.