Posted by: Martin Scherer | 09/05/2011

Should Obama have killed Bin Laden?

As the dust settles, significant differences are developing on each side of the pond. I don’t think anyone denies Bin Laden was a war criminal summarily executed by the USA. Was that right?

Those now shouting from the rooftops are polarizing. Those who think it right rejoice on the streets of America. Those who think it wrong vehemently voice their opposition on European news and current affairs. I think both are minorities, not representative of most people who have conflicted views.

I am complimented readers ask for an opinion. The opinion here deserves no greater credit than any other and I think most readers are capable of working this out. Let’s do it together.

The lawyers

Lawyers are debating the legality with most concluding it was not legal. Lawyers have always objected to any means of dispute resolution other than by lawyers. If governments go around making summary convictions, lawyers lose income and jobs, and judges are not the ultimate authority.

Lawyers always make things seem absolute but then spend months if not years debating the issue. There are no immutable principles in law. All law emerges from circumstance. Laws may gain authority though time, or have authority through individuals power, or democratic process. All law is tested in the court of human opinion. That’s a jury. With new circumstances, new laws emerge.

Clearly, the due process of law is preferably but Bin Laden was beyond the law. He had no democratic mandate, breached the principles of international and religious law, and thereby had no right to claim the protections of law.

Justification for torture?

It was claimed, and then denied, that the information leading to Bin Laden, was achieved through water-boarding of captives. Sorry, but I don’t believe it. Such information is nearly a decade out of date.

Nor do I get involved in the debate of whether any torture is ever justified. There are legal, socially acceptable, and more successful methods of gaining the same information. Ironically, those methods originate in the USA and were crudely used by North Vietnam on American captives. Remember the US pilots who returned arguing the Vietnam case?  Why use a failed method that brings authority into disrepute?

Was Bin Laden guilty?

Was he a freedom fighter? Such as the French underground, Moa Moa of Kenya, the IRA or the Arabs of Libya today? By his own admission and the reports of those who knew him personally, Bin Laden relished in the details of terrorist attacks he organised. He rejoiced in the outcome knowing the lives thousands of innocent citizens of Kenya, Tanzania, the USA, UK, Spain, Iraq, and Afghanistan were destroyed by his attacks.

For nearly two decades, we were lead to believe Bin Laden used force to defend Islam from communism, atheism, Christianity, and capitalism. According to those who knew him, Bin Laden used Islam to manipulate those he sent to kill and die.

Was it right to bring Bin Laden to justice?

Sounds a crazy question but some claim Bin Laden’s day was over and by his actions President Bush seemed to think it wasn’t worth pursuing Bin Laden..

What do people think was Bin Laden doing? Running a free love pot smoking commune? One British tabloid has suggested as much. Bin Laden’s life was predicated by planning to murder others. Taking a leaf from capitalism, he had franchised his mass killing operation. Like all franchise operators, Bin Laden set the brand, the objectives and provided the role model. To evade the world’s military and secret services for a decade, he must have had god or the devil on his side.

There are no statutes of limitation to killing, let alone for mass murder. If society does not want individuals to take the law into their own hands, then society must ensure justice is done.

Should Bin Laden have been captured alive at all costs?

Depends on whether you wanted the media ritual of a public trial and execution, the inevitable risk of hostage taking and terrorist attack, and whether you want to pay the high security and trail costs.

If justice is human then not only must it be seen to be done then it must also be swift. The problem with western justice is the time it takes, months, even years. Meanwhile they exist in dehumanizing cells, day to day hoping they may be found innocent, knowing that relative’s lives are on hold.

Any true freedom fighter would prefer instant death, and would provoke his captors to provide it.

Was it right to shoot an unarmed man?

Shortly after the London bombings, the British police multiply shot an unarmed innocent man on London’s underground. There are always innocent casualties of war and I trust those charged to uphold the law in our protection will learn from their mistakes.

Bin Laden was no innocent, unarmed man. There was every reason to expect he would evade capture, even by death, was prepared for such evasion, and would sacrifice those around, even those nearest and dearest to him.

Paddy Ashdown, a respected war veteran and senior British politician, protests against the killing of Bin Laden, but does not seek to second-guess the decisions of soldiers in a war situation.

Should the White house have released that photo?

Someone will or produce a fake.

It may appear a mistake to release the photo of Obama, Clinton and others watching live in the ‘situation room’. That one has come in for more humour than most. What were they watching? Michelle demonstrating how to cook hash browns, the hubby President paying due attention as though he cared, whilst Hillary looks OMG is that how it’s done? And that situation room – how cramped.

Personally, I feel reassured knowing politicians saw the consequences of their decisions as it happened. All too often politicians are divorced from the consequences of their actions. And I think it right for the world to see the man as he really was. Not a heroic warrior but an aging back-room planner of death.

Should Bin Laden have been shot in front of his wives?

I’m sorry but I believe in equality. I have no sympathy for the wives of ponzi scheme operators, in fact, I think they were often implicit to the crime and should be tried alongside their spouses. If there roles were reversed, and Bin Laden was a woman, would anyone be complaining she was shot in front of her husbands?

If Bin Laden’s wives were captives against their will, they are now free.

Should Bin Laden have been buried at sea?

A Muslim should be buried facing Mecca. One British comic said that now depends on the tide. If Bin Laden believed in God, why did he insult God by breaking God’s laws?

Reports state that Bin Laden’s home country was asked to take his body but refused it.

I guess it depends on whether you want a martyr’s funeral and place pilgrimage. Pilgrimage to what? We eulogize the figure of Robin Hood, but the reality is Hood was a highway robber who shared the spoils of robbery with those who helped him. I don’t want to be PC about Robin Hood, but a pilgrimage to Bin Laden is an insult to those who did achieve freedom and through peaceful means – Ghandi, Mandela, and many more.

Is the world a safer place?

History suggests the world will be a riskier place in the short term. I’m not so sure.

For decades, Arabs have lived in poverty and fear of dictators. Bin Laden is the latest in a long list of Arab terrorist sponsors who directed that anger against the west, from Egypt’s Nasser, to Palestine’s Arafat, Libya’s Gadhafi and more. Each wanted a place on the international stage. One they had fallen, the world became a safer place.

By directing Arab anger against external factors, Bin Laden perpetuated Arab dictatorship and Arab poverty. I don’t think it a coincidence that Bin Laden was captured at the time of the Arab Spring, but I believe Bin Laden’s demise will hasten the Arab spring. Arab’s don’t want dictatorship by military or religious dictators.

Should the USA have outed the Pakistan’s incompetence and complicity?

The British would not have done that. The French would have allowed Pakistan to save face rather than rub the nose of  a junior allie in their own dirt.  Will the shame motivate the Pakistani authorities to act and will the truth give them the authority to act?

How has the White House handled the news?

Those with long memories are astonished by the conflicting statements emerging from the White House. Does it matter? Yes, because it reminds us of the march into Iraq without proper consideration or preparation for the consequences.

Obama has put his head on the line.

One principle of warfare, as old as the chessboard, is that you can capture or kill any piece on the board, but not the king. Not the Commander in Chief. Obama has changed that rule. An American President has legitimised the right for a government to assassinate the leader of its enemy. That includes the right to assassinate an American President. I wonder if Obama realises. If he does, he is a very brave man. The good they die young.

Personally, I have never seen the legitimacy in the King’s right to safety when the king sacrificing pawns, their castles and the rule of law and God. The only worthy leader is one who takes the same risks he or she asks of the people. When I play chess, I go straight for the king, and thereby hope that most of the people, their homes, and churches, remain standing.

It seems to me an American President has accepted the consequences and personal risks of Presidential decisions. I admire him for it just as I admire the British Prime Minister for state that Gaddafi is the target. Gadhafi’s only choice must be to go before he is got by his own people.

Leader of the free world.

Bin Laden did not attack the USA alone. Bin Laden declared war on everyone who chooses a non-sectarian society and the freedom to prosper. Like it or not, the fact that the USA brought Bin Laden to justice, shows the USA is the leader of the free world.

Your conclusion?

You worked all that out for yourself, didn’t you. The death of any person is regrettable and the rule of law is preferably, but these circumstances were not the norm. Like Hitler, Bin Laden was a mass murderer who caused more poverty, death, and pain to those he claimed to protect, than the enemy he saw. I think, most people worldwide would prefer to forget Bin Laden ever existed and don’t want to be reminded by pictures or prolonged court cases. They want to believe it is over.

Let’s not forget what Bin Laden did to America. The first mainland attack on an American city. A bloody nose that made a proud nation look incapable of defence and created fear of more horrific attacks. Unlike most terrorist attacks that are over in the moment of an explosion, the victims of 9/11, were tortured, as their relatives tortured, in the knowledge they were going to die. Some had the courage to take they only escape they had. They jumped. Images of falling bodies, too horrific for the media to show, but eventually seen by everyone.

We did not criticise when Berliners jumped up and down on the wall, so I don’t think it right to criticise Americans for showing their relief. Every November 5th., for 400 years, Brits have celebrated the hanging of the terrorist Guy Fawkes, by burning his body at the stake.

We should not forget the lessons that Bin Laden taught us. Peace exists where democracy, good governance, and free commerce exist. If we prop up dictators then we will pay a price for our ill-gotten gains. The free world needs a leader and that leader is always the most powerful nation on earth at that time. Yesterday it was the British, centuries ago the Romans, Greeks, Persians and Egyptians. Tomorrow it will be the Chinese. Someday the world will police itself, until then it is the USA.


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