THE MURDER OF BIN LADEN May 3, 2011Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
We are led to believe that Osama bin Laden has now been killed by American special forces living in a luxurious compound about 50 kilometers outside of Islamabad and close to a Pakistan military base.
We are further asked to believe that his body has been dumped at sea following positive DNA identification.
Our facile Prime Minister announced that “justice has been done“. By this reasoning executive murder, which admittedly happens all the time without any hint of remorse, as in the killing of Gaddafi’s grandchildren in the recent Tripoli bombing, represents a form of justice. Justice is the test of civilization, truth and morality. Revenge is not justice and leads inevitably to more violence and murder. Mass murderers on the other side of the technological divide are just given sustenance to continue on the path of violence and murder. I heard a Taliban leader has said that now he will act to get revenge for Osama’s murder. And so it goes.
As far as the United States goes, the killing machine is out of control. Holding trials seem a bridge too far and beneath their murderous arrogance. It is murder by executive authority – the principles of the US Constitution seemed to have been dismissed. We are not accountable.
The only way to contemplate such remorseless criminality is to see yourselves as separate from other human beings. This murder is seen as representing closure but in truth it is the condition – if that be the case – for more violence and unnecessary suffering.
It would seem to be the case that bin Laden could have been captured. Why was this not an option? (Of course, the reason this news is happening now, is that it is part of Obama’s re-election strategy – and I expect it to work.)
Rafe at Catallaxy suggests that those who adopt the position I have should be consistent. And that is fair enough, despite the violent language employed.Terrible things happen in our society, but we do no unleash lynch mobs on the offenders. What we lack are institutions of global justice rather than systems of power, domination and violence.
Democracy Now has an intelligent conversation on the issues of this murder, representing both sides of the argument.
Juan Cole provides the historical background explaining some of the reasons people become radicalized – but that does not justify murdering people in NY or anywhere else.
Peter Hatcher at The Sydney Morning Herald argues that Obama bin Laden’s death will make him a martyr even as while he lived he was a symbol of the impotence of American military violence. He says it is “a Pyrrhic victory for the West”.
Wikipedia provides a description of the events and the killings at the compound:
According to U.S. officials, a team of 20–25 U.S. Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (SEAL Team Six), under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command and working with the CIA stormed bin Laden’s compound in two helicopters. Bin Laden, three other men, and a woman were killed in a firefight in which U.S. forces did not experience any injuries or casualties. In his broadcast announcement, President Obama said that U.S. forces “took care to avoid civilian casualties.” Among the others killed were one of bin Laden’s sons, a man described as a courier, and the courier’s brother. Four years of surveillance of the courier led to the intelligence which made the raid possible. It was reported that the courier was the owner of the compound where the assault took place. John Brennan, the White House anti-terrorism chief, said that the woman that was killed was one of bin Laden’s four wives and was being used as a human shield at the time. Two other women, who were also used as shields, were injured during the raid. According to one U.S. official, the attack was carried out without the knowledge or consent of Pakistani authorities. In contrast, agents of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) said it was a joint operation.
Daniele Archibugi, at Open Democracy, while arguing the case for a trial and the rule of law, takes into account the victims of bin Laden and al Qaeda and the difficulties presented by the political situation in Pakistan (in good part created by American cultivation and largess afforded the military, without regard to the well being of the society).
IsraelL Shamir at Counter Point raises the spectre of double cross and conspiracy – although as superficially persuasive as the evidence presented, principally from unredacted wikileaks, it is not clear what the plot and purpose of the intrigue was.
David Kaiser argues that the killing of bin Laden was the only course, and may he says win credit with the honour culture of the Middle East. The problems with this argument are obvious. For example, not account is made for the hundreds of thousands of people killed and displaced in Iraq.
While the details of what happened are not described in detail, the fact that bin Laden was reportedly shot twice in the forehead, sounds barbaric, as does the murder of the other people. (As it turns out, it seems there was one shoot, a testament to the expertise of the military executioner). According to reports in Dawn, people heard helicopters then there were loud explosions which blew out windows in nearby houses, and then there was gunfire.
According to the following report from ABC Online (4 may 2011), the Presidential Press Secretary was remarkably candid about what occurred:
It has emerged Osama bin Laden was not armed when he was shot dead by US commandos at his compound in Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot above his left eye, reportedly blowing away a section of his skull.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says commandos would have tried to take the terrorist mastermind alive if possible, but he resisted and was therefore shot. The revelation, likely to stoke anger in parts of the Muslim world, came from Mr Carney as he provided the most detailed account yet of the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “In the room with bin Laden, a woman – bin Laden’s wife – rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed,” he said.
After media reports quoting officials describing it as a “kill operation”, the White House spokesman was pressed hard to explain the apparent contradiction that bin Laden was unarmed but also resisted. “We were prepared to capture him if that was possible,” he said, without providing a clear explanation. “We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance.”
When a journalist insisted “He wasn’t armed”, Mr Carney replied: “But there were many other people who were armed in the compound. There was a firefight.” “But not in that room,” the journalist pressed. “It was a highly volatile firefight. I’ll point you to the department of defence for more details about it,” Mr Carney said.
The spokesman said he had not heard reports out of Pakistan suggesting the commandos had tied up others in the compound in preparation for taking them away. There has also been an anonymous claim attributed to an official from the Pakistani spy agency that the Americans took away one person alive, possibly one of bin Laden’s sons. ABC/AFP
I find it hard to believe that White House journalists are capable of making follow-up questions and that White House spokespersons actually give answers.
The argument is made that bin Laden was a mass murderer, leaving aside questions of definition, and therefore was unique, so that his assassination was justified. This is a radical departure, I would imagine, from the usual precepts of justice and the rule of law, and it devolves into a question of state power versus non-state actors. Mass killings are remarkably common in recent history. The charges made could be framed in universal principles, which include those of Islam whose etymology includes peace (salam).
Juan Cole describes the following points as myths:
7. Bin Laden was executed by US forces. He was not. His wife lunged at the SEALS and was shot in the leg. Then Bin Laden made threatening moves (looked as if he was going for a weapon?), and he was shot.
8. Bin Laden was assassinated. He was not. First of all, he was the leader of a para-statal organization that had declared war on the United States. If the US could have stormed Hitler’s bunker and taken him out, it would not have been an assassination, any more than being able to take out an enemy general on the battlefield would be. Second, the SEALs fired only when he made a threatening move, which is a form of self-defense. There is every reason to believe that the US would have preferred to take Bin Laden alive, since they could have then interrogated him about ongoing terrorism plans.
According ABC Online to Leon Panetta, the CIA Director says:
“They used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees,” Mr Panetta said.
“But I’m also saying that the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.”
Mr Panetta also said killing bin Laden was the operation’s goal.
“The authorities we have on bin Laden are to kill him and that was made clear,” he said.
“But it was also as part of their rules of engagement, if he suddenly put up his hands and offered to be captured, then they would have the opportunity obviously to capture him, but that opportunity never developed.”
On this argument this is war, not justice, but has the US declared war on al Qaeda, other than the catch all war on terrorism? Too bad for those caught in the cross fire and as usual no expression of remorse. The purpose of going to war is to pursue illegal means and methods for supposedly good ends.
The photos of the gruesome work of the heroes will not be released, if only because it will save the hero responsible from further trauma he must now be undergoing. He will either be a psychopath or a just another suicide in the making.