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VALE BIN LADEN May 8, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy, Duckspeak.
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We take bin Laden to be guilty as charged to be self evident, but perhaps on reflection they may not be so conclusive as supposed. And if he were guilty should his, or any other’s, death be celebrated?

The US Constitution, along with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, is one of the seminal documents produced in the eighteenth century distilling the principles of liberal democracy and institutions. If the notion of separation of powers has any practical purpose it is to prevent autocracy. The “kill doctrine” seemingly reigns unquestioned in the current climate – and never mind about those who are slaughtered in the process of getting our man.

We forget about practical matters when we celebrate the death of another human beings. Feelings can be complicated. We might remember the Maori saying: “The God of evil and the God of fear are good friends”.

Pamela Gerloff writing in The Huffington Post observes (via Peace and Justice Studies Association):

“Celebrating” the killing of any member of our species–for example, by chanting USA! USA! and singing The Star Spangled Banner outside the White House or jubilantly demonstrating in the streets–is a violation of human dignity. Regardless of the perceived degree of “good” or “evil” in any of us, we are all, each of us, human. To celebrate the killing of a life, any life, is a failure to honor life’s inherent sanctity.

Plenty of people will argue that Osama Bin Laden did not respect the sanctity of others’ lives. To that I would ask, “What relevance does that have to our own actions?” One aspect of being human is our ability to choose our own behavior; more specifically, our capacity to return good for evil, love for hate, dignity for indignity. While Osama Bin Laden was widely considered to be the personification of evil, he was nonetheless a human being. A more peaceable response to his killing would be to mourn the many tragedies that led up to his violent death and the thousands of violent deaths that occurred in the attempt to eliminate him from the face of the Earth; and to feel compassion for anyone who, because of their role in the military or government, American or otherwise, has had to play a role in killing another. This kind of compassion can be cultivated, as practitioners of many different spiritual traditions and humanistic philosophies will attest.

I keep forgetting that if compassion is not the default setting, then violence in one form or another is inevitable. We just have to exercise our higher human capacities, because they are our proven survival kit as a species. We seek not just to live, but to live well, and that is the purpose of reason (A. H. Whitehead referring to Plato).

Noah Chomsky was asked his thoughts in relation to the death of bin Laden. He writes at Guernica:

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

Of course in the Anglophone World, or whatever our tribal identity is, and more generally the West, there is a form of blanket conformity combined with the marginalization of those who express an contrary opinion, mindless that difference of opinion and the resolution of those differences through constructive, evidence-based debate is placed at the centre of our worldview. We are forever short-changed by public relations tricks and techniques. In the process we may be undermining the civilization we seek to uphold (as we are aware it has always drawn so much from others). The self-discipline that justice requires has become too much for us.

ELSEWHERE:

As violence leads to violence, so it seems conspiracy theory leads to counter-conspiracy theory, with “theory” here used to describe untested propositions. Barry Kissin, writing in Frederick News Post suggests:

I do not assume that my government is telling the truth about the bin Laden event. Neither should anyone else. Already, substantial contradictions and peculiarities in the official account of the raid have manifested. This may be a sloppier hoax than the fraud that produced the Iraq War.

Check out Dr. Steve Pieczenik, deputy assistant secretary of state under Kissinger, Vance and Baker. He is now reiterating that bin Laden has been dead since 2001. He is far from the only authority who has proclaimed that over the years.

At Common Dreams, Michael R Miller observes it is instructive to compare and contrast the execution of Eichmann and bin Laden.

Aidan Lewis at BBC News gathers contradictory legal opinion on the killing of bin Laden. His killing is seen as part of the war powers – he is a general of a group that has declared war. Alternatively, it is suggested that he should have been brought to trial. From bin Laden’s point of view, it was better to be summarily executed than to be tortured. It is a foregone conclusion the American Government will win the PR campaign within the US media, but in other parts of the world it may be more problematic, that is they probably will not.

Thomas Darnstädt has a superior analysis at Spiegle Online.

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