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extra-judicial assassination is wrong

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one of mr bin laden’s boys agrees


It’s a bit late I suppose to be piping up about this, but after doing some Saturday reading around the traps I feel the need to stand up for what appears to be a minority view. Certainly in the US, the overwhelming view, in polls conducted in the days after the assassination, was that the Obama administration took the correct course in assassinating bin Laden.

What exactly was bin Laden’s role in the September 11 attacks though? Did he provide logistical support, financial support? Was he involved in the planning? All I know is that he claimed responsibility. Of course, he could have been lying – how would I know? Nor do I know anything about his involvement in any of the other terrorist attacks linked to his name. I was recently reminded that, over time, clever and witty sayings become wrongly attributed to famous people, thus robbing some poor, momentarily clever character of her one moment of glory. Maybe the same could be said of terrorist actions. Sounds plausible to me.

The whole purpose of bringing someone like bin Laden to trial should be obvious. Some eighty percent of Americans might have agreed that his assassination or murder was justified, but how many of them could provide evidence of bin Laden’s implication in any crime, let alone the heinous ones attached to his name? They mostly only know of bin Laden through media scraps and some wobbly video presentations. And now, with bin Laden dead, nobody needs to provide evidence, and the connections between bin Laden and al-Qua’ida, and between that organisation and various terrorist attacks, will remain obscure. And there is also that requirement of justice that the USA in particular likes to crow about as one of its great pillars – the presumption of innocence.

The thing about court cases – the beauty of them, if you will – is that you have to start from scratch, building a case painstakingly backwards from the dastardly deed to its various causes – the perpetrators of the actual deed, the trainers of those individuals, the planners, the overall strategists, the money trail, etc. By doing so, not only would bin Laden’s guilt be laid bare for others to see, but much else could surely be uncovered – the extent of guilt, the people who shared in that guilt, precise roles, precise involvements and so forth. Of course, not everything would come out – it never does – but we would certainly have a clearer picture, and we might be thus able to determine a deserved punishment.

Ratko Mladic is currently on trial in The Hague. The Srebrenica massacre, from reports I’ve read, involved the massacre of between eight and nine thousand moslems, and it’s not the only serious crime that can be sheeted home to Mladic. Further, Mladic, unlike bin Laden, was by no means at arms length from these crimes – he was on the ground orchestrating events. It’s probably fair to say that Mladic was responsible for more killings than bin Laden [but who’s counting?]. Given this, imagine if a contingent from the nation now known as Bosnia-Hercegovina had gone into Serbia, having staked out Mladic’s hiding-place, with the stated intention of trying to arrest him. However, Mladic had refused to go quietly, and had been shot dead.

It’s an unlikely scenario, admittedly. Little Bosnia-Hercegovina could hardly be expected to pull off something like this, much as it might have wanted to. The media, though, would have reacted very differently. For a start, they, and the international public, had been primed for years about the ‘necessity’ of bringing Mladic to justice in The Hague. Nobody was talking about ‘taking him out’. Yet nobody seems to have talked about bin Laden facing an international court. Had any warrant been issued against him? Has a case been prepared? I’ll have to investigate this, but I doubt it.

I recall Obama defending the assassination of bin Laden by saying that ‘anyone who doesn’t think bin Laden deserved to die must have bats in their head’, or some such thing. That is of course beside the point. I don’t subscribe to capital punishment generally, but I might be prepared to make exceptions. The point is that I, like 99.99% of the public, only know of Osama bin Laden through the media, and I certainly don’t believe in trial [and execution] by media. I want justice based on evidence, not murder based on revenge, which is what this appears to be. Of course this appeals to the Hollywood movie side of us all, but we should be able to rise above that. The larger point is that bin Laden deserved a fair trial, not because of what he did, whatever it may have been, but because he was a human being. His killing has deprived us of the ability to see the extent of his guilt more clearly, and that’s a damn shame.


Written by stewart henderson

June 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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