10 May 2011

Reflections on the murder of Osama bin Laden

At the end of the Second World War, the Americans and their allies captured a pack of Nazis, an assortment of the most evil men on Earth. They could have lined them up against a wall and shot them and there would have been little argument. But, as the Americans have often done, they set a higher standard. They arrested these men, charged them with war crimes, and only after trying them in a court of law did they punish them.

How things have changed. In dealing with their bogeyman Osama bin Laden, they offered no arrest, no charges, no trial. Instead they sent a hit team to break into his house and shoot him down in front of his wife and children. In the last 65 years, it seems the U.S. has descended from the rule of law to extrajudicial murder.

There can be no doubt they could have captured him alive. He was unarmed, and if they could land and retrieve 79 assassins, they could certainly have brought back one prisoner. Instead they decided to wreak simple vengeance.

Summary justice is of course no stranger to the United States. Vigilantes often rode in the Wild West and lynchings were once part of the American landscape, but one might think Barack Obama of all people would be above that sort of thing.

However his poll ratings are up along with American triumphalism, and his military did indeed do their dirty work well, even recording it live for the folks back home. On that score, I must say I find the idea of the President of the United States and his entourage watching a snuff film put on by his military somewhat unsettling.

When asked why he didn't release the photographs of bin Laden's corpse, the President responded, "That is not who we are." That, sir, may now be in question.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this. i'm a fan of due process over assassination, but I seem to be in the minority these days, and when I express that view, I am accused of wanting to let Hitler go free. (?)