Friday, May 6, 2011

Was the killing of Bin Laden just? a letter from Marta Soler

When I taught in Barcelona at IBEI last December, I had many wonderful students. One of them, Marta Soler i Alemany, wrote me a fine letter offering some useful criticisms of the article on Obama’s killing of Bin Laden and what may follow from it I posted Wednesday here. I reproduce her letter first because it reminds all of us, from Europe where some larger shreds of civilization remain (Atocha Station in Madrid, too, was bombed by Al Qaida, but Spain then stood up for civilization and tried and convicted those responsible), of something forgotten by what has now become American politics and success in it – the rule of law.

"Dear Alan,

As I use to do, I read your last article posted in your blog. This is an important moment. Bin Laden is dead. A bad man is gone.

However, even if I understand the strategic objectives of Obama’s Administration, and also the suffering of those who lost someone in S11 and also M11 in Spain (because I also felt that pain), I am deeply disappointed with the methods used. The International Law seemed not to matter once more. Moreover, I do not see Justice in the action. Instead, I see revenge and a question of power. This is a new tragic story about Justice and Human Rights.

I will explain myself better:

First of all, I think that the American sense of Justice is deeply related to revenge and punishment (for instance, compare the synonyms of the concept in American English and in Spanish). It seems that people need the death of the murderer to feel consoled which I perfectly understand. But then, I do not consider that as Justice. In my opinion, revenge is not ethical itself (I am not using the word moral because in Spain it has a religious sense that I do not like). “An eye for an eye” also increases violence and justifies it. Finally, Justice is a much more holistic concept. Maybe I am wrong.

Secondly, reactions in Spain were different even if Zapatero and Spanish society was satisfied to know that a bad man was gone. Why? Because our Foreign Policy is not as militarized as the American one. Neither is our society. This aspect leads me to another idea due to my observations and information. People in Spain and Europe in general, seems more aware of what this violation of the International Law represents such as tortures and ignoring the right of a judicial procedure.

Of course, you can argue that killing Osama Bin Laden was completely legitimate and necessary. But a judgment should have been done even if it sounds naive. Pinochet was also a murderer and he was in a sense prosecuted. Or let’s remember Nuremberg’s Judgments.

Definitely, almost all of us (I am referring to western world’s citizens because this is what I know) wanted Osama Bin Laden dead. And to follow the international legal processes would have represented an important American society’s reaction. And therefore, troubles to Obama’s Mandate. Nevertheless, as a student, as part of a new generation, as a believer and defender of the Human Rights, the role of International Law and also a believer of Justice (not in a vengeful sense), I am frustrated and extremely worried of "What follows from the death of Osama Bin Laden?.

Un cálido saludo des de Barcelona,

Marta"

I wrote of Obama’s triumph like that of a Mafia don. I spoke of his “taking out” Bin Laden and his being competently lethal – which is different from lawful or ethical or just – to underline this point. I spoke of how becoming President has changed Obama – how he is no longer a person insistent, as in the campaign, on the rule of law or the barring of torture and Presidential murder. He has now become, in this case, a moral murderer, one outside the law, as opposed to immoral murderers (the Obama of the drones in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, almost all the Bush administration’s atrocities in many countries, let alone torture prisons…). The intent of my writing about the blood-sport of American politics was both psychological – as to what explains the sad crowds chanting USA! USA! - and satirical.

I do not regret Bin Laden, morally speaking (this was, roughly, an act of self-defense against a mass murderer). In this one case, I do not even regret the Wild West justice of the more powerful Obama. But if you ask with Marta, is such a thing good and decent?, the answer is: no. Will it lead to the restoration of the rule of law in America, and a commitment of America to decency – the scaling down of the war complex, the restoration of the rule of law to at least a greater extent as opposed to rapacity and mass murder (as in the aggression in Iraq or in the drones in Pakistan, or in the provision of Apache helicopters to the Israeli government in Palestine), the answer is: no. We must press the elite from below to do this.

Do we need Europeans, Americans and the world to fight for the rule of law in this context? Yes, we do (and yes, we can). Marta exemplifies this spirit. So does Glenn Greenwald and the editors of Tikkun and Martin Totusek’s letter – to them and me – on this same point (see below).

Obama was elected as an alternative to an outright police state – and the disappearing and torture not only of taxi drivers and cooks at Bagram and Guantanamo but of American citizens like Jose Padilla in a West Virginia brig (‘first, they came for the communists, and I did nothing because I was not a…’ as Pastor Martin Niemoeller once put it). See here. Obama was stopped from torturing Bradley Manning (“verdict-[illegal and immoral punishment] - first, trial later,” as an Obama/Cheneyesque Queen of Hearts might say) because of Greenwald’s exposures, international publicity and the heroism of Obama supporters who disrupted a fund raiser in San Francisco to demand an end to the torture of Manning. See Greenwald here.

As is usual with American tyranny, even when it does something just and competent (unsurprisingly a unique case), is that when the story comes out – beyond the corporate press slavishly repeating the White House as “news”; in this pseudo-journalism, every fact must be responded to with its opposite except, solemnly, in the case of whatever the White House says - what happened is much worse than it appears. We sent serious and competent killers from Navy Seal Team 6 – not ordinary soldiers, mainly the very young with little training and much fear, but comparatively trained and self-possessed people - to get Bin Laden (such people are often much more careful about killing and honorable...). But Bin Laden was unarmed. Two days ago it came out, as Andrew Sullivan noted that Obama spoke carefully, but what he indicated is that a fire fight occurred several others, including innocents in the house, were killed (a woman in the crossfire…). Osama Bin Laden was captured, unarmed. The American Seal then executed him by two bullets to the face.

Yesterday’s story is worse (and the trust of the corporate media and a part of the American people in any lies the elite tells more frightening). There was no firefight. The assassins entered the house, and shot whom they found (this report, too, might not, of course, be true; in later news, they apparently took out three guards, including one of Bin Laden’s sons, who resisted, left the children alive, and murdered Bin Laden).

Could Bin Laden have been captured and brought back to the US for trial? Sure. Would this have been better for the rule of law and proving that Cheney notwithstanding, the murderer Osama Bin Laden could not pull the US down to his level (only the grotesque Bush and Cheney did this to America)? Sure. In contrast, the Nuremburg trials, however, inadequate, were the legal coup de grace to major Nazi leaders. But American politics is a blood-sport, as I emphasized in the last post, the pressure always to the inane and authoritarian Right (which is why America has come increasingly close to destroying itself and the world).

Obama should have stood up against this, knew enough to stand up (he is a constitutional law professor), could have mandated hearings into torture, and some independent procedure to bring Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rodriguez who presided over torture and illegally and immorally destroyed the films because everyone would have seen who and what the torturers are, Gonzalez, Yoo, Ashcroft (new general counsel to Blackwater\Xe), etc. With Bin Laden dead, if one had the feeling that America now stands alone, a colossus, blind and violent and evil (even Obama has tortured Bradley Manning, past torturers are baying, three Republican presidential candidates raised their hands for torture last night), one would not be wrong.

Obama was lethal only in taking out Bin Laden, not in fighting against the corporate elite/war complex and its media, to restore the law (something for which he would in the present and historically have gained genuine admiration). Against the era of Cheney's insane criminality, the European awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama expressed this hope; though Obama commendably cut out much of the torture, even the current triumph in rough justice (a kind of justice, though as Marta rightly says, real justice is holistic) - is very problematic, also undercuts the rule of law. If this case is used but once as a precedent for future action, it is nearly certain to be perverted.

Like the Libyan attack in which Obama also trashed the Constitution, Congress not consulted, Obama, the sovereign in a Schmittian sense, a tyrant, acted outside and against the law, but in these cases, to do something good – prevent a massacre in Benghazi (or take out Bin Laden). See here. He succeeded in Libya, too, about Benghazi. But the US is now involved, as the Company in “Avatar,” blowing up Libyans with its missiles – the killings of Ghadhafy’s children, straight murder, are now the achievement not only of President Reagan but President Obama.

The day before yesterday it was said in Maureen O’Dowd’s column in the Times that Obama admires the “Godfather” and Michael Corleone (at a family celebration while his minions murder his enemies). Obama has, indeed, with his White House correspondants’ dinner witticisms about the odious Trump and the birthers while taking out Bin Laden achieved a greater but analogous lethality. His answer to the racist vacuity of the Tea Party was not just to tell scathing jokes about Trump; instead, he at the same ordered a hit on the mass murderer of Americans and others. Answering 9/11, the act made the “great and amazing Donald” permanently yesterday’s news, something distasteful, out of mind…

Obama exacted vengeance, which in this case is also a kind of justice (again, the paradigm is: if someone attacks and murders your countrymen and other innocents and is working to do it more, and you take him out, this is self defense). But it is also not, as Marta emphasizes, a trial. Obama rightly is careful enough not to release chilling photographs of Bin Laden’s face half-exploded by bullets. In a quasi-Islamic (a bit Orientalist) burial, Obama gave Bin Laden to the sea. Would-be suicide bombers will not file past the body, compete with fishes and poisons...

Obama and the Seals sickeningly named the operation Geronimo (the great Apache leader who resisted the American genocide toward Native Americans). See here and here. Obama sometimes notes the racist oppression of indigenous people, but he had affection, even during his campaign, for the genocidal President Andrew Jackson (praise of Jackson as a forebear was the one negative point in his otherwise electrifying speech to 30,000 people, including me and my youngest son, at the University of Denver February 12, 2008). Geronimo was as good and decent as Osama Bin Laden is evil.

One can only hope that enough of Obama is left – it is the point of “The Godfather” as a whole that nothing is left of Michael Corleone – that he might, if pressed from below, do the sensible and decent things I suggested in my last post.

But in Washington, the militarist claque remains for escalation in Afghanistan. That is empty as I have emphasized. Bin Laden was taken out in a targeted operation in the West Point of Pakistan. Americans are sick of this war (66%want the US to withdraw in a recent poll). Militarism could be cut back. Now with credentials as lethal, Obama could work for the rule of law and peace.

In fact, Obama has committed crimes – he has tortured Bradley Manning and made himself the accomplice of the Bush war criminals – in protecting and developing the illegal and immoral commander in chief power. The rule of law in America hangs by a thread (in a single wavering vote on the Supreme Court and in a constitutional law professor who ends torture and then becomes a torturer, though at least he backed off under protest). Ignorant, nothing but torturers like John Yoo and Juan Rodriguez and Mukasey squeak about how torture 8 years ago got the US on the track of Bin Laden. If Bush had gotten such information, however, even he - totally incompetent, out of his depth and murderous of whatever moves that he can imagine “the enemy” – would have taken out Bin Laden. Even Rumsfeld said one true thing about this – that torture gained no valuable information - a rare moment in his public career - before he, high on the list of war criminals and thus, stupid for saying the truth, “took it back.” The fierce call for torture is empty.

Greenwald also brilliantly points out that though torture rarely gets good information, it occasionally might (no evidence yet that it has) hit on something. Even a broken clock is right twice in a day…

But the question is whether less brutal means of interrogation like Ali Soufan provably used in ferreting out the identify of Khald Shaikh Mohammed could have accomplished – and more easily and decently - the same thing. That is what Marta’s letter asks Americans, from the point of what Western civilization might be – at least, as Gandhi says, as an aspiration - to do. She and Glenn are right. None of these crimes were necessary.

More importantly, torture is abhorrent. Those who do itlose their souls. American torture has disgraced America (and would have done so even if that torture had gotten Bin Laden). Torture is odious, torturers infamous historically – Richard Cheney has joined Torquemada, for example, in history (Bush is too pathetic and mindless – keeping his head down even as yesterday about going to Ground Zero to get credit for killing Bin Laden that he did not earn because it might make Obama seem bipartisan – to achieve Cheneyesque infamy).

If Obama were really strong – and he knows this – he would not have executed Bin Laden this way but put him on trial. But then the cowards including Mayor Bloomberg, so upstanding about the Islamic Center and freedom of religion, so timid about the rule of law applied to terrorists - would have insisted that the trial not be in New York. Madrid can try war criminals in accordance with the rule of law – but the United States (and the corporate press, the whole claque of torturers) are frightened, clueless. If you want to make a statement about our civilization, capture Bin Laden and have the trial in New York, before the law. But Obama judged this as he judged going to Congress about Libya – too much political heat, too great a threat to reelection...

In addition, another Nuremburg would have been good – except of course that the US is also world’s biggest capitalist and militarist and what it has done in Egypt – every tear gas shell was made in the USA - and Gaza is unspeakable. Bin Laden could, though a mass murderer himself, have raised American state terrorism at his trial, somewhat muddied the waters. A clean kill and into the sea...

Egypt and Tunisia have now proven Al-Qaida no force for pseudo-Islamic resistance, just mass murderers, fanatics and fools. The US would have gained in the Arab world as well as Europe for standing up for justice. But American militarism is the opponent of justice, will not allow it. Even with failing wars and a depression, America's politics may not allow Obama to undo the police state that Cheney initiated, just to make it temporarily somewhat less odious. Yet militarism is so self-destructive, having brought down the American economy and accomplished nothing through its wars (much bravado and murder, no Bin Laden until Obama sent the Seals), that there is a real possibility of resistance from below altering these narrow alteratives. Tunisia, Egypt, Madison...

Obama had pictures of Gandhi and King up as well as Lincoln up in his Senate office. What O’Dowd said about his affection for Michael Corleone is not quite accurate. Can Obama remember – he whose words often contain the rhythm of King’s - what King said about war? That every bomb in Vietnam falls on the poor in the United States. That the Vietnam war is the enemy of the poor (and the war on poverty). That like a “great demonic destructive suction tube,” war destroys the promise and decency of America (as Langston Hughes said, America is not America to me" and swore "America will be"). That a nation that spents more on military defense (2 and ½ times the Cold War budget, $704 billion dollars a year officially under Barack Obama) than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. King’s words are as true today as they were on April 4, 1967…

Lincoln, a rare bird, catered to racism far into the Civil War, naming the wrong of bondage but not doing much against it (trying to resettle blacks outside America in Haiti, in a failed experiment, hoping to make America "free" as a land only for whites...), until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Lincoln, whom Frederick Douglass came to admire passionately and vice versa, is the model Obama takes as a politician. Compared to today's American politicians, Obama is smarter – more throughtful, more able, and when it counts, more decisive, even at some risk - and occasionally has a method in what he does that appears only over time. But America is far down the road to self-destruction and, if not stopped, by the American people, from below, will take much of humanity and the world with it.

Obama has contributed to making that process bipartisan. He is still much better than Bush - stopped the torture – though the Bradley Manning case is particularly depraved and disturbing, took out the mass murderer. But whether he can become like Lincoln before a second term (and hence deserve that term) or, more likely, during it remains to be seen. He walks a tightrope. If Obama loses, he is just a blip on the emergence of an American police state and self-destruction. That would be a consequence of the blood sport seen in those cheering USA! USA!, or yesterday, the torturers jumping up and down and screaming for torture...

This is a moral and psychological drama (and quite possibly a tragedy, though not simply) which it is hard to find words for and which those, partly satirical ones I chose in the last post, may not, as Marta points out, be adequate.


Tikkun
to heal, repair, and transform the world

Tikkun's Spiritual Response to the Assassination of Osama bin Laden
by Peter Gabel and Rabbi Michael Lerner
May 2, 2011

From Peter Gabel, Associate Editor:

There is no question that Osama bin Laden, as the leader of al-Qaida, was implicated in or directly responsible for the deaths of many, many people, most likely including the more than 3,000 American and, women, and children who were killed in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

But it was nevertheless upsetting and shocking to witness the exultation in the media last night when bin Laden's killing was announced. Never should the killing of a human being be an occasion for such celebration - even in circumstances that involve actual self-defense against mortal danger.

Not only does such a raucous display of pleasure in response to the killing of another disrespect the sacredness of every human life; it also inherently undermines the moral character and worthiness of those responsible for the death itself.

If the United States seeks to place itself on a higher moral ground than those who commit immoral acts against our people, we must all conduct ourselves in a way that manifests our empathy and compassion for all of humanity, for every human person, and also manifest our awareness of the tragic distortions in human relations across the globe that still hurl human beings into the horrors of ongoing violence and war.

President Barack Obama's statement to the American public and the world announcing bin Laden's death was far more sober and expressive of human depth than was the unseemly cheering of major media figures in the hour preceding Obama's address, or the crowd shouting "U.S.A, U.S.A" outside the White House gate, with the kind of hardened false elation in response to a killing that often is seen on the face of hatred.

Nevertheless, we wish President Obama had at least included one phrase that said, "Even though we never take pleasure in the loss of a human life…" before stating why he felt bin Laden's death was important and just.

From Rabbi Michael Lerner:

I agree with Peter Gabel, and would only add the following:

The Jewish tradition has much to say on the killing of our vicious and even murderous enemies. When Pharaoh's troops were drowning in the Reed Sea as they sought to re-enslave or kill the Israelites, the angels began to sing praises (the Hallel prayers: Psalms 113-118). God proclaimed:

"My children (the Egyptians) are sinking in the sea, and you are singing praises?" Yet God did not silence the Israelites, knowing that at that moment it would be hard for humans not to celebrate the death of an oppressor. Nevertheless, the Jewish tradition then instituted two practices in accord with God's response: First, that the Hallel prayers would be cut down to a partial saying of some of the psalms on the last six days of Passover. And second, that when we do the Seder on Passover and recite the plagues that were used against the Egyptians to get them to free the Jews, we put our finger in the cup of wine, symbolic of our joy, and dip out a drop of wine for each plague - this symbolizes that our cup of joy cannot be full if our own liberation requires the death of those who were part of the oppressor society.

It is the loss of this consciousness by almost every society on the planet that is a real source for concern and mourning. For far too many people, the war on terrorism seems to be an extension of the football games where we cheer on our team: "USA! USA! Hey, you are tough!"

The task of spiritual progressives at this moment is to reaffirm a different consciousness - to remind ourselves that we are inextricably bound to each other and to everyone on the planet.

The struggle against terrorism will not be won through killing, no matter how many people we assassinate. It will only be won when we in the West can show genuine love, caring, and generosity toward everyone else on the planet.

Now that Osama is dead, let's get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now! The money saved from that alone would make a great down-payment on the Global Marshall Plan[http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php/gmp_one ] we badly need (and we could start it in the Middle East). Congressman Keith Ellison has already introduced this plan as House Resolution 157.

I understand very well the need for self-defense in a violent world, as well as the rage and upset felt by many, including me, at the murder of innocent civilians on September 11 and on many other occasions. Within the current distorted framework of military conflict in which we are to some degree entrapped,

I also understand the strategic importance of capturing or, if there is no other way to stop them from sending more murderers to kill innocent civilians (and every other possible route has been tried), then self-defensively killing the leaders of those who seek to kill or terrorize our own people.

But the fact remains that it is through new policies of generosity and caring for others, not through killing the bad guys, that we will create a world of peace. To the extent that Americans celebrate the death of bin Laden because they believe that it will bring peace to the world, I want to acknowledge the goodness and decency of that aspiration.

Yet we as spiritual progressives must simultaneously help our fellow Americans, indeed, our fellow human beings in every society, see that it is the path of nonviolence and the Strategy of Generosity that is the only path toward lasting peace on our planet.

So this is a moment to pray that this new consciousness will spread quickly through our planet, and a moment when all of us can and should renew our dedication to promoting a spirit of love, caring for others, and true generosity. Let us pray that that becomes the path of all countries on our planet.

Peter Gabel, the associate editor of Tikkun, is a law professor, therapist, and a founder of the critical legal studies movement. Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of "The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right," is rabbi of the Bay Area congregation Beyt Tikkun and head editor of Tikkun.


Dear Rabbi Lerner and Mr. Gabel,

A good article, that I hope will actually be read and understood.

My wife was in tears, watching the gross display of juvenile behaviors outside the White House, and understanding what such a display was saying about our nation to the world.

I felt disgusted by the behaviors I saw being broadcast from outside the White House, that came across as looking like people were cheering at a sports game, and killing someone (no matter whom) and dumping their body in the sea, is not a sports game.

The dumping of the body in the sea, makes it look like the U.S. government is trying to hide something and/or is trying to provoke something (like the footage given to CNN by the U.S. government, also looks like trying to provoke something).

I also worry that such a lack of adult behaviors and actions, and the U.S. media glorification of such, could inflame some to acts of violence.

I've also not forgotten the large numbers of people in many nations (99% of whom had nothing to do with any of this), that have been harmed in so many ways, including those made homeless, those who have been kidnaped and tortured, those who have been maimed, those who have been killed, and all the bombings, invasions and occupations, that have been done by our nation, all using bin Laden and 9/11/2001 as the pretext, and also the harm all of that being done, has brought to men and women in the U.S. military.

My friend David posted this online:

"The history of US response to 9/11 is one of knee-jerk militarism, bloodshed and very little thought. bin Laden should have been captured and tried; not murdered and dumped at sea. We could have learned so much about al Qaeda. . . now . . .?"

I replied back to his posting:

"I agree with captured and tried.

I also recall that bin Laden and his mujahideen * group were formerly supported, trained, and funded (from at least late 1979 through 1989) by the U.S. government (including by the C.I.A. Special Activities Division), as well as by College Republican National Committee National Chairman Jack Abramoff's private fundraising ** for several mujahideen groups, so what information might have come out at a trial?

(* mujahideen is listed with about 9 different transliterated from Arabic spellings in English)

(** including via the "Citizens for America" 1985 Jamboree in Jamba, Angola, and via Abramoff's front group "International Freedom Foundation" - which was linked to the former apartheid South African government)"

Sincerely,
Martin


Wednesday, May 4, 2011 07:30 ET
The illogic of the torture debate
By Glenn Greenwald

The killing of Osama bin Laden has, as The New York Times notes, reignited the debate over "brutal interrogations" -- by which it's meant that Republicans are now attempting to exploit the emotions generated by the killing to retroactively justify the torture regime they implemented. The factual assertions on which this attempt is based -- that waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation methods" produced evidence crucial to locating bin Laden -- are dubious in the extreme, for reasons Andrew Sullivan and Marcy Wheeler document. So fictitious are these claims that even Donald Rumsfeld has repudiated them.

But even if it were the case that valuable information were obtained during or after the use of torture, what would it prove? Nobody has ever argued that brutality will never produce truthful answers. It is sometimes the case that if you torture someone long and mercilessly enough, they will tell you something you want to know. Nobody has ever denied that. In terms of the tactical aspect of the torture debate, the point has always been -- as a consensus of interrogations professionals has repeatedly said -- that there are far more effective ways to extract the truth from someone than by torturing it out of them. The fact that one can point to an instance where torture produced the desired answer proves nothing about whether there were more effective ways of obtaining it.

This highlights what has long been a glaring fallacy in many debates over War on Terror policies: that Information X was obtained after using Policy A does not prove that Policy A was necessary or effective. That's just basic logic. This fallacy asserted itself constantly in the debate over warrantless surveillance. Proponents of the Bush NSA program would point to some piece of intelligence allegedly obtained during warrantless eavesdropping as proof that the illegal program was necessary and effective; obviously, though, that fact said nothing about whether the same information would also have been discovered through legal eavesdropping, i.e., eavesdropping approved in advance by the FISA court (and indeed, legal eavesdropping [like legal interrogation tactics] is typically more effective than the illegal version because, by necessity, it is far more focused on actual suspected Terrorism plots; warrantless eavesdropping entails the unconstrained power to listen in on any communications the Government wants without having to establish its connection to Terrorism). But in all cases, the fact that some piece of intelligence was obtained by some lawless Bush/Cheney War on Terror policy (whether it be torture or warrantless eavesdropping) proves nothing about whether that policy was effective or necessary.

And those causal issues are, of course, entirely independent of the legal and moral questions shunted to the side by this reignited "debate." There are many actions that the U.S. could take that would advance its interests that are nonetheless obviously wrong on moral and legal grounds. When Donald Trump recently suggested that we should simply take Libya's oil and that of any other country which we successfully invade and occupy, that suggestion prompted widespread mockery. That was the reaction despite the fact that stealing other countries' oil would in fact produce substantial benefits for the U.S. and advance our interests: it would help to lower gas prices, reduce our dependence on hostile oil-producing nations, and avoid having to degrade our own environment in order to drill domestically. Trump's proposal is morally reprehensible and flagrantly lawless despite how many benefits it would produce; therefore, no person of even minimal decency would embrace it no matter how many benefits it produces.

Exactly the same is true for the torture techniques used by the Bush administration and once again being heralded by its followers (and implicitly glorified by media stars who keep suggesting that they enabled bin Laden's detection). It makes no difference whether it extracted usable intelligence. Criminal, morally depraved acts don't become retroactively justified by pointing to the bounty they produced.

* * * * *

It was striking to note in yesterday's New York Times the obituary of Moshe Landau, the Israeli judge who presided over the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. It's a reminder that when even the most heinous Nazi war criminals were hunted down by the Israelis, they weren't shot in the head and then dumped into the ocean, but rather were apprehended, tried in a court of law, confronted with the evidence against them for all the world to see, and then punished in accordance with due process. The same was done to leading Nazis found by Allied powers and tried at Nuremberg. It's true that those trials took place after the war was over, but whether Al Qaeda should be treated as active warriors or mere criminals was once one of the few ostensible differences between the two parties on the question of Terrorism.

Speaking of which: I know that very few people have even a slight interest in the unexciting, party-pooping question of whether our glorious killing comported with legal principles, but for those who do, both The Guardian and Der Spiegel have good discussions of that issue.

UPDATE: Donald Rumsfeld repudiated one of the very few honest moments in his public career by reversing himself, now claiming that "enhanced interrogation" did indeed play a "critically important role" in the U.S.'s ability to find bin Laden. CIA Director Leon Panetta today said that it is an "open question" whether waterboarding produced important intelligence in finding bin Laden. There's clearly an attempt underway by the political (and media) class to rehabilitate the Bush torture regime, which is why it is more important than ever to make clear that torture is never justifiable no matter what it produces.

1 comment:

mihai martoiu ticu said...

This killing proves once again a major flaw in the International Law: individuals cannot sue states in international courts. If bin Laden's relatives believe that it is just a case of murder as professor Schabas proves that it is possible to see it, they cannot challenge the U.S. legal argument in any court. They cannot sue the U.S. in Pakistani courts, because of the state immunity. They cannot sue in U.S. courts because of the ‘the political question doctrine’. They cannot sue in international courts because the international courts don't admit individual complains and because the U.S., together with the other usual suspects rejected ideas of an International Court of Human Rights, where individuals could sue states.

The same is the case for Osama, he had complains about U.S. for keeping tyrants in power in his land and other Islamic lands, for robbing the natural resources, for Guantanamo, for biased help to Israel and other complains that might have been solved in courts if he could sue the U.S.

Once again, whatever the U.S. will say, correctly or falsly, it will go, the U.S. will have the last word. This cannot be just, even if the argument is correct.

(see professor Schabas argument hiere http://humanrightsdoctorate.blogspot.com/2011/05/murder-in-pakistan.html)

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