Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On (Not) Bringing Arch Villains to Justice

 The news these past couple days has been full of accounts of the raid by U.S. Special Forces that killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan. Yesterday while walking on the beach it occurred to me that I am about as physically distant as it is possible to be in the 'lower 48' from Ground Zero. The beach I walk that overlooks the Pacific is about as physically different as it is possible to be from the towering structures of the New York City skyline.

Alma and I have been talking about the matter seemingly non-stop since news of it first broke late on Sunday evening. We both remember our immense grief in the hours and days immediately following 9-11. We also remember how the nation then made a sharp right turn towards something neither of us recognize as America in the years that followed. And we remember our grief and anger at the many innocent victims of Bush's subsequent war-mongering in the middle east and central Asia.

One matter that really bugs me about the closing of the OBL chapter in the GWOT ('Global War on Terrorism') is that it seems no attempt was made to capture or arrest bin Laden. Instead, the force of 30-40 Navy Seals went in guns a-blazin' in typical Wild West, shoot first, ask questions later fashion that has become the hallmark of America's militarized foreign policy in the years since 2001. So when Preisdent Obama said we had brought Osama "to justice," I had to pause. "Justice" was not served in this case.

I spent much of yesterday in raging debates on Democratic Underground (http://democraticundergound.com/) arguing with people as to why no attempt whatsoever was made to arrest bin Laden, such that the due process of law could work itself out and bin Laden's fate be sealed with the full magesty of the law. Alma was carrying on similar debates with her friends and acquaintances on Facebook.

I am extremely disheartened to report that Alma and my position is a minority position, based on my unofficial sampling of opinion on DU and Alma's reports of her experiences on FB. Osama bin Laden has already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion it seems, so such niceties as the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence seem easily dispensed with by people one would think should know better.

Instead, what I found on DU was massive support for the extra-judicial assassination of bin Laden, eitther because (as mentioned above) he had no right to a trial or, in a contradictory rationalization, he was 'resisting arrest' at the time of the raid. The latter is laughable in its naievete and within 12 hours of the raid, a credible news report had surfaced on the esteemed new service Reuters that the team that was sent had no instructions to arrest bin Laden but instead were sent with orders to 'kill' him."


The Reuters story, if true, depicts an America I don't much care for, an America where the ends justify the means. And sure enough, this morning, there were stories that the Americans' use of torture had somehow contributed to the clues that led to Osama's location. The right wing is trumpeting this as proof that torture works. No matter that torture is against the law, both U.S. and international treaties to which we are signatories. If we can learn where Satan resides (the end), torture of his minions to find out (the means) are justified.

Disgusting, infantile and puerile. Even more disgusting were the televised displays of people outside the White House and in New York City engaged in atavistic displays of chest-beating Yahooism. "Unseemly" is how one person on DU referred to it and to that I fully agree and wish to add 'hypocritical.' Everyone here got in a fit of dudgeon when scenes were shown of people in the middle east dancing and celebrating the deaths of Americans. Seems like it's far easier for Americans to spot the splinter in their neighbor's eye while ignoring the mote in their own.

I'd like to say that it comes down to a difference of opinion. I believe that terrorism is a law enforcement issue and that law enforcement works best when principles like due process are observed. The people celebrating in the streets believe that terrorism requires a military response and arcane niceties like due process vanish when the battle begins. I'd like to say that. But I don't believe it's as simple as a mere civil disagreement any longer. The America that presided over the Nuremburg trials is long gone. The Americans who fought the battle against fascism in the 20th Century are now retired from the fields of battle. What has replaced that America and those Americans is a mob of ignorant and vainglorious boobs who cannot even tell you what due process of the law means. Infuriating and sad at the same time.

I am happy to report that not everyone on DU or on FB has signed on to the return to the days of Star Chamber and Bills of Attainder. Indeed, a healthy contingent of folks on each site agree with Alma and me, despite having to endure the cyber equivalent of being spat upon for enunciating such politically unfashionable positions.

My audience on this blog, while heavily American, is also healthily global and to my readers abroad I say that the America I remember and the America I want back does not torture for expedience. The America I remember and want back does not kill people without a trial. I will not be voting for Obama in 2012 unless he publicly apologizes and renounces the use of such tactics in the future. I don't think he will be doing that any time soon, as his cowboy antics have all but guaranteed his re-election.

To the souls of the 2970 dead at Ground Zero, may you rest in peace. To the soul of Osama bin Laden, may you also rest in peace. To the souls of all the innocent civilians we have killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, may you rest in peace. And enough with the "God Bless America" malarkey. How about this instead?

God Bless Everyone (No Exceptions)

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