Monday, May 9, 2011

On (Not) Bringing Arch Villains to Justice - Part II

Almost a week has gone by since my last post, On (Not) Bringing Arch Villains to Justice, wherein I laid out my initial reservations about the raid that led to Osama bin Laden's death. Alma and I have been walking at the beach each day but it seems as if my every waking minute in the days since my last post has been spent on Democratic Underground, trying to mount a spirited, rear-guard defense of the rule of law.

I actually went on something a tear on Tuesday, placing a large number of DU participants on "Ignore" for their willingness to dispense with civilized norms on what seem to me the flimsiest of pretexts. When someone on a progressive discussion board like DU argues that they have no problem that OBL was killed without receiving a trial and that they wished he had suffered more, what more is there really to say. Trust me, many of the folks on DU posted responses indistinguishable from the most atavistic of right-wing responses during the reign of Bush the Younger.

I am actually now working on a more full-length essay on the subject which I hope to post here soon. But bin Laden's execution has led to a mini-Civil War on Democratic Underground. Interestingly, while polls show that OBL's killing has an 87% approval rating here in the U.S., opinion abroad is not nearly as favorable to U.S. imperialism and its offices. One of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative colleagues took issue with her expression of approval and called OBL;s killing 'medieval,' a sentiment with which I heartily concur. Make that medieval with helicopters and automatic weapons.

I cannot remember being this worked up since the run-up to the Iraq War, a war based entirely upon lies and, predictably for same, one of incredible destructive sadness. I remain as convinced today as I was last Sunday that we had no right to assassinate OBL without doing all within our power to ensure he received a trial first. I'm afraid I shall be leaving DU soon or be forced to leave by its administrators. Tant pis pour eux, as they say in France. ('Their loss').

At any rate, below is one piece I put on DU tonight:


You ask, "Why is OBL worthy of some consideration (that 'due process' be followed) we have not afforded so many others?"

Here's my answer:

We treat evil men decently not because of who they are, but because of who we are. (Tip of the hat to DUer EFerrari for this insight.) I grant you that many before OBL had died who were unarmed and offering no resistance. They too received no due process, a sad fact for which my twice- and thrice-weekly protests from 2001-08 seems to have provided little or no amelioration. But your principal argument seems to be that, because those thousands did not receive due process, that therefore OBL should not receive it either. This seems like the mirror image of "two wrongs don't make a right" thinking, specifically, "two wrongs do make a right". In other words, you seem to suggest, because the thousands did not receive due process (a wrong), OBL is not due it either (2nd wrong), and therefore some higher moral purpose is served (the right). Well, I'm not sure you really believe that but that seems the import of your words. Do note that your way of thinking increases the net amount of wrong in the world by adding a 2nd wrong to the first, without adding any further right to the world that I can see.

Realistically speaking, had we caught bin Laden and brought him under the rule of law, my guess is that he would have died while in captivity (a la Milosevic). We have managed trials for other such arch villains in our history and, I would argue, the principle that each man deserves a trial before being executed is an important enough one to run the risk of some damage to the course of our political history (which hardly can suffer more than it has during the reign of the Bush junta).

I cannot speak to the courage or cowardice of our current political leadership. I will say this (and perhaps this is a sign of how fucked up this whole scene has become): Early on (like Monday or Tuesday) there were apocryphal reports on DU that the right wing was advancing some sort of theory of a military coup d'etat that had forced Obama's hand. According to this right wing story, Obama had not wanted OBL assassinated and the military had overrode him (thereby accounting for Obama's overly stern expression at the podium on Sunday night). Crazy story, right? Except that there was a part of me wishing it were true, desperately wishing that Obama had indeed ordered OBL not be assassinated, only to find himself disobeyed by a military no longer bound to the laws of morality, mortality and human decency, but instead a monster unleashed and uncontrollable by any decent force.


To Be Continued . . .

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