The Killing of Bin Laden: Revenge but not Justice

With the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Obama has achieved a much-needed conclusion to nearly ten years’ efforts to bring the mastermind of 9/11 to heel. Obama claimed to bring bin Laden ‘to justice’. But he managed this only in the sense that George Bush evoked in 2001, when he said that bin Laden was ‘Wanted – Dead or Alive’. It is just too convenient that bin Laden was shot dead and his body disposed of where no follower could ever find it. This operation was more Wild West than International Criminal Court, and like the attempted assassination of Ghaddafi it does little to demonstrate the West’s superior values. That won’t matter to most Americans, but it may register in the Muslim world. The Arab revolutions have shown that in the short-term, al-Qaeda is now largely irrelevant to real politics but in the longer term any revival of murderous Islam will claim bin Laden as a martyr. No doubt al-Qaeda will attempt revenge attacks, but while it is important to remain vigilant, it is difficult any longer to see the movement, which peaked with the London bombings of 2005, as a major threat.

(This comment was prepared for publication in the London Evening Standard.)

3 thoughts on “The Killing of Bin Laden: Revenge but not Justice”

  1. Wise words. I especially liked the comment about the ‘Wild West’operation. Although some Muslims will probably now take a sigh of relief, others will surely use Bin Laden as a martyr symbol. Other interesting point is how Iran has been repeatedly accused of hiding Bin Laden, while he was hiding in Pakistan next to an army compound for a long time.

  2. Nothing in our Western “values” compels the armed forces to refrain from killing Bin Laden during a military operation unless he was hors de combat and surrendered, a proposition for which there is no evidence. The killing of Bin Laden is no more an “assassination” than any operation against a valid military target; it was valid under US law and the law of war.

  3. From the street view of California, it is clear that it was a “extrajudicial” operation, but most people do not care or support it as an ugly necessity. Not touched upon in the article though is how this is blowback from the untenable Cold War. That is, the same agency (U.S. Central intelligence) that supported and encouraged Bin Laden in the fundamentalist 1980’s fight against communism in Afghanistan, killed him next door in 2011. Sound familiar? The U.S. Invasion of Panama in 1989 was also to catch an “international criminal”, the dictator Noriega, who also received support from the above mentioned agency, until he started inching away from them and then brought the wrath of the force of an empire, with thousands of innocent Panamanian civilians dying as a result. It is great that Mr. Shaw is facilitating more profound thought on these issues of critical importance to everyone, not just politicians and those who fall under their wrath!

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