In the US, the killing of Osama Bin Laden seemed to have been everything that President Obama could have wished for with his battle for a second term on the immediate horizon. Raucous celebrations hit the US streets and Obama’s approval rating shot up by 9 per cent. A more reflective mood seems to be taking hold in the US at the cold blooded military execution of an unarmed and untried man.
Few people would want to defend Bin Laden, but anyone concerned with the application of proper democratic and civilized principles, especially in a violent cultural competition with those constantly accused of the opposite, his extrajudicial killing without trial by marines dropped illegally into a foreign country without permission are now starting to brood about the consequences of the operation. Slamming through anyone’s home shooting unarmed residents including women and children cannot advance the cause of law and justice. Even supposing the house had been under surveillance for some time, the marines could not have been sure whom they might have killed.
The initial infantile bogeyman propaganda soon began being revised into its opposite. Bin Laden did not use his wife as a human shield. She rushed spontaneously at a US gunman who shot her in the leg. The armed resistance of Bin Laden was false, he was unarmed and defenceless, as were everyone in the main building. The resistance came from a guard outside in the compound.
This execution has revived arguments about the illegality of the war on terror and has raised all the issues that made it such a controversial and unacceptable policy. Summary justice reflects the disregard for law that the US has shown in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, at Guantanamo Bay, and continually with Iran, the Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. It is the conduct of a state that has no regard for the rights of others where its own interests are concerned.
The point of justice is that the evidence for and against someone can be heard, and people are judged by their peers, not their enemies. The USA nominally subscribes to that form of justice. Bin Laden was a human being and deserved the same right to justice as anyone else, a trial, establishment of identity, a plea, presentation of the evidence for and against, examination of it, and a fair judgement. Failure to follow the rules of law, the due process of law, is ultimately a danger to everyone. It damages our claims to be a superior civilisation to that of our enemies and detractors, the terrorists. The Nazis were surely far worse criminals than any modern terrorist but were accorded the right to defend themselves at Nuremburg. Besides sending illegal hit squads to assassinate people abroad, the rulers of the USA feel free to start wars of imperial conquest, to set up concentration camps, to torture people, and to murder of foreigners, most of whom are innocent, in distant countries by robot aircraft armed with missiles.
Eight missiles from a US Predator drone led to the destruction of a vehicle carrying “foreign militants” in Datta Khel in north Waziristan, Pakistan, killing 15 people as it approached a roadside restaurant, according to Pakistani intelligence officials. The restaurant and a nearby house were hit and at least one civilian was among the dead. Barack Obama’s administration has favored the use of CIA unmanned drones because no American can be killed or injured while feeding the dogs of war in the US. Nor does the US government publicly acknowledge its responsibility for these attacks though it is the only force able to deploy them. The US Brookings Institute estimates that the drones kill 10 civilians for every alleged terrorist killed. The Conflict Monitoring Centre says at least 900 Pakistanis were killed by drones in 2010, “the vast majority” of whom being civilians.
Another US drone fired a missile at a car in Yemen’s Shabwa province killing two brothers suspected of being Al Qaida militants, the first in Yemen since 2002. The Defence Ministry confirmed the deaths. Shabwa provincial officials identified the two as Abdullah and Mosaad Mubarak. The Yemeni foreign minister had already said the government would no longer allow missile strikes by pilotless aircraft because of the high rate of civilians killed and injured by them.
These were within days of the death of Bin Laden. The USA is beginning to sound worryingly Nazi itself! Where is the barrier to stop some administration from acting with equal arbitrariness at home. All they need is some suitable atrocity to blame on whoever they want to attack. The Nazis burnt the Reichstag building as an excuse to set up martial law. How long can the rule of law last in the USA when it is so easily abrogated elsewhere? The fact that there seems to be pretty general approval for the violation of law in the USA, and the added fact that few have the nerve to contest it, does not bode well. The USA is rushing like lemmings to their own destruction while gloating smugly over their power to destroy others.