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On the Legality of Killing Osama bin Laden


At this point most folks are tired of hearing about the death of Osama bin Laden, the bogeyman that has haunted America for a decade now. Either you are hungover from Monday’s block party where you got hammered while chanting “USA! USA! USA!” like some mindless jingo and you just want to recuperate or you were shocked and frightened at the resurgence of American jingoism to the point you just want to shut the world out.

That’s understandable. But while President Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton call the death “justice," which by definition has to be rooted in law, we should take a look at what happened and whether or not this is the case.

First, how did we get the information of where he was at? There is conflicting views on whether torture was used or not, but it is looking to be the case. And last I looked torture was still illegal, despite what Messieurs Bush and Obama say.

Second, what lawful right do we have to arrest or kill bin Laden in his $1 million home in Pakistan? Was there a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to capture or kill him anywhere on this planet? So far I have not found a thing and I already know the US has no jurisdiction in Pakistan. Did the government of Pakistan authorize the military act? No, they didn't, which means we are talking about an act of aggression.

And last is whether or not bin Laden was firing a weapon when he was fatally shot in the head . . . twice. Initially that was claimed to be the case but the White House has since moved away from that claim and admitted that in fact he was unarmed and not resisting when he was fatally shot in the head . . . twice. Worse still, we are now learning that bin Laden was detained for ten minutes before being shot in the head . . . twice.

But! Even if bin Laden was shooting back he would have a right to do so since the US attack was itself an unlawful armed attack, which everyone has a right to protect themselves against, via the UN Charter. Such is the nature of law. If someone is responsible to it, they are also protected by it.

Oddly enough, even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon subscribes to America's Wild West perversion of "justice." If Ismail Haniyeh, senior political leader of Hamas and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, convened a press conference where he told the world that he ordered Al-Qassam Brigades to carry out a raid in Jerusalem where they captured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was unarmed, detained, shot twice in the head and then had his body dumped in the Mediterranean Sea, would UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon call that “justice”?

What does this mean? It means we ignored offers to have bin Laden turned over to stand trial so we could torture people as to his whereabouts so we could then carry out an act of aggression and an extra-judicial killing of a detained man before we threw his remains into the sea. In other words: It means this was a total miscarriage of justice; this was anything but, which the victims of bin Laden deserved to get—and considering our laundry list of international crimes our victims also deserve justice and to have our leaders turned over to an international tribunal—not shot in the head twice while unarmed and not resisting to an act of aggression.

This is truly amazing. Considering we know the planning for this illegal raid was initiated by President Obama on March 14, 2011, it is worth bringing up that at the same time President Obama made it a point to emphasize that he got UN approval to attack Libya (and yes he has exceeded his mandate considerably in numerous ways, though this is beyond the topic of this piece) as if his administration is different from the previous one—as if they actually adhere to international law.

The US government made a victim out of a person who clearly should not have been made a victim. If you take offense to what I just said then you are right to. It is completely offensive, though maybe not in the way you might think. How dare I call Osama bin Laden a victim after all he did? That's my point. After all he did—which pales in comparison to the crimes of the US government—he deserved to be brought to justice but what happened Monday was not it.

And how many lives did it cost? How many hundreds of billions of tax dollars? How many broken families? Was Osama bin Laden worth the high price tag, especially when in the end justice was not served? If it were not for the US empire which provided the environment for groups like al Qaeda to exist it is very likely we would not be dealing with this issue today. As Noam Chomsky has been prone to say, "Drain the swamp and there will be no mosquitoes." The root of Islamic terrorism is the US policies in the Middle East, which include the criminal support of Israel and the propping up of dictatorships that have long oppressed their people.

So let’s get it right: we created this problem but the killing of bin Laden was anything but justice. It reflected the same criminal behavior that got us into this mess in the first place. We are like Dr. Frankenstein killing his monstrous creation while remaining a mad scientist creating new monsters—in Libya, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. All the while the “good Americans” are cheering on the mad doctor as if what he has done was a thing called “justice.”

PS: While Osama was no Geronimo (the latter didnt hideout in a $1 million fortress) it's interesting the US military would give him that codename—and just as we have a history of naming our weapons after our native victims it was "Apache" helicopters used in the illegal raid. The racism implied, and the fact that a violent reactionary to our much bigger crimes would have his name bestowed upon another violent reactionary to our government's much bigger crimes (while carrying out a crime that is typical of us) is revealing. It reveals our government is so divorced from reality and anything decent that even in applying a code name to its target they do something completely racist and distasteful. Imagine Nazi Germany won World War Two and decades after wiping out Jews in Europe they carryied out a raid against a target codenamed "Anne Frank."

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