Saturday, May 14, 2011

I'm Glad He's Dead

There’s discussion within some of my favorite left-wing blogs and newsletters about how the assassination of Osama Bin Laden was illegal. After all, we invaded a sovereign nation without permission, and chose to kill Bin Laden rather than bring him to trial. Here’s where I depart from my coterie of liberal friends: I’m glad Bin Laden is dead. I’m glad not because I think we avenged his deeds of September, 2001, but rather that it puts an abrupt end to one chapter of the so-called “war” on terrorism.

As heinous as they were, Bin Laden’s crimes were not of the same magnitude as those of the Nazis in World War II. Yet, we afforded Bormann, Göring, and the rest of the Nazis we captured the right of a trial, as the Israelis did after they abducted Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. We tried the Japanese Prime Minister, Hideki Tōjō, before we hanged him. But there’s a significant difference between the handling of the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, and the quest for Bin Laden: We won World War II.

In any conflict, the victors determine the method of punishment for the vanquished, and America kept to its values by putting the enemy leaders on trial (and some were indeed acquitted at Nuremberg).

One could argue that Bin Laden met all of the goals he set out to accomplish. He died a martyr, he contributed to the destruction of the American economy (although not as much as his target, Wall Street, did), and he altered the American way of life with our apparent embracing of an Orwellian surveillance society.

Had Bin Laden been captured alive (which I believe was never a planned option), he would have been a catalyst for more violence resulting in even more curtailment of our freedoms and more dollars poured into what we call “homeland security.” Our record of handling the detention and prosecution of Bin Laden’s Al Qaida underlings in Guantánamo is unblemished by success. So from a practical point of view, Bin Laden’s assassination is justifiable in the name of pragmatism, even if it is illegal.

We live in an age when illegal activity by the government is condoned. Just consider the fact that the Vice President of the United States committed treason by outing the name of a covert CIA agent and got away with it. He got away with it not by being acquitted in a trial (the American way), but just due to the fact that his administration and the following administration chose not to prosecute one of their own. We’ll never know how many American and allied agents, moles, and informers have been killed due to Dick Cheney’s crimes.

Similarly, we condemned thousands of Americans, Iraqis, and others to death and injury by going into a war based on a lie by the President of the United States. Yet, George Bush will never face trial, and lives a comfortable retirement on his ranch in Texas. The illegality of the assassination of Bin Laden was a necessary evil, but pales in comparison to the crimes of the previous administration.

As Michael Moore eloquently points out, the Nuremberg trials were not for the victors, and were not even for the Nazis. They were for the next generation. What kind of message are we sending to the next generation when we allow one administration to go to war on false pretenses and commit treason, and the next administration looks the other way?
In an ideal world, the Navy SEALS should have (and no doubt could have) captured Bin Laden alive and we could have put him on trial. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Bin Laden’s death averts even more problems. But keep in mind that our democracy has been corrupted by greed of the corporatists and fear of the terrorists. We are in a state of perpetual war and erosion of our freedoms in the name of security. The question now is what legacy will we leave for the next generation? While I’m glad that he’s dead, we need to learn from the lessons of the last ten years to deny Bin Laden a victory from the bottom of the ocean.


  1. I think it was important to kill him. We now have a treasure trove of information to use to prove a case for his guilt -- not that one was needed, necessarily. Now we need to systematically go after the next lower tier. Capture them, kill them, whatever it takes to dismantle the whole operation. I don't believe in God or The Devil, but evil is evil ... and the total numbers of people killed because of this organization justifies whatever is necessary to squash it. (Don't forget to add 80 more innocents from this week's killing spree.) I don't believe killing bin Laden or even the next lower tier of leaders of Al Qaida will put an end to the insanity of this type of fundamentalist belief. But, it will seriously derail a complex, organized, systematic operation aimed at killing thousands of innocent people. THAT, to me, justifies killing bin Laden.

  2. Though I am glad you're glad he's dead, the reason you give disturbs me. You profess to be glad not for reasons of either vengeance or justice, but because his death advances a political aim of yours, ending the "so-called" war on terror. To me this is so typical of the left, to consider human lives as expendible to advance "progress". I would imagine there was a time you would have approved Dick Cheney's death for the same reason.

    Let's face it. Had George Bush planned and approved this mission, you would be calling for his impeachment. Am I wrong about this?