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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Small piece

I'm not seeing a lot about the report of Bin Laden's daughter seeing her father captured before being killed. I haven't been scouring the Net a whole lot, though. I'm sure there are multiple reports as Ninemsn is a pretty mainstream media centre (that's where that report was pulled from). Again, I am in no way condoning any of Bin Laden's crimes against humanity, but it is important that the west does not justify the illegality of their actions, against Bin Laden, or anyone else they view as a threat, with a rhetoric which supports the notion that outrageous lawlessness begets and justifies outrageous lawlessness.

This Salon, Glenn Greenwald article points to main media sources in the U.S. repeating White House misinformation, and this one discusses ideas similar to those outlined above.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Legalities and Tactics

"The team methodically cleared the compound moving from room to room in an operation lasting nearly 40 minutes," Carney said.

After media reports quoting officials describing it as a "kill operation," the White House spokesman was pressed hard to explain the apparent contradiction that bin Laden was unarmed but also resisted.

"We were prepared to capture him if that was possible," Carney said, without providing a clear explanation. "We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance."

When a journalist insisted: "He wasn't armed," Carney replied: "But there were many other people who were armed in the compound. There was a firefight."

"But not in that room," the journalist pressed.

"It was a highly volatile firefight. I'll point you to the department of defense for more details about it," Carney said.

In addition to the bin Laden family, two other families resided in the compound: one on the first floor of the bin Laden building and another in a second building,

"Of the 22 or so people in the room, 17 or so of them were noncombatants," Carney said.

I'm not saying he was a good guy, he obviously wasn't. It helps Obama's standing in the U.S. if he could bring in Bin Laden, "Dead or Alive" and preferably dead. It doesn't help the world's perception of the U.S. as an arbiter of even-handed justice, which it obviously isn't, but I think it has been more flagrantly apparent over the last 12 years, though it just might be that these are the times I'm living through and therefore I'm paying attention.

If the aim was to escalate tension, then mission accomplished. If it was also to secure another term in office for Obama, then that mission is accomplished too, though I think he could have secured another term in office if he had captured Bin Laden rather than executing him.

He also would have had better international standing and maybe tenets of international law might have been seen to be adhered to, at least. He pledged to capture or kill, apparently, in 2008, and I am glad that 'capture' was in the sentence. The way the media played it, it seemed that the second was his preferred position. Which, as a politician and pragmatist, it probably was.

Oh, hold on, no he was far more clear.
“What I have said is we're going encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our non-military aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants. And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al-Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”
The Second Presidential Debate, October 7, 2008, via PolitFact.

People have to act and react, and the deaths at the world trade centre and in the two aeroplanes that were also hijacked and crash-landed elsewhere are deaths that should not be wished on anyone. The actions of Al Qaeda are not to be condoned. Nothing occurs in a vacuum, though.

The politicians, at least the smart ones, know that. The smart ones know, too, that it's worth their while to not present arguments beyond the last few years, the last few seconds, past the bogeyman hiding under the bed. And as Foucault so rightly supposed, the breeding of fear increases the power of those who are in the position to inflict punishment. In fact, we give them that right and celebrate it in the streets.

International attorney, Geoffrey Robertson QC, the author of Crimes Against Humanity, has had this to say recently:
"It's not justice. It's a perversion of the term. Justice means taking someone to court, finding them guilty upon evidence and sentencing them," he said.
"This man has been subject to summary execution, and what is now appearing after a good deal of disinformation from the White House is it may well have been a cold-blooded assassination."
Mr Robertson says it is an irony that the US has given bin Laden what he craved.
"The last thing he wanted was to be put on trial, to be convicted and to end his life in a prison farm in upstate New York," he said.
"What he wanted was exactly what he got - to be shot in mid-jihad and get a fast track to paradise and the Americans have given him that.
"It's an irony that it's a win-win situation for both Osama and Obama. The latter gets re-elected as president and the former gets his fast track to paradise." [my emphasis]

I am listening to a radio report now which concurs with the point of view that Bin Laden's leadership was dwindling, had dwindled. As this ex-CIA writer states
For Osama bin Laden, violent death must have come as a blessing. It has given him, at least fleetingly, a seeming prominence that in fact had long since ebbed away, not only in the Muslim world, but even within al-Qaeda itself.

The whole summary on, morning magazine, is interesting (May 4th, at about the quarter hour of the first hour if you go in for the restream). The report is also covering how tactically successful, in terms of mounting an operation that resonated with the American people, the U.S. killing of Bin Laden was - but how internationally it has done a great deal to erode Obama's, or his country's, credibility further.

As a killing machine, yes, very efficient. As a country the world should look to for its principles in upholding democracy and implementing humane practice - who believes that any more if they ever believed it? Sure, it's not a tinpot dictatorship, but it certainly, internationally, supports enough of them and employs similar methods to those dictatorships.

The transparency that lets us know that Bin Laden was not armed, and that
"[o]f the 22 or so people in the room, 17 or so of them were noncombatants,"
and that those non-combatants apparently weren't killed, though some injured
"In the room with bin Laden, a woman — bin Laden's wife — rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed"
(she was the apparent 'human shield') is great. Though they've all been whisked away now, and are probably being subjected to the US's "harsh interrogation methods".

The principles of basic human rights and international law were not upheld by Osama Bin Laden, not just in the U.S., but in many countries, including those in the Middle East. In many countries he also symbolised someone who was able to protest against colonialism and imperialism - again, the radio station referred to above, is talking about the hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries since the War on Terror was launched.

The radio programme just asked a nice question - how does a moderate quiet majority go about convincing a greater population that not everyone runs onto the street celebrating death of symbols of "other" when it comes about?

When our media, and to a degree, our governments encourage us to find joy and vindication in such deaths, it seems that ultimately, terror for all, or at least for the quiet moderate majority, is the only winner.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

That's what they're calling torture nowadays

. . . [A] program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in US history.
Torture justified and explained away. No surprise there. A phone call led US to bin Laden doorstep. Not that the method is necessarily effective, but that torture has been sanitised.

Officially sanctioned torture is better than random torture? Bin Laden was caught. Has terrorism, torture, general fear, for people within the U.S. and outside of it stopped as a result? I don't think so.

I think that outlawed methods are now commonplace, and I don't know if the twenty-first century will be a slow encroachment of another dark age or not. In the west, day to day living, is generally nice and easy, and if your country is big enough, there are pockets of population big enough, so that different points of view and lifestyle can exist.

Not so everywhere. And it is not a courtesy that is globally extended, either by the west, by other super powers, by bandits, thieves and rogues. International law stands for nothing. We knew that anyway. But it becomes more apparent day by day.

Ultimately, might is right and the military machine doesn't even need to convince anyone of the validity of its existence. If you don't like it, we've got a secret cell for you in a country, piece of land, far, far away from your home or mine.

Note: May 4, 2011: Glenn Greenwald always says it best:
But beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden's head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we've started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the altar of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?
He goes on to say that they are rhetorical questions and feels that nothing very much is likely to change.

Note, May 5: Glenn Greenwald has more to say on the topic, and very well, as always. From his latest post:
It was striking to note in yesterday's New York Times the obituary of Moshe Landau, the Israeli judge who presided over the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. It's a reminder that when even the most heinous Nazi war criminals were hunted down by the Israelis, they weren't shot in the head and then dumped into the ocean, but rather were apprehended, tried in a court of law, confronted with the evidence against them for all the world to see, and then punished in accordance with due process. The same was done to leading Nazis found by Allied powers and tried at Nuremberg. It's true that those trials took place after the war was over, but whether Al Qaeda should be treated as active warriors or mere criminals was once one of the few ostensible differences between the two parties on the question of Terrorism.
this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr