The bin Laden assassination part deux

It looks like most of my predictions from my previous post turned out to be correct.  Notice I wrote it right after the announcement was made.  How did I know these things you might ask?  Well, for two reasons:

1. I read a lot.
2.  I learned a lot from many people while living abroad.

Now that we’ve had a week to digest all the punditry I’d like to share a few additional thoughts.

1. Celebration

The amount of celebration in the US leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable.  Here is why.

9-11 was most likely caused by quite a few people and the US fingered bin Laden as the main culprit.  The government needs a story to tell the people and this story was neatly packaged into Al-Qaeda and bin Laden as the leader.  This kept the story simple and ensured public approval for two wars.  The story was further expanded to include WMD and Iraq.  Yet, after 10 years and thousands of deaths there was no clear cut conclusion which every story needs.  This was accomplished by a targeted killing of the main protagonist of the story.  It provided closure in a sense.

9-11 was such a traumatic event for the US that eventually the identified culprit needed to be dealt with.  This is unsurprising for me.  If you sting a superpower hard enough, you receive a death sentence.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.  What bothers me a bit is that Americans hold themselves to a higher standard, however, by celebrating a targeted assassination this is not exemplary, this is the same as any savage culture would do.  In my opinion, and if there was no other way, better had it been done quietly.  Celebrating the death of another, no matter how awful is known as bloodlust.  The word bloodlust and American simply do not go together in my opinion.

When I saw this mass celebration I wondered if the ancient Romans, Greeks, or medieval Europeans would have acted differently.  The truth is they didn’t and they wouldn’t have.  Therefore, we have not really advanced as an “enlightened” people even though we believe we have.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind bin Laden being gone at all.  Live by the sword die by the sword as they say.  He was most certainly warped and made the mistake of attacking an extraordinary powerful superpower.  I was just very concerned about all the celebration.  To me, an enlightened person would receive the news with deep reflection as it did need to be done but understands that it is simply the best outcome of many unfortunate options.

Death for death regardless of the numbers is Hammurabi’s code “an eye for an eye” which most of us regard as savage.  In religious teaching we are supposed to “turn the other cheek.”  We all teach this to our children but then do the exact opposite.  How could a religion teacher explain to their students what Jesus said, then justify the killing?  It would be something along the lines of “Jesus said turn the other cheek…. BUT……”  It couldn’t be done.  One could use the Old Testament just fine however….

Again, let me stress the world is a better place without such a hateful individual such as bin Laden in it.  I do not believe there was a “better option” as they say.  My purpose with this post is to get everyone to think on a deeper level about this.

So in continuing with that purpose, let us think about the fallout from this event.  It seems to me as though the world has changed in a big way.  It is one of those events where many do not understand the significance in the present, but is one that historians will point to as a major event which changed things.

Let us consider that the US has carried out an assassination in a sovereign country.  The US has set a precedent that while not so uncommon in the past is a line that we have not crossed to publicly before.  Now that the precedent has been set, what is to stop other nations from killing said “terrorists” in other lands.  The US would no longer be able to condemn by example.

There will be fallout from this well into the future which we cannot foresee.  To use an unrelated example and probably poor example, I recently read about the consequences of California’s “Direct Democracy” and the unintended consequences of Proposition 13.  Basically California set it up so citizens can override legislators, did so with a tax proposition and that has ultimately lead to a major reason California is now ungovernable.  The proposition and direct democracy seemed good at the time, but in the end caused major problems.  No turning back the clock.

In the same strain, what the US has done seems good at THIS time, and we cannot foresee the consequences.  The US overrode international law, even their own law to carry out this execution.

“The law prohibits the government from killing without trial or conviction other than in the face of an imminent threat that leaves no time for deliberation or due process.”

Now as I’ve mentioned before, a law is just a random proclamation that everyone is supposed to follow.  But like in the Matrix movie, a law can be bent, or even broken if you understand well enough the constructs of the legal parameters.  Laws are necessary for civil society.  In this assassination, the law was bent pretty hard and there are plenty of, to use The Matrix metaphor again, “back doors” to get around it.

One reason to be concerned is there are plenty of other actors in this international drama with the US only playing the lead role.  How will other countries use this precedent?

If we think more deeply, perhaps it is no precedent at all.  Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency carries out executions with surgical precision all the time.  Russia quite recently killed Alexander Litvinenko in a foreign country.  The US carries out secretive operations all the time but only reach the headlines as a “drone attack,” with no further details.

Yet, I would call it a precedent as to my knowledge, there has never been such widespread celebration by Americans for a targeted execution.  Things have most definitely changed in this regard.

2. Is it really such a big deal?

Killing bin Laden did not weaken Al Qaeda, the uprisings in the Arab world did that more than the execution of any one man could have.  As I mentioned before, it provides a bit of closure for the American public.  The question we should be asking ourselves is “What now?”

1.  What will the fallout look like?
2. Does the public now accept targeted killings? Are we no better than ancient Rome in this regard?
3. Is it a false sense of closure?  Why did the “terrorists” want to attack the USA in the first place? What is the root cause?  Just blaming a madman and then offing him is a bit too simple.
4. How will America (and other countries) respond to further terrorist attacks?  Apparently terrorism is not going to go away anytime soon.  After Al Qaeda there will be other groups.  How do we define terrorism?  Will every future event require a single figure for blame?  And will killing that individual resolve anything?  Will the population ask any deeper questions or just let it drop?  How many more times will this scenario occur?

I think to end this post I’ll say that I just hope humanity can ask the deeper questions in order to progress.  With such a wild celebration this is not progression even if it makes people feel better.  I think we all hope to advance, to become better human beings.

One quick parallel before I do.  Why does the USA bother with due process when the authorities are *pretty sure* that a common mass murder is guilty?  Why not just catapult them into the sea?  I’m sure that would make people feel good.

Or would it?

We use due process because we consider ourselves a very enlightened and civil society.  So why do we not do this when it comes to mass murders who are foreign nationals?  Is it because they are leaders of a terrorist movement and capturing him alive could be extremely difficult?  Is it because American Law doesn’t apply to foreign nationals and assassination just makes things easier? Is it because International Law is too vague and we really don’t like cooperating with other countries concerning the law?

Can we still be a civilized society yet accept targeted execution of the crime is great enough?

If we ask these questions we are going to become conflicted.  Maybe it is better simply to not ask the questions?   An atrocity was committed, execution completed, people cheer.  What kind of people are we becoming.  Better still, what kind of people are we?

Perhaps, it is simply best to not think at all.


*Update: 5.8.2011

If you read my posts you probably know I spit these out in 20 minute periods, scan once for editing and let it ride.  Then I think about it some more and continually add comments.  Well, I shall not disappoint on this one either.
As I finished the post, took my shower I realized I had completely forgotten about Saddam!
The USA also executed him.  I forget the details but if I’m not mistaken it was really the new Afghan government who did the deed so US couldn’t be blamed.  But “same same” as the Vietnamese say.
Perhaps I’m just looking to make sense of all this, to reconcile what America sees itself as being and what it actually does.  Perhaps I shouldn’t do that.  As I mentioned above in my closing maybe it is better not to try and make sense of everything.
Maybe America is turning into a kind of Sparta where revenge and aggression should be celebrated.

Is that is what America is becoming?  I don’t know, I don’t even think I have an opinion.  Things are as they are.

Author: Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! (^.^)/