Consider this my short response to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, in three parts.
Part One :: The American Way
I’m not taking part in the death celebration. I don’t like the idea of celebrating someone’s murder, regardless of the political backstory, regardless of the culpability of the now-dead. Because this wasn’t an execution, this wasn’t an assassination, this was a murder—a vengeance killing. And with it came “collateral damage”; people are now dead who were not the target of the attack and were *potentially* innocent. I just don’t like it. When you add celebration to killing, you start down a path that can only end in disaster. Today we cheer the killing of bin Laden, tomorrow we cheer the killing of all fundamentalist Muslims? The temptation is too great, the road too easy, this is not the way I believe in.
Taking a cue from our modern mythologies, Batman does not kill. Plain and simple.
Part Two :: Justice
This killing, the way in which it happened, did nothing to serve the interest of justice. On the side of justice, bin Laden should have been captured and given a fair trial. A notion of “justice” that contains exclusionary provisos for who does and who doesn’t have a right to be treated justly is not “justice”, it’s fascism.
“But what about the people who died in the WTC? Bin Laden showed them no ‘justice’ when he attacked!”
That’s right, he didn’t. That’s why we call what he did a crime. Crimes are served by a system of justice, not a system of more crimes. Again, the road is easy and poorly marked… who will next be excluded from the loop of justice? And who makes that decision? Anyone who belongs to a group that has ever been disenfranchised—queers, punks, women, African Americans, Muslim Americans, American Indians, the poor—must cherish this burden most deeply; we must always remain vigilant in assuring that our basic notions of human rights, like the right to a fair trial, apply to ALL people, to EVERY individual. Regardless of anything and everything else, we must keep this ideal without exception.
Part Three :: Truth
Finally, in killing bin Laden without the chance for a trial, we also excluded the opportunity for further questioning. Maybe I’m alone in this, or maybe I’ve read one too many Tom Tomorrow conspiracy cartoons, but given the level of deceit espoused by the Bush II administration, why is everyone so certain that we “got the right guy”? People take credit for things they didn’t do all the time, and the U.S. government doesn’t have the best tract record in telling us the truth, especially where the Middle East is concerned. What proof, other than the propaganda from both sides, have we been given that this man, Osama bin Laden, was the sole chief—the “lone gunman”—in the 9/11 attacks? Are we certain that there is no reasonable doubt? Bin Laden very well might have been the orchestrator of 9/11, but the way his “take down” played out has forever stripped us of the chance to obtain that truth.
I’ll stop here. While I certainly don’t support the actions bin Laden has taken (from the 9/11 attacks to the final showdown where he apparently used women as human shields), I also don’t support how this situation has been resolved. No, I don’t think we should have “tackled him with bear hugs”, but I do believe that something other than a vendetta killing may have been better suited to our notions of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.