Justice is not seen to be done – the story of the killing Osama bin Laden
A.K. Enamul Haque Ph.D.
With Philip Shaw M.Sc.
Osama Bin Laden was killed by the order of President Barak Obama in the morning of April 29, 2011. The US Navy’s elite team was able to kill Osama Bin Laden at a point-blank distance in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. According to reports, the US Navy suffered no causalities. They captured him un-armed and killed him in front of his wife and daughter. The report of killing Osama Bin Laden generated enormous energy and many around the world (no to speak of the Americans) for the moment considered that the war against terrorism is won. The global popularity rating of President Obama is definitely up and this will surely benefit him in his bid for re-election.
There is other side of the coin too. The US and its sophisticated army were chasing this person for the last 10 years. The motivation for this is that he was involved in the 9/11 attack on the twin towers and that he should be held and justice should be delivered. His involvement was, according to US sources, unquestionable and so the US government took the largest initiatives in their history to chase one individual for year after year. For the past decade a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan were killed to find him. According to Obama “Justice has been done”. He was referring to slaying of Bin Laden in Abbottabad by the Navy Seals and it was his way of delivering justice by the Americans! Many in the world are now questioning the event. The Archbishop of Canterbury is possibly the first western person who publicly revealed his discomfort on the killing of an unarmed person and according to him “justice was not seen to be done”. Today (May 11) Bin Laden’s son asked a question – “Why an unarmed man was not arrested and tried in a court of law so that truth is revealed to the people of the world?”
Many others had also asked similar questions in the past few weeks, which reveals to me that our “good sense” has started speaking. In fact, Phil was the first person who asked me about this a few days ago after he had heard that Bin Laden was killed and he was not armed at that time. There are many killings in the world where we could not go to the bottom. Truth is very difficult to find and in many cases we remain happy if justice is done. “An eye for an eye” is not justice, it is barbarism. A trial in the court of law is how civilized persons deal with crimes and criminals. I feel very sorry for degradation of our minds as human beings. Crowds and mobs often do not behave properly in any society but our leaders should have shown some degree of moral courage and maturity before calling an eye for an eye, a justice.
Finally, our Rapid Action Battalion killed about 700 people in the past two years in Bangladesh and many people in Bangladesh are uneasy about it despite the fact that this force was primarily killing criminals without trial. Yesterday (May 10), Human Rights Watch, an US-based NGO’s Asia Director Brad Adams during his trip to Dhaka said, “A death squad is roaming in the streets of Bangladesh and the government does not appear to be doing anything to stop it.” Government’s reaction is also apparently clear. Our Home Minister said in her reaction “RAB do not kill anyone, but shoot only when criminals do”. You can also feel that the government paid very little attention to this call and on the contrary the home minister could now boldly justify the actions. Killing can be justified too! To me a civilized person only justifies killing with proper trial. Accidental or deliberate assault on unarmed persons even during war is tantamount to crimes against humanity. Obama’s action has now licensed such killing and in many parts of the world it could be used to justify repression. This will surely reduce the moral strength of the western countries in the future global world as a saviour of democracy and rule of law.
Delivering justice cannot simply be done through killing someone by labelling him/her as a terrorist – even if he is. If it happens then judiciary become redundant. It will have no use and it delivers nothing.
Osama Bin Laden and the Justice of 9/11
By Philip Shaw M.Sc.
If there has ever been a public enemy number one in the United States it is Osama bin Laden. I am not old enough to remember Adolf Hitler, but I have heard more than one commentary from the United States describing the death of Osama bin Laden in the same way as the death of Adolf Hitler. I cannot imagine Adolf Hitler on trial in Nuremberg, just like I cannot imagine Osama bin Laden on trial at the world criminal Court in The Hague. The moment the US Seal team took off from Afghanistan on its way to Abbottabad, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden was a dead man.
In the years in which I have known Enamul, we have shared in many world events. For instance I can remember desperately faxing Enamul when the news of the failed coup happened in the former Soviet Union. I can also remember other times surrounding the fall of the Soviet Union and of course 911. So a few weeks ago when I first learned that the President would be speaking at 11:30p.m. In the evening, I knew something was up. Soon, my Twitter feed lit up with the news that the Americans had killed Osama bin Laden. This was several minutes before President Obama announced it on television. I desperately tried to get through to Enamul with the news. It certainly was big news. I know in my household it was like the ground shook.
Of course, it sure sounded messy when the details came out regarding the raid on his compound. I had always expected Osama bin Laden to be taken dead. The reason I expected this was because I’ve always believed heavily armed guards surrounded him. So when I heard that Navy Seals had landed in a compound, had one helicopter crash, had killed bin Laden and then left without a trace, it didn’t quite add up to me. It didn’t sound like he was heavily guarded at all. In fact then I found out that he was armed but did resist. What is that all about?
Of course, we will never know. On this side of the Atlantic there is no sympathy for Osama bin Laden. I’ve said it many times in this column that people in the Western Hemisphere have no concept of world conflict taking place here. The events of the day on September 11, 2001 fractured our sense of stability like never before. So when it was announced that Osama bin Laden was dead, it did not surprise me that crowds gathered outside the White House and in the streets of New York City as well as many other places here and cheered the news. Nobody cared about the circumstances of his death. They only cared that the bastard that caused 911 had finally got his justice.
I understand completely how Enamul might consider the example of killing an unarmed Osama bin Laden as barbarism. Killing anybody unarmed is unethical but in a world with no scruples, Osama bin Laden was low rent. His killing whether it was unarmed or not is completely irrelevant in the Western Hemisphere based on what he represented. Osama bin Laden in Western eyes on this side of the Atlantic was in a class with Adolf Hitler himself. There will be no tears for him in North America.
Still, it troubles me on how it was done. I do understand where Enamul comes from when he talks about the Rapid Action Battalion in Bangladesh and its indiscriminate killing of 700 people. The government has justified these killings in Bangladesh. It is very difficult because when you’re dealing with criminals, sometimes justice gets very messy. Yes I agree with Enamul when you justify killing, the judiciary becomes redundant, and it will have no use and deliver nothing.
The question is in the case of Osama bin Laden is that truly relevant? Or in this case with the world’s most famous terrorist in the crosshairs, is that all conveniently pushed to the side. We will never know exactly what happened, when the door opened and Osama bin Laden stared squarely into the face of the US Navy Seals. Clearly, it was over quickly. His demise was like Independence Day on this side of the Atlantic. The debate on how just the end was will surely live on into the future.