Killing in the name of
People have been demanding to see images of Osama Bin Laden after he was taken by the Americans. People have been demanding this from the first moment Obama told the world Osama had been killed. So far the only photos have been of an enthralled President and horrified Secretary of State experiencing the kill zone in surround sound from the comfort of the White House.
They are going to have to release something - they have to. The fact the White House are dragging their feet isn't about not wanting provocation it's about getting people acquainted with the context... of why the pictures are going to look like he was maybe, perhaps, executed...
So they have been telling us more explicitly what they meant by "killing". At first the official line seemed to be 'killed in a fire fight' and then just killed and now it has become an execution. They are saying that he wasn't even presenting as hostile. In the words of the triumphalist ABC TV bulletin tonight describing the Navy team who carried out the raid, they "double tapped Bin Laden."
Double tapped. The Americans have spoken of "justice being done". Is that what American justice consists of: shooting unarmed women and executing an unarmed man? A man who for all intents and purposes looks as if he has been under house arrest by Pakistani security forces since before Obama was President? Is that the definition of a combatant in the war on terror? I don't think the person they shot dead does actually meet that definition by what has come out so far. His existence and HQ looks to have been a lot more mundane than an Aladdin's cave of terror - where were the suicide belts and RPGs etc.? We are told not about arms caches but that some hard drives were discovered. Just another guy working from home in a middle class suburb of Islamabad.
The CIA chief was adamant the soldier who fired had the "authority to kill" and no doubt a whole lot of lawyers who work for the government and who came up with opinions that allowed water boarding and other torture to happen under the guise of legality will be finding reasons and excuses for shooting unarmed and unhostile people. They will argue he wasn't surrendered, that he wasn't in custody and that because of his reputation alone as America's deadliest Number One Dr Evil Enemy of Christendom, Civilisation and Mankind he had to be considered lethal at all times. Yeah, sure.
We all know why the Americans had to kill him: the alternative would have been a rendition to an Aircraft carrier, a torture session or two, then a trip to Guantanamo Bay for more torture-type conditions and eventually, years down the track a court trial where justice is questionable and the embarassment of bringing up all his past links to the CIA will be a given. There was no way the Americans wanted that spectre hanging over them - they would prefer to make him a martyr than have that scenario play out.
The problem for the US - and they will never be able to understand it because it requires them to imagine a position in which they are not the supreme power over the whole world for all time and that they do not have the exclusive right to determine what constitutes democracy, truth and justice - is that it cuts both ways. They can't just unilaterally define justice as whatever the American President thinks the American public will stomach - that's not how it works. If they maintain it is justice for Osama to be double tapped and his wife shot for incidents of Al Qaeda massacring innocent civilians in America then being fair and applying that principle universally it suggests that President Obama can be double tapped and his wife shot for incidents of the US forces massacring innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan - for example. Or for allowing the Israelis a free hand to massacre Palestinians at will in Gaza.