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We killed the bastard! Let’s party….? May 2, 2011

Posted by Sverre in : Human rights, World politics , trackback

So, Osama bin Laden is dead. The most hated man in the western hemisphere has been brought down. Justice is served. Or is it? If we take a step back from the thrill of the moment and examine the facts, what has really happened here?

United States’ agents have localized and killed a foreign national on foreign soil, then recovered his body. This man is accused of committing serious crimes against humanity, but no attempt was made to capture him alive and put him on trial. The president of the United States has acted as both prosecutor, judge and jury with the US Navy Seals as executioners. Despite this, President Obama freely owns up to his achievement, without even an attempt at explanation as to why the killing was necessary. Official word from the US Government is also that the mission was to kill It also seems that the aim has been to kill him, not a serious attempt to capture. And the rest of the western nations applaude. Including Norway’s prime and foreign ministers. And the people of the United States (and to a lesser degree in Europe as well) celebrate. Celebrate the killing of another human being.

I am, as most Norwegians, an opponent of the death penalty. I believe it is wrong to kill a human being, even if they have committed serious crimes, unless keeping them alive constitutes a direct and immediate threat to more lives. But even if you do believe in premeditated killing under certain circumstances, should it not be a last resort? Should it not happen only when there has been a trial, or when no other options were possible?

Osama bin Laden was an evil man. Killing him may also have been necessary, but I have problems accepting the fact that not even an attempt is made to justify the killing as necessary, and that a live capture was not even part of the mission agenda. Is this how a supposedly liberal democratic state is supposed to behave?

At the very least, I had expected a little bit of criticism from the press or even a modicum of moderation from governments that are against the death penalty.


1. LFC - May 4, 2011

Not to get into a lengthy discussion about this, but I would note that relatively few people are actually celebrating here. A bunch of drunken college students gathered outside of the White House, chanting and presumably making a nuisance of themselves. In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, where I live, that was pretty much the only sign of ‘celebrating’ of which I’m aware, and it involved a tiny fraction of the population. (As for the rest, I’ve had my say on a Crooked Timber thread.)

2. sverrebm - May 4, 2011

In that case, the portrayal of this in European media is very skewed. The impression we get is that there were spontaneous celebrations across the nation, most notably by a massive crowd at “Ground Zero”, and that there is a general mood of celebration and sense of victory.