“Justice was done” was Barack Obama’s take on the assassination of Osama bin Laden. It wasn’t. Justice was not done, it was undone. Obama, of all people, a graduate of
, a former law professor and a lawyer, should know better. Justice requires that laws be honored and not discarded for political expediency. Harvard Law School
Assassination is the extrajudicial intentional killing by a government of a person for a political purpose. Perhaps Attorney General Eric Holder should remind him that assassinations, or “targeted killings”, sanctioned by a sate are illegal. As early as
February 18, 1976, President Ford signed Executive Order 1190, a finding and directive having the force of law, banning political assassinations [“Prohibition of Assassination. No employee of the Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”] President Carter followed suit with Executive Order 12036 which banned even indirect United States involvement in assassinations. President Reagan finally signed the still in effect Executive Order 12333 on U.S. December 1, 1981 which provides:
executive order 12333-- united states intelligence activities 46 fr 59941, 3
2.11 Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the
Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination. United States
2.12 Indirect Participation. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order.
Sadly Obama is following the lead of two morally deficient Presidents. Bill Clinton, a
graduate, recently and publicly admitted to secretly approving bin Laden as target for assassination [after the U.S. Embassy bombings in Yale Law School and Dar as Salaam in 1998], and George Bush who publicly called for his murder, “his head on a plate”, after 9/11. Fortunately for them, and for us, his murder/assassination did not occur on their watch. Nairobi
Justices Roberts, Thomas and Scalia, and those other dolts now sitting on the Supreme Court, can not be counted on to give the President sage advice. President Truman heeded Justice Robert Jackson’s principled call preventing the summary execution, the “assassination” “murder”, of Nazi leaders after the Second World War: “The only course [we have] is to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused [in the present case bin Laden] after a hearing [in a court of law] as dispassionate as the times will permit and upon a record that will leave our reasons and motives clear.” The result was the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, an imperfect meting out of a victor’s justice, but justice nonetheless.
Martin Borman, Herman Göring, Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, Joachim von Ribbentrop, among others, stood accused, tried, convicted and sentenced. The sentences, including the death penalty, were carried out. Now these men were responsible for the deaths counting in the millions, not the mere thousands that can be ascribed to bin Laden. You can not equate bin Laden’s crimes, as dastardly and cowardly as they may be, with those committed by the perpetrators of the holocaust. As chilling and gruesome as the collapse of the World Trade Center was, with people jumping to their death, it can not compared to the millions gassed and cremated in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor and Buchenwald. Think of the heaps of black and white striped pajama clad human remains confronting the liberating United States Army. Remember Schindler’s List. Think of the cities and countries laid to waste, to rubble. These men were truly evil, evil in a way that defies rational description. These men were Major League players while bin Laden was, at best, in the littlest of the Little Leagues.
But then, in 1945, justice was done. The rule of law, as imperfect and flawed as a victor’s tribunal may have been, was followed: indictment, trial, conviction and sentence. Yes, sentence, even the death sentence, if deemed appropriate.
Bill Clinton, notwithstanding his secret authorization for bin Laden’s assassination, publicly, at least, adhered to the constraints of the rule of law. On
November 5, 1998 his Justice Department filed an indictment with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing bin Laden of a host of crimes, some carrying the death penalty. But once that indictment was filed, and it is still on file and operative, the constraints of law came into play. The next step was arrest and trial, not assassination, not murder, unless that killing was the unfortunate result of resistance to lawful apprehension.
The circumstances of bin Laden’s killing remain murky. Will they ever be fully disclosed? I don’t know.
So far we have been denied the photographic evidence of his demise on national security grounds. The photos are too grisly for us to view, they tell us. Yet Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill I & II, The
Chainsaw Massacre and other grisly images too numerous to name flick daily across our video [no longer just TV] screens. Why does our government seek to shield our sensibilities now? Texas
Is it because, as some senior Pakistani officials claim, the “people inside the house were unarmed”? Is it because “there was no resistance”? Is it because “it was cold-blooded [murder]”? Is it because bin Laden was shot in the back of the head”, execution style? Is it because “……………”? Is it because “…………”? Is it because “……………”? You fill in the blanks.
Now many have voiced opinions pro and con. But voices of temperance and reason are starting to be heard. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Dr. Rowan Wiliams, having just married Bill and Kate, said:
“I think the killing of an unarmed man …[just] doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done. … [W]hen we are faced with someone who ws manifestly a war criminal in terms of atrocities inflicted it is important that justice is seen to be served.”
Bin Laden’s demise is not to be celebrated. It is to be mourned not as the death of a hero or martyr, nor as the victory of good over evil. His death, assassination, murder, whatever, should be mourned as the death of justice, as we know it and want it to be.