Osama bin Laden and the Moral Paradox

“Despite the religious rhetoric and the bloody means, Bin Laden is a rational man. There is a simple reason why he attacked the US: American Imperialism. As long as America seeks to control the Middle-East, he and people like him will be its enemy.”

-–” (Michael Mann, Incoherent Empire)

The conflict between Osama bin Laden and the US President, reminds me of the parable of Alexander the Great and a captured pirate, narrated by St Augustine in the “City of God”. The Emperor places the pirate on trial and angrily demanded of him, “How dare you molest the seas?” To which the pirate replied, “How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a pirate and a thief. You, with a great navy, molest the world and are called an emperor”.

If Osama the Pirate was captured and put on trial, one can imagine the eloquent and rational Osama retorting to the simplistic allegations of terrorism, by pointing out that it is a small reaction to the greater terrorism of the state (state-terrorism), which is euphemistically termed as “foreign policy”. The pirate effectively turns the table and puts the emperor on trial, and asks: I kill 3000 in response to your orgy of killing hundreds of thousands, and that makes me a terrorist, whilst your act is somehow moral and lawful, how can that be the case, it is you who should be on trial, but the world is governed by might is right; thus, leaving the emperor speechless.

The US made no effort to apprehend the frail and unarmed Bin Laden; they could have given him the option to surrender, instead, the unlawful execution on a foreign soil was preferred. Surely, by putting Bin Laden on trial, the US could have exposed the fallacy of AL-Qaeda’s ideology and methods. However, deep down the US knows its guilt, and the fear was Bin Laden would have managed to put the US on trial. From the onset, the US violated international laws by the terrorist acts of bombing Afghanistan, instead of following the due process of law like the Taliban, who offered to hand over Bin Laden, provided the US could furnish evidence. Subsequently, the US continued to act as a pirate state, it invaded Iraq on a false pretext and killed at least 100 times more than the 3000 killed in 9/11. Hence, execution made sense, because the US feared Bin Laden’s tongue.

A similar policy is being pursued with the numerous attempts to execute Anwar al-Awlaki, rather then apprehend him and put him trial, as one would expect a civilised nation to do. Why does the US resort to such crude methods given that it claims to have intellectual superiority over the ideology of the ‘terrorist’? It could easily provide a challenge to Anwar al-Awlaki and demolish his ideas, which would do far more damage than simply killing the man, and giving strength to his ideas and inspire others to follow. A series of debate on TV would generate huge interest, but the US fears loosing the ideological battle, even though it would have the advantage having full control over the media coverage. Such an exchange would probably perturb lot of the audience in the US, and some left in a state of confusion, as they are not used to open debates on such matters.

How ironic, that after lecturing about free speech, the US pursues a policy to silence someone through execution, rather than have the courage to debate the issues even in their own territory. The whole point of free speech is permitting the opponents right to be heard, as Professor Chomsky stated, unless you permit your opponents a fair and equal voice, then you do not really believe in free speech.

The conflict has been portrayed by the US in the simplistic image of Hollywood; simply we Americas are the good guys, against the bad guys (Al-Qaeda). Why are they bad? Because, the bad guys are needed to make the case for the heroes, just like the movies! There is no serious attempt to elaborate on the causes the drive the bad guys. If you shift through the puerile name-calling, paradoxically, Al-Qaeda seems to have the higher moral grounds, as shown by the following points:

  • 9/11 and 7/7 –” the immediate response to the unlawful execution of Osama Bin Laden was to selectively highlight the victims of 9/11 and 7/7 as justification. However, if they were certain of Osama’s guilt, then why not capture him and put him on trial? Simply because, the US do not have sufficient evidence to convict him in an independent court of law. For the argument sake, let us assume Osama was guilty. If human lives are valued equally, then why the selective outrage for the victims of 9/11 and 7/7? Where is the outrage when the innocent civilians were killed daily in the Islamic world prior to 9/11 and it continues post 7/7? Oh we know, for the emperor that’s just "foreign policy”, otherwise such acts are terrorism!
  • Torture –” the US has been systematically incarcerating and torturing innocent people; Abu-Ghraib is a reminder of such inhumane behaviour, where prisoners were tortured just for the fun of it, even young children were raped and sodomised. In contrast, the few prisoners captured by Jihadi groups that are related to Al-Qaeda were treated in accordance to the Sharia principle, thus you can exclude: children, gang rape, sodomy, porn-torture, etc. If they were executed, it was in response to the US actions –” but never for some sadistic reason or some form of sexual perversion or xenophobia which the US soldiers and civilians display.
  • The killing of innocent civilians –” this is main accusation laid against Al-Qaeda, as if they are the only ones who are guilty of this. You hear the constant name-calling, Bin Laden the ‘mass murderer’. If Bin Laden earned this title by killing 3000 or more, then what do we make of Bush and Blair over Iraq? What about their client, the Israelis who have murdered thousands of Palestinians? Anyone examines the accumulated figure of Palestinian casualty from 1948 (Israeli casualty figures are insignificant in comparison), it points to a policy of systematic genocide of an innocent population. If you delve into history, the killing of innocent civilians started with the use of explosives and air raids over populated cities, here the West has excelled.

After the demise of Osama bin Laden, they ask: is the world a safer place. Of course it is – it is safer for the Anglo-American-Israeli axis to bomb and invade more countries with impunity! The roots of the conflict are not embedded in the ideology of Al-Qaeda, but the injustices felt by the actions of Western countries. In fact, it was this injustice that gave birth to Al-Qaeda.

The price of peace and security is justice for the victims. Nobody has asked about compensating the Iraqis for the criminal invasion built on lies. Or is this only reserved for the victims of 9/11 and 7/7? What about the killing of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan by the drone attacks and the casual Israeli raids that continues to kill Palestinians? They are just statistics, whereas each victim of 9/11 or 7/7 is a tragedy, a story to be told. It’s this type of double standard that inflames the situation; the most obvious one is the preferential treatment given to Israel, who are constantly urged and requested to follow UN directives that has been sitting on the shelf. In sharp contrast, the Muslim countries are bullied and bombed into compliance in the name of UN resolutions. There can be no peace without justice, and the resistance will continue regardless of the death of Osama bin Laden.