Assassination is Justice? America Celebrates Vengeance

Posted by CODEPINK Staff


By Kathleen Barry

This week in America there has been something distasteful about the joyful celebrations of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. More than distaste, it has been filled with macho and the elation of revenge. Worse, it has obscured American's attention from how actually Bin Laden died.

I am among those millions of people around the world who are relieved that this terrorist who was responsible for repeated heinous acts that have taken thousands of lives can no longer do so.  But I am also hearing many people speaking quietly, as if it would be anti-American, about "being sickened," or "revolted" or "appalled" by the jubilation. And we have more reason than might be immediately evident from news reports and White House announcements for our reactions.

Bin Laden is dead. But he was unarmed when the US Special Forces stormed in on him, killed him and then buried his body at sea before we even knew he was dead not to mention before we even were able to ask how he was killed. Follow the Pentagon and State Department announcements: first, it was stated that he was unarmed. Then a few days later announcements included that an AK47 was nearby in the room. Sometime after that, as some of us began to question the killing, we were told that a pistol was "within his reach."

What we do know is that Bin Laden's courier was killed but that although firefights were described by the President, no Navy Seal was fired upon. If Bin Laden was unarmed, surely he could have been taken as a prisoner. Legally, it would then be the work of the International Court to try him and bring him to justice, for justice resides in our courts, or it is suppose to reside there. Whatever his punishment, it would not have resulted from a President authorizing vigilante justice.

Instead, from what we know today, the picture we are piecing together looks like he was assassinated, killed in cold blood. That is what the President of the United States referred to as "justice." That is what Americans celebrated in the streets for days. With that the President dragged the US to a new low in our standards of justice. Assassination follows from war crimes already committed by this President and his predecessor in Iraq and Afghanistan.

War crimes, assassinations and Americans flooding the streets celebrating vengeance, the President's ratings in the polls take a leap upward for his "strength" (read macho), pundits confident of his re-election, and congratulations from Dick Cheney. That sordid atmosphere leaves an air of suspicion surrounding anyone calling for real justice in relation to Bin Laden, the kind of mentality we experienced in the US with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when many of us knew that war against Iraq was a war crime and that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction there. No matter. Americans wanted revenge for 9/11 even though Iraq had nothing to do with that crime against humanity masterminded by Bin Laden. They got it at the cost of 1.3 million Iraqi and almost 4,500 American soldiers lives. Then the celebration of war virtually drowned out the massive global anti-war protests before the invasion in 2003.

As long as the US and its deadly military are the final arbiter's of justice in the world, we will all be dragged down and sink into its amorality. That is why in Unmaking War, Remaking Men I have proposed a plan for a global peace-making military whose special forces would use the least force necessary to bring down leaders engaged in ethnic cleansing, genocide and other crimes against humanity. Until we make that kind of change we will be doomed to macho revenge masking as justice.

Kathleen Barry, feminist, sociologist and Professor Emerita is the author of Unmaking War, Remaking Men www.unmakingwar.net.

Kathleen Barry, feminist, sociologist and Professor Emerita is the author of Unmaking War, Remaking Men, www.unmakingwar.net.

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