John McCain is trying to paint Barack Obama into a corner regarding the question of whether Osama bin Laden deserves due process if or when U.S forces capture him. Leaving aside the fact that McCain’s good buddies Bush and Cheney haven’t been able to capture him for seven years despite their “best” efforts, perhaps the question of whether Osama deserves due process should be preceded by capturing him.
In attempting to turn Obama into the typical bleeding heart Democrat on national security issues, McCain has painted himself into a very deep, dark corner. In a message entitled I Will Deliver Justice (yeah, just like Bush has done), he writes:
…After enthusiastically embracing the Supreme Court decision granting habeas in U.S. civilian courts to dangerous terrorist detainees, he is now running away from the consequences of that decision and what it would mean if Osama bin Laden were captured. Senator Obama refuses to clarify whether he believes habeas should be granted to Osama bin Laden, and instead cites the precedent of the Nuremburg [sic] war trials…There was no habeas at Nuremburg [sic] and there should be no habeas for Osama bin Laden.
…Let me be clear, under my administration Osama bin Laden will either be killed on the battlefield or executed.
How can a president of the United States guarantee that someone will be executed before he has been tried or even apprehended? I’ve never heard to such a thing before. Hasn’t McCain heard of a mere formality called judicial due process? Or have we gotten to he point where we can dispense with that too as we have with so many of our other civil liberties?
This statement sounds like an open invitation to those who might capture Bin Laden to execute him summarily. That would be handy because then there would be none of those messy legal proceedings in which he could string out the execution McCain so desperately seeks.
In McCain’s message we have a perfect crystallization of the different outlooks of the two candidates. Obama believes in justice. McCain believes in vengeance. In my Jewish religion, vengeance is reserved for the Lord. I’d prefer to keep it that way. Osama Bin Laden deserves justice when and if he is caught; not vengeance.
Vengeance is what Bin Laden has wrought on the world on behalf of imagined Muslim grievances against the west. Why should we embrace his twisted code in meting out punishment to him? What message will that send to the rest of the world and, in particular, his followers and potential supporters? Don’t we want them to think that we live by a code that is fair, consistent, and civilized? Or do we want them to think that we are as bloodthirsty as the jihadists?
Hat tip to Sol Salbe and the Lowy Institute blog, The Interpreter.
Hasan Bateson says
“Imagined” Muslim grievances? Agree or disagree with bin Ladin, by all means, but there’s nothing mysterious or imaginary about what he has against the West, specifically the US. He made it quite clear, and it has nothing to do with Bush’s truly imaginary attribution of jealousy over Western freedoms. It’s about Western, again specifically US, occupation of Muslim countries (specifically Saudi Arabia at the time), support of authoritarian regimes, greed for oil… no need to go on I think.
What the US has done in Afghanistan and Iraq has elements of revenge, but I don’t see the vengeance in what Al Qaida has done. Nor for that matter do I see much difference between their tactics and those of the US… except that the US labels its attacks on civilians as ‘unintended collateral damage’.
The US doesn’t target civilians… and of course, the US doesn’t ‘do’ torture either… or murder prisoners, or pronounce sentence before trial, as McCain is proposing.
i’m not convinced that bin Laden is alive, and that he’s not lying under a pile of rubble in a cave somewhere. Just because the CIA rolls out a video or audio tape and says “It’s him” doesn’t make it so. The people who work in special effects departments in movie studios will tell you that absolutely anything can be faked.
But let’s suppose that bin Laden is alive and that he’s captured; he deserves his day in court, with an initial presumption of innocence, no less than anyone else. Interestingly, in 2001 the Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over to the U.S. government if it would provide evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks; the U.S. government refused to do so, and my intuition tells me that its case against bin Laden is circumstantial at best.
Why are we trying to kill Bin Laden? We should negotiate with him and address his legitimate grievances. If we can talk with Iran, we can talk with Bin Ladem
Richard Silverstein says
@A.N.: Is this what passes for wit from you?
Seriously, if Israel can talk with Hamas, why cant the US talk with bin Laden? Hamas has in its charter that it desires the destruction of Israel, but that hasnt stopped Israel from talking with it. Al Qaeda does not call for the destruction of the US-why not address its grievances by withdrawing from Muslim lands and ending support to Israel? Many Americans are sick and tired of taking off their shoes at the airport and not being able to bring their favorite liquers on board. Why not make peace with Iran and al Qaeda and dump Israel? Better jaw-jaw than war-war
Richard Silverstein says
@A.N.: Because there’s nothing to talk about with Bin Laden. And you are wrong–Al Qaeda does wish the destruction of the west including the U.S. Why do you think they attacked the WTC? Hamas isn’t exactly mother’s milk, but Al Qaeda is far worse.
Iran is a far diff. story. It is not Al Qaeda as you seem to imply. It is a nation with its own set of interests that are far diff. than Al Qaeda. We have never attempted a serious diplomatic initiative with Iran. If we did we might be surprised at the result.
As the left has argued many times-one mans terrorist is anothers freedom fighter. Most of the world, especially the Islamic world considers Osama a freedom fighter, trying to stop the US support of corrupt dictatorial regimes and end support of israel. Israel has negotiated with Hamas, which supports killing of Israeli civilians as part of resistance, which after all, is enshrined in the UN charter. Why is the destruction of the WTC any different, except for scale, than the blowing up of the Park Hotel. I personally look forward to going to the airport without taking off my shoes, and carrying my favorite grappa on board without having the airlines lose it. What I am saying is not much different that what Walt and Mearsheimer are saying-support of Israel is not worth the inconvenience that the so called war on terror is inflicting on me
Richard Silverstein says
Because there is a territorial struggle bet. the Palestinians & Israelis over their future in which each people has a legitimate claim to self-determination, while ea. seems intent on denying legitimacy to the other’s claim. As for Al Qaeda, its attack on the U.S. involves no legitimate claim that I can determine other than revenge for alleged U.S. insults against Arab nations & Islam.
If the I-P conflict was resolved it would mean one less tool in Al Qaeda’s repetoire to stir up hostility both toward Israel and the west in general.
Richard Silverstein Actually what those people really want is our tanks and bases and bombs out of their land. But you are right on Iran mostly, but it’s worth mentioning recently declassified operation Ajax which was the beta test if you will for operation gladio.
With its perfection the world was treated to the same C.I.A/MI5 sponsored terrorism that we used on Iran.
Bin Laden, in an apparent retort to our vermin-in-chief asked in one of his speeches “If we hate freedom so much, why didn’t we attack Sweden?”
That question should be put to every pro-America goon because of course, they can not answer it. Everyone knows why Al Qaida attacked the US, it’s beyond obvious. Further, it must be stated that by US standards, they did nothing wrong. The US declares that any nation harboring terrorists is subject to blistering attack and any civilians killed in such an attack are a matter of indifference. No country on earth better satisfies such criteria than the United States.
Not only have we zero right to assassinate Bin Laden, we have no try him in a court of law or even to pursue him, unless we plan to hang him alongside Bush, Condoleza Rice, Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc. This is a central notion in international law—you have to apply standards of justice equally and fairly.