Bin Laden Assassination and the Implications for Ireland

So we are now assured that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Barack Obama is celebrating the killing of a man his predecessor George W. Bush went after ten years ago, and euphoric claims of mission accomplished ring across the U.S. From what we know of Bin Laden, the world is a safer place without him being free to terrorise it. But his death is unlikely to be a case of mission accomplished, as terrorism does not end with the killing of one man. And the corporatised wars being waged by the U.S. are unlikely to end.

There are many troubling aspects to the manner in which Bin Laden was killed. We are now told that he was unarmed, which would suggest that assassination was unnecessary, and that the woman whom the Americans killed was also unarmed and was not being used as a human shield as was initially claimed. Nonetheless, Bin Laden's death should now be seized as an opportunity to reflect on the so-called "war on terror", and to look for ways to work constructively towards peace and justice for all.

In Ireland it should be a time to reflect on why we have been dragged into endless wars around the globe, and why we continue to facilitate U.S. occupation forces and CIA kidnap and assassination crews at Shannon Airport.

Of even more immediate importance for the Irish authorities is the fact that every U.S. diplomatic centre and military post around the world has now gone on high alert. The threat of retaliation for the Bin Laden assassination is clearly one that the U.S. authorities are concerned about. But have workers at Shannon Airport, airline passengers, and the people living nearby been alerted to the fact that they face increased risk? And have precautions been taken to ensure that they do not become innocent victims of a terrorist attack?

The violence perpetrated by terror groups like al Qaida make all our lives less secure. So too do acts of war and other violent responses. And the closer one is to any of those engaging in violence and war, the greater the risks.

Almost three thousand innocent people died in the U.S. on September 11th 2001 as a result of the heinous attack on civilians which was allegedly masterminded by Bin Laden. Since then hundreds of thousands have died violently in Iraq (a country that had nothing to do with the attack on the Twin Towers) and in Afghanistan (where al Qaida was routed out years ago), and many more deaths have been caused indirectly by these wars. Over 7,000 U.S soldiers have died in these wars in the last decade. Countless thousands of men and boys have been tortured by the CIA and their proxies. And since President Barack Obama came to power, drone strikes have killed almost 1,900 people, including many in Pakistan.

The sight of people triumphantly celebrating a man’s death – even a man as brutal and dangerous as Osama Bin Laden – is troubling. It shows their interest is in revenge, not justice. Many of President Obama’s remarks are equally troubling. In his statement on the killing he said: “Tonight we are once again reminded that Americans can do whatever we set our minds to … we can do these things not because of our wealth and power, but because of who we are, one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” These words are both arrogant and inaccurate. They appear to portray the U.S. as a people chosen by God, free to act above and beyond the constraints of international laws. And they lay claim to divine and moral authority for extra-judicial killings.

Governments and citizens of other countries have a responsibility now to join with the many U.S. citizens who demand that Washington respect human rights, the safety of civilians in times of war, and the integrity of international borders.

It is also worrying to read the type of rhetoric in Monday last’s New York Times in which it was claimed that Bin Laden “had become a hero in much of the Islamic world”. This type of inflammatory language does a great injustice to a large proportion of the world’s population. Reasonable people of all religions detest the despicable ideology that Bin Laden professed to believe in, and when influential media outlets suggest otherwise it only serves to incite more violence and hatred.

Finally, it is worth noting that the world has an International Criminal Court where people like Osama Bin Laden who are suspected of masterminding appalling massacres could be tried and punished appropriately. But while the U.S. continues to disregard international mechanisms like this, it makes it all the more difficult for others to use them effectively to achieve justice. If international laws are inadequate for dealing with cases such as Osama Bin Laden, then all member states of the United Nations have obligations to reform and enhance the rule of international law, rather than ride roughshod over it.

What humanity needs in the twenty first century is a genuine global system of liberty and justice, based on the rule of law, for all humanity, not just one imposed by the U.S. and directed towards their own misguided interests.

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