Monday, May 02, 2011

President Obama – I need to know!

As you are no doubt aware President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden in a military operation on a house in Pakistan.

To tell you the truth I am pretty non-plussed about it. I wasn't elated, and certainly wasn't sad of course. I figured the guy died in a cave in the Pakistani mountains years ago so to hear that he's dead NOW didn't actually do much to change anything.

Nevertheless since I did not hear Obama’s speech I looked up a transcript of it on the White House website.

It made for some interesting reading. Here's some excerpts:

. . . . I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

. . . . . . . . . .

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

. . . . . . . . . .

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.
. . . .

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

As I read this and find myself hoping, "please, let it say somewhere that the focus of the operation was to try to capture him alive". But it wasn't in the speech. I did an Internet search but didn't find anything. As far as I can tell the goal of the operation was to kill him.

President Obama, did you just sign off on an assassination!?

Please tell me you didn't. Please tell me that you hoped that maybe he could be captured alive and that you didn't want his death to be the main objective. Please tell me you left instructions that provided it didn't put the lives of your soldiers at risk to capture him alive if possible. Please tell me that if he had surrendered he would not have been killed.

It's important. The world needs to know. I need to know.

Yes, Osama bin Laden was an evil man. Yes, he masterminded numerous terrorist plots which resulted in the deaths of thousands. Yes, he trained others to kill. Yes, he showed little remorse for any victim of his schemes, however innocent. Yes, he deserved to die.

But this isn't about him. This is about us, the West, and what we stand for.

For generations the West has pressed upon the rest of the world the benefits of democracy and human rights. We tell the world how we hold the moral high ground, how our governments and judicial systems support the rights of people, and try to promote fairness and equity. We tell the world why dictatorships are wrong, and why denying the rights of citizens must change. We criticize those who use secret police, detentions without trial, and torture. We promote our court systems and try to show the world that any criminal has a right to a fair trial, and that is why we feel our systems are just. We told them that these things are what help to make our countries great, and that these things should be emulated. Taking the moral high ground is part of who we are supposed to be.

If we are to promote a higher moral standard then we have to abide by it, even when it would be a tough thing to do. We cannot claim moral superiority while sanctioning assassination.

No, I don't think you can just get around this by calling it a "war". Osama called it a war too you know, when he masterminded the attacks that caused the Twin Towers to fall. That didn't make what he did moral, or right, or just.

Justice -- you kept using that word. But was it more akin to vengeance instead of justice?

That is why I need to know. Yes it was entirely possible he was going to die in the raid. Yes it was important to make sure he didn't escape. Definately, you wouldn't want any of the soldiers to get killed in the operation. Absolutely, he needed to be defeated. But were you willing to capture him? Put him on trial for his crimes? Be sentenced to imprisonment for the rest of his life instead of executed? Were you willing to show the world that we could take the moral high ground and stand up for the ideals we tell others they should embrace, or is our message to the world to do as we say and not as we do, that assassination is okay when we think it is in our best interest. That a group attacking a place in the middle of the night to kill someone are “terrorists” when we are the victims, but being “true to the values that make us who we are” when it is us doing the attacking. Is that right?

How can we expect others to listen to us, to embrace our ways, when we are not willing to live by the values we hold in such high regard? How are we to convince the fundamentalists in the Islamic world that our way is better than the blind hatred they themselves embrace?

It can only be done by taking the high road, even when our very souls cry for vengeance. It means having to do what's right, as much as we hate to do it.

It means hoping that while there was a chance he would die he would have been captured alive, to face trial, because that would show that you hold true to the principle of liberty and justice for all. Even for those who do not deserve it. Even for him.

And that's why I need to know.

1 comment:

Liz said...

Well said! I couldn't have put it better myself.