Friday, May 06, 2011

Bin Laden, legality, 'execution' and proportion

Bin Laden was 'executed' - and because this is the case, according to a whole lot of people who weren't there, it makes the Americans as bad as those they are supposed to be fighting. Well, if they'd hijacked a couple of passenger jets and flown them into Bin Laden's compound, possibly...

The execution commentary was as predictable as it is copious but this one from Dan Rodricks caught my eye where he quotes Geoffrey Robertson QC approvingly:
"Justice means taking someone to court, finding them guilty upon evidence and sentencing them," Mr. Robertson told an Australian television network. "This man has been subject to summary execution, and what is now appearing after a good deal of disinformation from the White House is it may well have been a cold-blooded assassination."
For an educated man to give such a narrow legalistic definition of justice is quite surprising. Well, maybe not - he is a lawyer, after all. But because he is, the internal inconsistency here should have been obvious, surely? An assassination is, amongst other things, a summary execution so Geoffrey Robertson is basically saying Bin Laden was definitely executed in what may well have been an execution.

There's a lot one could say about this and the whole loss of proportion surrounding the notion that the entire moral fabric of the American republic defends on the pristine legality of this operation but I'll confine myself to one observation at this stage: isn't the burden of evidence supposed to fall on the accuser?

(And in case anyone seriously imagines a capture followed by a trial would have made any difference to those for whom America can do nothing but evil, check this out - and note the date.)

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