Thursday, May 12, 2011

Deliver us from Evil: Justice to Bin Laden

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, May 12, 2011

History is filled with examples of very evil men who have acquired power and then used it for malevolent purposes. These same men have used their powerful positions to shield themselves from the normal means of justice. But justice eventually comes to even the most shielded.

We have, in the past few years, seen the rightful demise of several evil characters. The image of a scraggly, humiliated Saddam Hussein being pulled from a filthy pit by our Marines is still fresh in my mind. We have just recently seen Hosni Mubarak ousted from his former position of glory and excess, by his former subjects, and a comparable fate awaits Qaddafi in Libya. We can look a little further back in time and recall similar scenes, as Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, Mao Tse -Tung, Pol Pot and others rose to great heights of depravity and then fell in dramatic fashion.

Now we can see another vivid example of an evil man’s breath being extinguished from our planet. When the news of Osama bin Laden’s execution was broadcast to the world by President Obama, some people felt compelled to celebrate with flag waving and patriotic chants. I can understand their jubilation even though it seems a bit morbid and unbecoming of a civilized and moral people; we must recognize the truth of Obama’s statement that the world is indeed a safer place with certain evil persons removed from it.

That being said, I think it is important to look at this event in a broader context and to see what lessons we can learn.

First of all, I think we should realize that while the world is safer, it is not now nor will it ever be completely safe from evil. Evil will be with us always because as long as men rule other men the corrupting influence of power will inevitably lead to evil actions. Despite the best efforts of legislators or leagues of nations, someone will rise to take the place of bin Laden, Mubarak, Saddam, Hitler, etc. So then, what should we do? Should we just drop our hands, sigh a sigh of resignation and accept it as fate? I say NO. We should redouble our efforts to seek out the dens and lairs of these evil men and use every available means to frustrate their plots of mayhem. As we have seen, good does triumph over evil in the end, because good people carry a sense of justice and duty that evil men shun.

Furthermore, we should realize that killing a killer is not only justified by rules of war, it is actually an ethical and moral duty. Men like bin Laden cannot be rehabilitated or reasoned with, nor can they be appeased with acts of conciliation. They must be eliminated. Evil men who have gleefully and with forethought (months, years and millions of dollars spent in forethought) plotted and carried out the destruction of civilians have polluted their souls to the point beyond which laws can reach or cleanse. It is a sad fact but a fact nonetheless.

Which brings us back to that ticklish (I know, poor choice of words there) topic of “enhanced interrogation methods”. This topic was covered almost two years ago (May 19, 2009) in my column in which I stated that Pelosi and company (including Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the Obama cabinet) sought legal action against the members of the Bush administration who ordered these tactics against the captured terrorists in Gitmo.

My point then, as now, is that these tactics do not diminish us as a nation of laws and moral rules of conduct. As stated above, I believe it is ethical and moral to administer pain and suffering and loss of civil rights to a few guilty individuals if it prevents further pain and suffering and loss of life to a greater majority. The charge to our leaders is to protect their citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to carry out that charge it is sometimes necessary to use covert intelligence gathering, deliberate and sustained interrogation of captives in secret locations and sometimes to even infiltrate the sovereign soil of another nation without their invitation or assistance for the purpose of eliminating a threat to our national security.

The ironic point about the taking of bin Laden being done on President Obama’s command is so stark as to be almost comical. If you believe in Divine Providence (as I do) and if you believe that He has protected our nation and heeded our prayers to “deliver us from evil”, you have to wonder if He didn’t plan to deliver us during the presidency of the man who campaigned against the very practices that made this deliverance a possibility.

Think about it and smile. The evil one is vanquished. Our citizens have been spared. More information has been received. Our morals and ethics have survived because we have done the greater good.

Credit Where Credit is Due

by Keith Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, May 12, 2011

My brother and I disagree about many issues. Unless one has avoided any medium with any bias or editorial slant (which lately would require a complete boycott of television, radio, print and Internet), it is no surprise that a far-left liberal like myself and a right-wing conservative like Gordon would have vastly different opinions about the recent killing of Osama bin Laden. Although there is some common ground there are several points on which we stand at odds. I’ll discuss only a few.

The word “evil” is an emotionally charged term, which makes for effective rhetoric. Former President George W. Bush’s classification of an “Axis of Evil” was used to manipulate the fear and rage upon which much of his administration’s foreign policy was based. Calling his hit list of terror suspects “evildoers” helped him sway public opinion toward unconventional tactics in much the same way as fans of the television show “24” are programmed to support Jack Bauer’s extreme techniques.

But the word “evil” falls short of telling the full story. It eliminates the factors of motivation and justification, which are elements of the human psyche. The nuances are far too complex to cover in the limited space of editorial content, but the implications are important to note. We must realize that as heinous as bin Laden’s crimes are, he didn’t characterize them as evil. Just as madmen before him and those currently plotting and committing atrocities, bin Laden justified his actions as beneficial to a greater good.

Now, I do believe that justice was done on Sunday, May 1, when bin Laden’s countless victims were vindicated at the hands of brave Navy Seals. He willfully murdered thousands and sought to orchestrate the deaths of many more. His trial has been held publicly over the past 15 years and his confessions and other damning evidence is incontrovertible. However, merely labeling him “evil” oversimplifies the issue.

Ignoring motivation and justification is dangerous, most of all, in judging our own actions. When we accept “any means” of warfare or interrogation by speaking in terms of ourselves as the “good” guys versus the “evil” others, we tread on perilous ground. In a heated battle we can see the benefit of using chemical or biological warfare in order to save lives or even protect our shores. Even if the use of such extreme measures were proven reliable and efficient, their use is immoral (as well as illegal by international standards). But the U.S. holds itself to an even higher ethical standard that precludes such actions. That is why, throughout our history, we have eschewed the use of torture. Even if it were proven to produce good actionable intelligence, our collective soul would be tarnished by a violation of our own ethical standards. Or so it was, until the Bush administration, when we sanitized extreme tactics in terms of “enhanced techniques” and began to ask intelligence officers and soldiers to torture captives in our name. Those responsible for taking us down that slippery slope should be investigated, and held accountable.

There is still much to learn about the path to bin Laden, but so far there is little evidence to show that torture techniques led to the courier and then to his end. In fact, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was tortured extensively, downplayed the significance of the courier and gave information that would have set the CIA on a wild goose chase. So we shouldn’t be so quick to use bin Laden as a case for dropping an investigation. It’s a weak argument, regardless of what Fox News says.

I understand why Gordon failed to give President Obama the credit for the decision to move on Osama bin Laden. With 2012 looming large on the horizon, the last thing Republicans want to admit is that a Democrat is anything but weak on foreign policy. It’s a tired and tattered banner, but one that has been waved proudly for decades. And it has worked fairly well in the past. But seeing it trotted out on stage at the Republican mock debate last week was kind of pathetic in light of the news splashed over the entirety of media.

I’d even heard Bush receiving the credit, which is ironic since he admitted that he didn’t really “spend that much time” thinking about bin Laden. That was obvious when, early in his second term, he closed the bin Laden intelligence unit at the CIA. Two missed opportunities in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan had even military and administration officials scratching their heads, and many thinking “conspiracy”. Osama bin Laden did make an excellent bogeyman all these years.

I have to admit, though, that my fellow columnist’s approach was the most interesting I’d heard. He attributed the deliverance of bin Laden to the benevolent hand of God. I would smile wider if that hand had stayed the terrors of 9/11, and the tragic loss of life in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.