New Internationalist

Osama is dead

Internationally, apart from some Western countries, there was little rejoicing that Osama Bin Laden was dead. Most Americans would find this difficult to comprehend. Personally, I think killing innocent people is a cowardly, stupid thing to do. But to understand why folks in Asian and African countries did not dance on the streets when the news about Bin Laden’s death hit the world, it’s necessary to understand that many of us equate Bush, Blair, Cheney and that lot with international terrorists.

It is now universally acknowledged that the invasion of Iraq was about oil, not weapons of mass destruction. So the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, including tiny children and babies, for no defensible reason, is a war crime. We don’t accept that Bush or Blair had the moral authority to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans or US and British soldiers for a war that had little to do with justice or morality.

Iraq. Photo by US Army via flickr under a CC licence.

So why is the murder of around 3,000 innocent US citizens – whose deaths I deplore – worse than the murder of nearly a million innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? Collateral damage is acceptable only in immoral military circles.

Here in India, the bomb blasts threw the nation into a patriotic frenzy. But thinking people would not join the mob, particularly the rabid, hysterical media hosts, baying for Pakistani blood. Could we bomb innocent Pakistani civilians because a few hate-filled jihadists killed our people? Wouldn’t that make us exactly like them? Wouldn’t that turn us into a George Bush? A figure of ridicule, laughing stock of the world, hated by the people whose families and friends he murdered, every bit as fiercely as Americans hated Osama?

Afghanistan. Photo by isafmedia via flickr under a CC licence.

When I read the news about Osama’s decimation, I wondered, why didn’t they kill Saddam Hussein like that? It would have saved an entire country from a decade of bombing. An American apologist answered, ‘And have the whole world criticize us for that?’ And I wondered: was bombing innocent civilians, taking the lives of thousands of US and allied soldiers, spending billions of dollars, a  better solution, morally or pragmatically?

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, commented: ‘I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling, because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done.’

Much has been written about the manner of Osama’s assassination already. But it’s heartening to see a Church leader so forthright. Christian Church leaders are viewed in the Majority World as representative of the entire Western world, whether that’s true or not.

9/11 Victims Memorial in NYC. Photo by ElvertBarnes under a CC licence.

The Vatican – always more diplomatic – responded that every Catholic must ‘reflect on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.’

In a blog post on The Huffington Post, CODEPINK: Women for Peace co-founder Medea Benjamin put it simply: ‘For us, the death of Osama Bin Laden is a time of profound reflection. With his death, we remember and mourn all the lives lost on September 11. We remember and mourn all the lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. We remember and mourn the death of our soldiers. And we say, as we have been saying for the past nine years, “Enough”.’

Amen to that.

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