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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  1. #2 Josantony Joseph 09 May 11

    Mari's comments reflect what many people around Asia seem to feel. It would seem that people find it difficult to rejoice at a killing of one terrorist by others who are seen as controlling the world with their arms and political power. Of course they are glad that there is one less terrorist, but to many it seems it is a psychological boost only for a United States of America (and its western allies) which is as much responsible for terrorism of different kinds (some examples of which Mari gives in her blog)as the overt in-your-face kind of terrorism of Osama and his kind. After all the arms manufacturers of the world are primarily western controlled and owned... even the arms that Osama and his kind use. In addition there is the economic terrorism that is evident in the way the world functions, where those countries and companies who have money control the lives and governments of those who don't.

  2. #3 Chris 10 May 11

    Your article hit the nail on the head, Mari. My sentiments are along the same lines as yours. The killing of Osama is very un-Christlike. As is all the rest of the killings around the 9/11 drama. The whole thing is so inhuman, gory, and with bad taste. Osama is dead - but it is a 'killing' all the same. Whatever happened to the commandment 'Thou shall not kill'!

  3. #4 Andy Kadir-Buxton 10 May 11

    Both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had been CIA Agents, the CIA have the ability to recruit people using a personality test similar to the one the US Democratic Party use to pick their representatives. They do not use it. I personally know of a person rescued by the CIA from the British Police for the crime of raping a baby. As long as people like this are used by the CIA there are always going to be wars going on.

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About the author

Mari Marcel Thekaekara a New Internationalist contributor

Mari is a writer based in Gudalur, in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu. She writes on human rights issues with a focus on dalits, adivasis, women, children, the environment, and poverty. Mari's book Endless Filth, published in 1999, on balmikis, is to be followed by a second book on campaigns within India to abolish manual scavenging work. She co-founded Accord in 1985 to work with Adivasi people. Mari has been a contributor to New Internationalist since 1991.

About the blog I travel around India a lot, covering dalit and adivasi issues. I often find myself really moved by stories that never make it to the mainstream media. My son Tarsh suggested I start blogging. And the New Internationalist collective are the nicest bunch of editors I’ve worked with. So here goes.

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