There are times I just feel like writing. You know the mood; there’re questions inside that aren’t properly resolved. Sure, you can sit down in an armchair and mull them over, but it never seems to produce a tangible answer to what’s puzzling you. So, you make yourself comfortable at the keyboard, pour a glass of French red, and begin hammering away at nothing in particular.
It’s Osama bin Laden, of course. Not him personally, you understand. I think I wrote in a recent post that him being alive or dead is of no concern to me. No, it’s more what his death – or, our reaction to it – is doing to us as people.
Let’s consider the whole concept of right versus wrong. For that’s truly the crux of the issue. To suggest that the cold-blooded killing of three thousand people on 9/11/2001 was not wrong would be madness. More than madness; idiocy.
Yet the cold-blooded killing of one unarmed man in Pakistan – albeit the alleged mastermind behind the deaths of those three thousand on 9/11/2001 – is, we are told, right.
Except, according to the US intelligence services he wasn’t the mastermind, that was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. However, assuming he was the ‘big boss’ behind the ‘taking out’ of the three thousand, can it be right to kill him in cold blood?
To answer that question it’s necessary to examine the concept of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’.
Society sets certain rules necessary to its (relatively) smooth functioning. We make laws for the purpose. Yet even as we make those laws, we break them. Society says the speed limit on this road is 40 mph, but it’s late in the evening, the road is clear, so we feel justified in driving at 60 mph. (Unless we happen to be a Republican in a pick-up truck, in which case we set the cruise for 39 mph and to hell with the queue behind us – but I digress) It’s unlikely the local sheriff’s deputy would agree with our logic, but then he makes his money from issuing tickets.
Okay, I’ll admit to a certain flippancy, but when Douglas Bader said, “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men,” he wasn’t too far off the mark.
What he was actually saying was that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are not fixed in stone, however many laws society creates. They are, in fact, subjective rather than objective.
Is there anyone out there who honestly believes Osama bin Laden was not acting from an, albeit misguided, sense of righteousness? I suppose there may be some who simply believe he was ‘evil’, but most sane individuals would accept that people do what they consider right for them, even if the end result is obviously wrong for somebody else. Bin Laden was, in his own eyes and those of his followers, a freedom fighter. He believed what he was doing was right.
Terrorism is nothing new. When the Romans invaded Britain in 43AD, the Anglo-Saxons terrorized the Romans at every opportunity. And can you blame them? Some bloody foreign army suddenly comes tramping across your cornfields, raping your women and stealing your chickens, and then expects you to lay down your arms and lick their feet. No way!
I remember, a couple of years ago, when Obama was campaigning for the presidency, a video of his ex-pastor did the rounds of the media circus, and America was aghast at this black cleric talking of 9/11, and telling his congregation that, “America’s chickens had come home to roost.”
It was then I realized that Obama could never be the president that many hoped he would be. It was because Obama, faced with the words of his pastor, betrayed him. I knew that the cleric, whose name now escapes me, was courageous enough to tell the truth. But Obama, like Iscariot before him, denied his own pastor for the thirty pieces of silver that was the White House.
The problem with governments is that they tend to look after their own. Take the US government, and that of Saudi Arabia, as examples. We all know the civil rights record of Abdullah is appalling. He’s a barbarian of the first order. Yet, America (and Britain) treats him like a prodigal son. Stuff what he does to his subjects, Abdullah is a western customer par excellence, and consequently deserves red carpet treatment.
What Abdullah wants, Abdullah gets. He wants arms; give him arms. He wants US military boots to protect him; give him US military boots to protect him. He wants a kiss…
…give him a kiss.
It’s hardly surprising that some Saudi individuals should view the West in general, and the US in particular, as their enemies, given the arrangement existing between Abdullah and certain western leaders and their governments.
The US did withdraw most of their military personnel from Saudi in 2003, but only after the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan had stretched the military to its limits. Opening up those new fronts in the Middle East was even more reason for al Qaeda to increase its resentment of the West.
Does any of this justify the cold-blooded killing of a man in a small Pakistani town with the unlikely name of Abbottabad?
At the end of the game, history – at least, the history that bears any relation to fact – will declare this a contest of ‘right’ versus ‘right’, in which ‘right’ eventually won or lost, depending on your viewpoint. The methods utilized to fight the contest, on both sides, can never be anything else but wrong.
The incontrovertible facts are that nothing on this earth can justify the events of 9/11/2001, yet equally, nothing justifies democratic governments supporting an evil regime that tortures and victimizes its subjects in the most brutal of ways.
America’s chickens certainly came home to roost on 9/11/2001, but in a manner that could never be acceptable to any sane human being. The crime committed on that day was hideous by its choice of innocent victims, guilty of no crime against anyone, mere scapegoats for the brutal policies of successive US governments. As though, somehow, they might have been able to change those policies.
As to whether we in the West have right on our side? I believe we do. There can never be a right reason for taking the lives of those who have done no wrong, or holding them responsible for the actions of their governments.
Nevertheless, 9/11 was no act of war, but a criminal act, whatever George W Bush may have said. Wars can only ever be waged against other nations, not organizations, despite the colloquial names given to the ‘war on drugs’, or the ‘war on cancer’, or other marketing ploys common in capitalist countries.
The cold-blooded killing of an unarmed Osama bin Laden can never be justified, whatever his alleged crimes. For ‘alleged’ they now will always be. For us to accept his fate as justifiable is to turn ‘wrong’ into ‘right’. It is tantamount to legalizing the lynching of blacks in 1950’s America.
To make acceptable such corruption of our societal values of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – those that legally declare a man to be innocent till proven guilty by due process of law – is to corrupt ourselves and our society.
We embark on that path at our peril.
Filed under: Wrong is right and right is wrong