Osama bin Laden

After almost 10 years the Americans finally found Osama bin Laden, unfortunately they were unable to take him alive. The Reid Report has a good summary of what happened [1].

Sam Varghese wrote an interesting analysis of the political aspects of this event in Pakistan [2], and he’s a lot less positive about it than most people. Later he wrote about the inconsistencies in the reports, it seems that bin Laden was executed while unarmed [3]. When dealing with someone who is no stranger to suicide attacks and who has stated an intention to never be taken alive it’s not unreasonable to shoot quickly, it’s just a pity that they couldn’t have been honest from the start.

Dr. Pamela Gerloff wrote an insightful article for Psychology Today titled “Why We Should Stop Celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s Death” [4]. She asks the rhetorical questions “What kind of nation and what kind of species do we want to be? Do we want to become a species that honors life? Do we want to become a species that embodies peace?” and suggests that we should mourn the series of tragedies that led up to this situation and to “feel compassion for anyone who, because of their role in the military or government, American or otherwise, has had to play any role in killing another”.

Daniel R. Hawes wrote an insightful article for Psychology Today that’s quite different from Dr. Gerloff’s article [5]. He is quite glad that bin Laden is dead. But he considers how the people who have lost friends and relatives on 9-11 might feel about this and says that “the shouts and celebratory chants that rang around America today seemed to me to carry a certain element of irreverence for those affected most deeply by the September 11 attacks and the entire military operations that followed”.

To represent the people who are partying now there is a post by Jenny Lind Schmitt that is totally unworthy of a site such as Psychology Today [6]. Jenny told her small children about al Quaeda: “They hate you because you are American. Their god is destruction, and they would kill you, a little child, if they had the chance, just because you are American.” She also describes al Quaeda as “lunatics”. Describing all your enemies as “lunatics” is quite common in general conversation, but it’s not suitable for a web site that discusses psychology (where some respect for people with mental health issues is expected). Teaching children to be bigoted against Islam is a bad thing too. It seems to me that a factor in the violence that comes from the middle-east is a result of women just like her telling their children similar things but with country names and religions switched. Finally some capacity for empathy is required for someone to have any insight into psychology, someone who can’t understand such things can’t be competent to discuss psychology.

In stark contrast to Jenny (who bears an irrational hatred in spite of apparently not having any close connection to the events in question) there is a TED talk by Phyllis Rodriguez (who’s son was killed in the 9-11 attacks) and Aicha el-Wafi (who’s son is in jail for being a member of al Quaeda and was accused of being part of the 9-11 plot) [7]. The two women became friends after 9-11 and work together in the cause of peace. From reading some interviews that Google turned up Aicha seems like a very intelligent woman, I think that the TED talk with her section translated from French to English didn’t seem to show this. Perhaps people who speak French and English would get more from the TED talk than I did. Also perhaps if she gave a talk to a French audience and it was subtitled then the result would be better.

Now of course the less intelligent people on the right-wing are trying to spin this to say that Bush deserves credit for getting bin Laden. The Reid Report has a good analysis of the history of the hunt for bin Laden and it doesn’t make Bush look good [8]. Also the Reid Report has an interesting analysis of the operation to get bin Laden and the possibility for peace now that he’s gone [9].

LA Times has an article about the use of the name Geronimo as a code-word for bin Laden [10]. But compared to the use of words such as “crusade” and “paladin” by the US armed forces this hardly rates a mention.

10 comments to Osama bin Laden

  • Ug Boken

    Celebrating the death of people is a clear sign for an uncivilised country. Just like the death penalty. Most of Europe is far far ahead .. more like living in different centuries.

  • etbe

    Ug: I think it depends on the number of people and whether they matter.

    The size of the celebrations as reported is disturbing but I’m sure it’s still a small portion of the US population – and it’s unimportant people. If they had parties at US embassies and other official venues then it would be a real worry.

  • Dave Nett

    @Boken: More ahead in decadence I think. Here in France, the criminality is higher and higher and criminals are laughing at the law. Most thiefs get released as soon as two hours after committing their crime. Not only there is no more death penalty, but there is no more life-time jail anymore. So even the worst serial killer ever, or child abuser, get a maximum jail penalty of 20 years… and are released after 10 years for good behavior. Guess what? There are so many case of such guys restarting their crimes immediately. How many victims payed for such a weak justice ! It is a shame. You complain about your justice, but I don’t want of ours either.

    @etbe: I understand what you mean, but wait, I won’t cry either. I think most people are happy not of his death but of the symbol he represented. And if he wasn’t caught alive, why bother? Honestly, what did this guy do of his life? How many innocent payed for his crual behavior? Would you say the same about Hittler? If not, what are your “horror” criterias? I know that our governments are neither better nor innocent, but I won’t loose my time wondering if it would have been better that he is dead or in jail. You also fail to consider the consequences of a simple arrest: hostages equals more trouble and innoncent victims.

  • etbe

    Dave: Can you provide some links to substantiate your claims about criminals laughing at the law? Such claims are often made by people with various agendas to push but turn out to lack a factual basis when investigated.

    [Update: Just to clarify, I’m not accusing Dave of trying to mislead anyone here – it’s easy to trust bad sources and the mainstream media are prone to pushing sensational stories about criminals getting away with it and not checking the facts.]

    There are lots of crimes for which a release in a couple of hours is quite reasonable. The wikipedia page about life sentences claims that a criminal may be sentenced to a minimum sentence of 18-22 years, 30 years, or never to be released (much the same as Australia). Also in France someone under the age of 16 may be sentenced to 20 years in jail. Eithier Wikipedia or your summary is wrong. Please try and find some references and if the English language Wikipedia turns out to be wrong then fix it.

    It could be that judges just aren’t giving out the maximum sentences for people who seem to deserve them. But there may be situations where there are mitigating factors that aren’t known to the tabloid journalists. It doesn’t seem that French law is incapable of dealing with the bad people.

    If they had got Osama to trial it would have been a massive PR win. The operation to get Osama resulted in the deaths of a few unarmed people who weren’t used as hostages or human shields, so it seems that doing the same thing with less-lethal projectiles with the aim of taking him alive would have resulted in less collateral damage not more.

    Hitler was very different, he ordered the murder of millions of innocent civilians for no good reason. Osama has some specific objectives (such as getting the US army out of Saudi Arabia) which he hoped to achieve by the 9-11 attacks – as well as revenge for civilian deaths in Lebanon. Osama was not a nice person in any way, but I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that he would murder millions of civilians if he had ever taken control of a country.

    As an aside, when talking about punishment for terrorists in France the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior springs to mind…

  • etbe

    Sam Varghese has written about some of the strange discrepancies related to bin Laden’s death at the above URL.

    Jeff Greenfield has written an alternate-history article about what might have happened if bin Laden had been captured alive. I can’t understand why anyone would want to impose the death penalty on a suicide-bomber or anyone else who wants to be a martyr for a cause. It would be a better punishment for someone like bin Laden to give him the best possible medical attention and a 24*7 suicide watch to keep him alive for as long as possible.

  • Dave Nett

    @etbe: I don’t care about what Wikipedia says, because I live in France and I am talking about the reality. You want sources? There are just too many! People are exasperated of the law here. We don’t even have enough jails and enough judges to take care of the criminal cases.
    I don’t know if you can read French, but I am going to give you some references, but believe me, there are cases all the time: : 10 years for raping, but release after only 4 years ; raped and killed again soon after. : same kind : raped tens of time, codamned 3 times and always restart. : killed wildly someone for 20$. Lifetime jail but released after 13 years!!! And… killed again!
    At many times, our government was embarrassed and tried to vote laws to mitigate this, but nothing has changed in practice.
    Ok it is noble trying to give a second chance to people. But in some case, it just cannot work. Some just can’t be saved. The priority should always to protect innocent people, right? I just hope you agree with that.

    Concerning the other debate, I find your comparison clumsy. So crual murderers shall have a different treatment according to the number of innocent victims lifes they take. Millions of killed : death penalty. Thousands : jail. That’s a joke. Think well about the victims and their families. If you were more closely concerned, you would think differently.

  • Dave Nett

    Oh and because you are talking about the Rainbow Warrior which happened many years ago, this was a total mess and political issue. In that case, the government can be very brutal.
    It had nothing much to do with our justice and what citizens are experiencing.

    A few more links by the way:

  • etbe

    Dave: The above URL should interest you, a psychologist makes a really good case for keeping DNA records of all convicted criminals.

    The supposed lack of jails could be easily solved by legalising most drugs. If an adult wants to damage their own health by consuming alcohol, tobacco, heroin, etc then I don’t think that the government should prevent them. Prohibiting drugs just causes crime.

    Whether readers of a magazine vote that the laws are too strict or lenient doesn’t mean much. We have periodic media beat-ups in Australia about such things. The media makes a big deal about one case of a recidivist criminal and then gets votes for fascism. We even have people who think that anyone who is falsely convicted should be given a life sentence because they might get a grudge and become a criminal if they were released!

    The examples you give seem to be of judges giving too short sentences. Probably a minimum sentencing law plus a “three strikes” law for violent crime would do some good in dealing with that.

    Finally I don’t think that bin Laden should have been treated leniently. Under Australian law he would have been jailed for life with no possibility of parole – people who have committed far less severe crimes have been given sentences such as 50 years, so Australian judges seem to implement the law in a reasonable manner. You have not provided any evidence to suggest that French law is substantially different from Australian law in this regard. So it seems that there are examples of French judges doing a bad job. I would be happy to bet money on someone like bin Laden getting a non-parole period in excess of 100 years if tried in Australia.

    For the cases you cite where the judges did a bad job, how old were the judges? Is there any mandatory retirement for judges in France? Or do senile judges keep their jobs?

  • Dave Nett

    I honestly have no idea. It is difficult for me to give you precise examples, because I was not prepared for this little week-end discussion :)
    I should have compiled stories, affairs, votes to come with serious stuff. I don’t have that now, but I have my personal opinion made by the news, my own life and opinions shared with other inhabitants. Same for most people I guess ?

    However, there is in France an explosive situation because of a real social crisis accompanied with the economic crisis, and there is also a global tendency of the judges, mostly left wing, to be lenient.
    You may think that I have an agenda or something, because, you are right, I cannot prove anything. At least you can see that if the government took the point, it is because there is already a debate inside the society, and a real demand for the majority for a stronger justice. The facts is that many judges are kind of left wing (French way, that you can’t compare at all with American left wing) and lenient.

    You are maybe correct that the tabloid may bring too much focus on the worst cases and that they may be more rare than we think. Ok, maybe. But this is not the worst for the daily life of the ordinary citizen. The problem is more the abundance of small crimes (violent street agressions, housebreaking, pickpockets) which are never punished because the criminal is minor or because the judges are already overflowed. There are plenty of documents and reports from the police arresting the same thief several times a week! They arrest him, but they have no right to keep the person more than 24h on custody. In practice, for the judge, it will be just one more file on his stack of waiting files. He will check it several months later and decide if they take action or not. If ever he decides to do so, he will be lennient either to satisfy his own ideology or because the jails are full. I am talking especially about violence of course, not simple pickpockets. Hit and injured an old woman to steal her bag for the 10th time in one year? 5 months conditional sentence. Maybe he will actually go to jail for a few months. No problem, it is good for his reputation in his group. Anyway, meanwhile, the guy is released just a few hours later. Do you think he is scared by the system? Don’t you think that the victim is actually having more trouble?

    While I do think that jail is not the absolution response to all cases, I don’t think this is normal and I think it is normal to show strenght when it’s needed. The problem is that in France the whole punishment scale is low. Most horrible crimes – but terrorist maybe, there is no recent example I am aware of – NEVER get lifetime jail. What they call lifetime jail is for instance: “perpétuité avec peine de sûreté de 15 ans”. You see the contradiction: lifetime jail but 15 years maximum. And as I told you, if the guy stays quiet in the jail, he is out after 8 years or something like that. Does it mean that he is not dangerous anymore for the society?
    The same goes for small crimes as I tried to describe above.

    It results in a significant failure to secure and stabilize the society. I travel quite a lot and I could see that France is one the most dangerous countries among the “developped” countries and even doesn’t compare with some so-call developping countries.

    The only thing I could say to you is to come to France in a popular area for a while and make your own opinion. But I am ready to bet that Australia is a much better place and society to live in. :D

    Anyway I still don’t care that Bin Laden was killed. It saved American to pay for hosting him so many years. To me, he definitely lost any consideration by attacking innocent people, whatever his cause was. And who knows what his group would have been able to do to have him released? Now they may try to take revenge, but they are seriously weakened and maybe (hopefully) divided, so it is a complete different story.

  • Shannon

    rm -fR /bin/laden