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The cycle of violence just became even more deadly

Written by Asim Qureshi Tuesday, 03 May 2011
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Osama bin Laden is many things to many people, particularly when one considers his life over the course of the last 30 years. A one time a hero of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, and until recently, the world’s most wanted man.
The assassination of Osama bin Laden has posited questions relating to whether or not the US has been vindicated in its policies relating to arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings.
 
According to a number of sources, there have been suggestions that one of the most vital clues leading up to his identification, came from a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay. There is no way of testing the veracity of this claim as it may be a covert attempt at providing legitimacy to those who claim that Guantanamo Bay has been a success story for the US. Whatever the truth of the matter and in time we may learn more, out of the many thousands of false confessions that were extracted under torture and abuse, the legacy of Guantanamo is one that has tarnished the reputation of the US and only undermined its proclaimed values.
 
The incident is also an extension of the Obama doctrine – kill, don’t detain. From the perspective of the administration of justice, the targeted killing of bin Laden has been counterproductive in that there can never be an independent judicial process to test the multitude of charges laid at the door of the accused as happened with the alleged war criminals at Nuremberg. Whilst it may not have served the propaganda value of a dead bin Laden who could be depicted as the master of every heinous terrorist atrocity since he fell out with the CIA, it would have made more sense to attempt to capture the man and provide him with due process, a strong message that a western conception of justice has some meaning. That has been the rationale behind the war crimes tribunals held at the Hague in relation to defendants who committed genocide. If the rule of law permits such crimes to be prosecuted then it could have withstood the anguish of unearthing the wrongdoings of Bin laden.
 
Regardless of whether or not the principles of necessity and proportionality were adhered to from an international law perspective, the order to kill bin Laden and not detain him has sent the wrong message in terms of the continuation of this conflict – that justice can only be achieved through the barrel of a gun.
 
Osama bin Laden is many things to many people, particularly when one considers his life over the course of the last 30 years. A one time a hero of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, and until recently, the world’s most wanted man.
 
Western history books may seek to remember him as an evil man, but as we know history is written by the victors and there is no end to the war in sight. However, if we have learnt anything from political violence, it is that nothing exists within a vacuum. Even according to those within the US, such as former CIA chief of the bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, he portrayed other traits which were praiseworthy, "...pious, brave, generous, intelligent, charismatic, patient, visionary, stubborn, egalitarian, and, most of all, realistic...". The question that remains unanswered is what made a man with those qualities become the most wanted on the planet – dead or alive. The answer is crucial if we are to call a halt to the hatred that will bellow out of the cauldron boiling away now in the AQ franchise.
 
Like so many of those who chose violence as a means of effecting change, inevitably the deaths of civilians taint the very causes they seek to strive for. While many Muslims around the world sympathised with the desire to remove western interference from Muslim lands, the means to be used differed greatly, with the large majority of Muslims being against the targeting of civilians.
 
In the end, the death of Osama bin Laden has served his cause and branded him forever in the minds of his enemies and supporters – gunned down and free or shot like a hoodlum in the wild west. So we need to ask ourselves, is Osama bin Laden really dead, or are has the shoot to kill policy merely created the grounds for spawning thousands more bin Ladens ready to take his mantle? 
 
The cycle of violence in the War on Terror is one which has seen both sides constantly using new tactics and means to gain the upper hand on the other. With Obama’s message to the world being that there is no room to provide due process, the conflict has become more deadly than ever. Far too many will see his actions as a sign that there are no more rules and its kill or be killed – it may be a time to celebrate for many but for the informed the fear is that we are all dispensable collateral in a war not of our choosing.
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