True, Obama succeeded where W failed when it came to killing Osama. But is anyone else troubled by the disregard Obama showed for due process? We became used to Buscheney’s contempt for due process or law or any other perceived impediment to achieving their (even nefarious) ends, but we suspected that former law professor Obama respected due process most of the time, except, say, when it comes to Gitmo internees. But approving the SEAL kill mission near Islamabad (Obama + Osama + Islama), with its cold-blooded assassination, clandestine burial, and withheld evidence shows how far we as a nation have come from the days of the Founders or even of Joseph Welch, who stood up to McCarthy, or Judge John Sirica (a Republican who ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes) at the Watergate hearings. Because of decades of Republican expediency at the expense of the law & the Constitution, the “homeland” now wants results without the exceedingly small grinding of the stones of justice.
Would the capture and trial of Osama have been too stressful for our nation to handle? Don’t we any longer have the patience and fortitude to bear the strains and threats that come with following the law and putting the perps on trial, as occurred with Nazis at Nuremberg, Eichmann in Jerusalem, and Milosevic at The Hague? Would the satisfaction of a guilty verdict for Osama, and his execution, after a trial have been too pallid for the cheerleaders of expedient violence who celebrate the NCIS-style death he met at the compound in Abbottabad? Reminds me of another CIA-authored killing, in Chile in 1973, though Allende was a hero of the Left, not a purveyor of death like Osama. In any case, his violent death will be no deterrent to any other radical leader whose cause is to damage the US. And as the widow of a 9/11 victim said to me the other day, “The celebrations are out of place. There are a lot of other Osamas out there.”Still, this argument is healthy and necessary in a world in which haves like the US can use force to keep the have-nots at bay and to carry out military actions its leaders deem necessary for security and even survival. If we have sufficient armed force to invade poor countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, to track and kill enemy leaders like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, there will always be politicians and generals eager to employ that power. So far, they have the media and a majority of the voters on their side. But as Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero said, he would have preferred [that] bin Laden stand trial. On Wednesday, Zapatero told Spanish Parliament, "Any democrat would have preferred to see him stand trial," according to the Telegraph.
I find myself still grappling to retain my belief in due process in an age when its time-consuming orderliness is easy to ridicule and cast aside in favor of more expedient means. At the root of this argument is how to achieve justice and even what justice might mean in a threatening time increasingly affected by contingency and realpolitik. For now, however, to the victor belong the spoils, including the power to make judgments, and as President Obama told “60 Minutes,” in the bin Laden case “Justice was done.”