Was the killing of Osama Bin Laden by the Navy SEALs, who were acting under the orders of President Barak Obama, justifiable? Or, as decorated WWII war veteran and sole surviving prosecutor at the Nuremberg genocide trials, Benjamin B. Ferencz, asks, was it a pre-meditated illegal assassination?
Ferencz, now 92, would like our world to be more humane and secure. His hope for a better future has led him to be a strong supporter of the work being carried out by today’s International Criminal Court. Ferencz wants to see the world’s present political ethos favouring the “rule of force” replaced by “the rule of law.” Consequently, the former Nuremburg prosecutor would have greatly preferred seeing Osama Bin Laden put on trial for mass murder rather than summarily dispatched with a couple of bullets to the head. He notes:
Nuremberg taught me that creating a world of tolerance and compassion would be a long and arduous task. And I also learned that if we did not devote ourselves to developing effective world law, the same cruel mentality that made the Holocaust possible might one day destroy the entire human race. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/es/article.php?ModuleId=10007155
However, Michael Newton, a Vanderbilt University professor, argued in a CBC interview broadcast on May 12, 2011, that the killing of Bin Laden was both appropriate and justified under the International law and the customs of armed conflict, i.e. the Geneva Convention, etc. These laws of warfare hold that a party to an armed conflict can’t summarily execute prisoners of war in custody, but may kill opposing participants to the conflict in battle.
Despite their differing opinions on the best way to have dealt with the al-Qaida terrorist mastermind, neither Ferencz nor Newton have any doubt about Bin Laden having the blood of innocents on his hands.
Osama Bin Laden kept a personal journal in which he contemplated how to kill as many Americans as possible, including possible terrorist attacks against Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., according to U.S. officials…. The official described the private journal as full of planning ideas and outlines of potential operations, aspirational guidance on how to kill the maximum number of people, rather than specific proposals or plots. Ken Dilanian and Brian Bennett, Times Colonist, May 12, 2011.
Frankly, I don’t know what safeguards and legal procedures the United States security/intelligence/special ops services have to follow before they can authorize a “hit” of a major target. But from what I understand, Israel’s Mossad actually holds a clandestine trial to weigh the evidence before members of its legal department to determine guilt and sentence of specific high profile enemies. Only then, will a kill order be authorized. If I’m wrong about this, I’m willing to be corrected by someone who knows. But when it comes to hauling a 21st Century Terrorist Shadow War combatant into court to face a standard criminal trial like some garden variety of murderer, well, this war isn’t being fought on conventional battlefields by soldiers in uniform. And even in the Second World War there were plenty of spies and traitors who were quietly but fatally put to rest in dark places.
Nevertheless, the biggest problem with the Ferencz’s idea of replacing the “rule of force with the rule of law” is that there is no consensus, for instance, between the Muslim world and the Western world as to whose law should be supreme and authoritative.
For Osama Bin Laden and millions upon millions of similar-minded people only Islam’s Sharia law can be authoritative and morally righteous. For such people Western secular law is a joke with only immoral brute force to back it up. The fact is, the Islamic world looks at some of our “politically correct” social policies enshrined by our more recently enacted legislation and both the radical jihadis and the average religiously conservative Muslim can only feel disgust for such laws and the societies that pass them.
The liberal Western secular democracies and decent people like Benjamin Ferencz are going to have an ever more costly fight on their hands if they try to force the Islamic world to embrace what are seen as decadent Western legal codes as the authoritative worldwide standard of behaviour.
So who does have the right to authoritatively define what is right or wrong? Surprisingly, the ancient prophet Isaiah addressed the liberal Western secular democracies and the Islamic world about this very issue.
What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine and boast about all the alcohol they can hold. They take bribes to let the wicked go free, and they punish the innocent. Therefore, just as fire licks up stubble and dry grass shrivels in the flame, so their roots will rot and their flowers wither. For they have rejected the law of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies; they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 5:20-24 NLT).
If we want to have a more peaceful and secure world, then we are going to have to return to the source of the true gold standard of justice as defined by the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Justice, one true justice for all humans and nations will eventually come to administered throughout the whole earth in the World Tomorrow. It will come neither through the International Criminal Court at the Hague, nor by Islam’s Sharia, nor by the brute force of the liberal Western secular democracies! But come it will by divine providence!
In the future, the mountain with the LORD’s temple
will be the highest of all. It will reach above the hills;
every nation will rush to it. Many people will come and say,
“Let’s go to the mountain of the LORD God of Jacob and worship in his temple.”
The LORD will teach us his Law from Jerusalem, and we will obey him.
He will settle arguments between nations. They will pound their swords and their spears into rakes and shovels; they will never make war
or attack one another (Isaiah 2:2-4 Contemporary English Version).