While many throughout the world are relieved that the man Bin Laden has gone to the fate of 72 mothers-in-law some commentators raise objections. Some question the morality and/or legality of the manner in which the man was killed and suggest that he ‘should’ rather have been brought to trial and subject to judicial proceedings rather than being consigned to his preferred route of martyrdom. Other (and sometimes the same) commentators posit that killing him, or other militants of his ilk, and going to such trouble and expense to do so with the sanction of a powerful political government is simply not pragmatic because this is said to cause further killing and to generate a ‘cycle of violence’.
Both these objections are utterly fallacious.
Combating terror or rogue states is not a game of cricket. Mr Chamberlain is not usually criticized for declaring war on Germany after its invasion of Poland, neither legally nor morally. He is criticized for not standing up more firmly to Nazi Germany rather than for the dreadful cycle of violence that was seemingly unleashed by his declaration of war. Governments and alignments of nations have a duty to protect their citizens and the citizens of other nations, as much as possible, against terror violence and all forms of short and long term harm from those intent on perpetrating violence. Ghandian passive resistance or statements and resolutions condemning such violence do not stop terror. If the whole of New York City had peacefully demonstrated with banners and sixties protest songs after 9/11 it is unimaginable to think that Osama bin Laden and his cohorts would have been moved to reconsider their agenda, tactics or ultimate goals of imposing their brand of Islamism on the world. Al Qaeda and other terror groups are generally not governments or countries. On a pragmatic level it would be easier to concentrate a military campaign against San Marino or Denmark than to attack Al Qaeda or Hizbulla, or other covert groups who lurk in difficult terrain or in the midst of densely populated urban areas where pictures of dead children and wailing mothers make excellent propaganda fodder.
Negotiation with these groups cannot succeed. How would one reach an acceptable compromise with Al Qaeda? You stop killing us and we will let you impose your totalitarian dream on X % of the planet. We will dismantle a certain percentage of what you perceive as our decadent western corrupt society in return for what?
These fascistic terrorists want control of the world and will utilise any tactic that will work. They will just as enthusiastically run in democratic elections to achieve their agenda as they will perpetrate and propagate violence and oppression. Seeking them out and fighting them militarily is not the province of missile toting imperialist war mongers. Being prepared and willing to fight and sacrifice lives to combat terrorists is the only way to achieve or promote peace in a world where some will never renounce terror. It is the duty of governments to fight terrorists and to kill them because there is no realistic alternative. They do not understand compromise only surrender. Not to fight them is to surrender to them. Governments and leaders should use their military powers very cautiously, but when faced with a threat that can only be eliminated or blighted through its military defeat or destruction there is no choice. It is not merely legal for America to have done what it has in pursuing and killing bin Laden, it is obligatory.
Similarly those who say that it is those who respond to terror with force who cause a cycle of violence are utterly wrong. It is correct that terrorists may get fired up with enthusiasm for a fight and may intensify their efforts at violence, threatening revenge on the world. Yet what is the alternative? It is the terrorists who have begun the cycle of violence. Whether their grievances are well founded or not the use of violence and terror, suicide bombing and the like are what begin the cycle of violence. It is not the response that causes the violence nor does the response perpetuate violence. Not responding properly to terror gives it legitimacy. The message is sent out ‘your grievance must be valid given your actions.’ The response is not merely to eliminate capture or disable individual terrorists and cells, it is to convey the message to the terrorist that governments and those dedicated to human good will not surrender to their illegitimate goals and methods. This is not a game of cricket nor is it always possible to fight fairly against those who have no concept of fairness at all.
Did the USA shoot some retired but now harmless middle aged man living in quiet solitude in his villa with a variety of wives and children, violating sovereign territory of another independent state and use highly trained soldiers with state of the art equipment because it flaunts human rights and loves to be the bully boy? Would it have been better to simply deliver a summons or neatly worded gilt-edged invitation to appear at some internationally convened tribunal for the purposes of determining the legalities of having been and done what Osama did? It is not cricket and we cannot call ‘no ball’.
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