Benjie Oliveros | The end does not justify the means


The US has finally caught up with Osama Bin Laden, its number one enemy and its former ally. It could be remembered that the US helped build up, arm and strengthen Osama’s forces during the Afghan people’s war against Russian occupation, but later became its number one enemy. In other words, the US helped create al-Queda, which became its worst enemy afterwards.

What Osama Bin Laden was accused of masterminding, the 9-11 attacks that killed around 3,000 people, is reprehensible and could not be justified no matter what his reasons were for doing it. But what the US did in retaliation, last Sunday night, and the message it has been sending afterwards also raise a lot of questions.

First, it was obviously a kill mission. It was only after the Obama administration was criticized for ordering a kill mission did it say that it was a kill or capture mission. But the US also admitted that Osama Bin Laden was unarmed when shot at and killed by US Navy SEALS forces.

Worse, it was revealed that only one from among the five killed in the raid was armed and fired a shot. The question is, was Osama Bin Laden tried in absentia before the raid and meted out the death penalty? If not, what is the justification for killing him, and his companions for that matter, when he was unarmed? The raid was indeed a better option than bombing the compound. However, what stopped the Obama administration from choosing the latter option was not the potential “collateral damage” that the bombing would cause but its fear that Osama Bin Laden’s body might not be found and his death could not be confirmed.

In the final analysis, what the US did is not surprising. It has been bombing and firing missiles at the homes and vehicles of its perceived enemies with impunity. It even recently bombed the house of Muammar Ghadaffi, killing his son. These killings and bombings are merely different forms of political assassination and extrajudicial killing.

Second, the US government and its Armed Forces have been saying that much of the information it got regarding Osama Bin Laden’s trusted courier who, in turn, led the CIA to his house cum hiding place was obtained through the use of ‘harsher” interrogation methods – a euphemism for torture – such as water boarding and other “enhanced” methods. Water boarding is locally called water cure: continuously pouring water onto the face over the breathing passages of a prisoner causing him or her to feel the sensation of drowning. When the prisoner passes out, he or she is hit at the bloated stomach. It is a brutal form of torture. What is alarming is that a debate over the need for “enhanced interrogation techniques” has again reemerged from among US policy makers.

Of course, these acts are consistent with the thinking of the US Armed Forces – as contained in its counter-terror, counter-insurgency manuals – that a terrorist or insurgent forfeits his or her life once he or she gets involved in terrorism or in an insurgency, But this thinking has no place in a civilized world.

Political assassinations and extrajudicial killings, and torture could never be justified no matter what the objective is. If it is justifiable in this case, then we might as well throw international conventions on human rights and humanitarian law out the window.

Third, what the US did – conducting a military operation in Pakistan without informing the Pakistani government – is clearly a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. If this act would not be condemned what then would prevent the US from doing it in other countries as well? If it is justifiable in this case, we might as well forget about the concept of a nation’s sovereignty.

The means employed by the US could not be justified by its objective of achieving justice for those killed in the 9-11 attacks nor by its aim of putting a stop to terrorism. On the contrary, it merely committed another injustice without ensuring that acts of terror would stop. It is a folly to think that terrorism would stop by decapitating it. It might even spawn more acts of terror. After all, these acts of terror were committed not because it was ordered by one man, no matter how influential or persuasive he might be. The reason for al-Queda’s continued existence, despite the efforts of the strongest armed forces in the world, lies in conditions of poverty and oppression. But of course, the end does not justify the means for both al-Queda and the US. (

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  1. As an opponent of all assassinations and executions, I
    thank you for a powerful statement expressing my own views
    also. A right intent would have been to capture, fairly
    try, and humanely imprison Osama bin Ladin, as many other
    perpertrators of mass murder, war crimes, and even genocide
    have been brought to justice before international tribunals
    categorically excluding the death penalty. In the actual
    raid, his being “unarmed” although “resisting” would have
    given police or soldiers an opportunity quickly to subdue
    him with nonlethal force. But “this was a kill operation,”
    another violation of elementary human rights promoting the
    cycle of violence and revenge upon which terrorism thrives.

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