After Bin Laden, what?

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the May 11, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

 

“The dangerous man is the one who has only one idea, because then he’ll fight and die for it. – Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate

 

Without a doubt Osama Bin Laden was among the world’s most dangerous men. Much of the world cheered his death, seeing it not only as justice served but also as the beginning of the end for faith-fueled terrorism.

In the words of columnist Teddy Boy Locsin, “Obama has crushed the head of the snake with a rock. A snake is not a lizard whose severed tail will regenerate. But even a lizard’s head will not grow back, let alone a snake’s. Osama bin Laden was the lifeblood (the money), the brains, the soul, the spirit, the animus, and the hands-on executioner of the Islamic jihad—and he is dead…The conflict will intensify in the Middle East, divisions will be sharper, but the terms of engagement clearer: it will be between right and wrong with nothing in between, like those enemies of mankind, al Qaeda.”

Yes and no, Teddy Boy. Yes the head of the snake was crushed, no the terms of engagement are not clearer. The US moved the goalposts and with that the terms of engagement are changed.

There are established rules among members of the United Nations.  One of them forbids states from entering the territory of another sovereign state to conduct a “capture or kill” operation without the permission of the state concerned.  Obama ignored that rule. He authorized the action against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan.

Sure, countless states have engaged in similar behavior countless times. Assassinations and kidnappings were the gold standard during the Cold War.  But those activities were always kept under wraps, vehemently denied even in the face of proof.  Black ops were never to be admitted, at least not until the uproar had died down and the outraged made susceptible, hence more malleable, to official rationalization.

Now it is okay to crow about such operations. The goalposts have been moved. What used to be hidden underground is now aboveground. Black ops have been legitimized because the prey was beautifully demonized. Black ops are now a source of pride.  The UN will have to add a colatilla to its rule on relations between sovereign states:  “exceptions to this rule at the sole discretion of the offending party.”

Obama moved the goalposts on torture as well. Once condemned by the US as a crime against humanity when it was being inflicted on its citizens and friends, torture is now packaged as a necessary and wonderfully effective tool for extracting information from suspects.  Water-boarding, US officialdom claims, led to the killing of Bin Laden— so torture is now a virtue and torturers heroes and saints.

The UN will have to redefine torture to exclude “enhanced interrogation techniques.” I suggest a new category called “justifiable torture”; justifiable because the ends make it so.

Bin Laden is now fish food. And that’s great. But let’s not allow euphoria to get the better of us because distracted, we will end up as fodder for states that consider themselves above the law, states that believe the phrase “by any and all means necessary” is an exemplary code to live by.

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