Saturday, May 7, 2011

This Is Justice?

In case if one has somehow managed to live under a rock and miss all the hoopla that has happened in the past week, I would like to offer my congratulations. You’ve somehow dodged, stutter stepped, spun and crossed over the entirety of the “interwebz” to this obscure corner only for me toss the biggest spoiler since Dumbledore was unceremoniously destroyed at the hands of Snape…Osama died as well, albeit not in as clinical a fashion (Avada Kedavra as Rowling describes it seems all too easy and bloodless).

In my haste to pump out my final blog post for this semester, I’ve decided to take a lazy route and somehow connect whatever is on my mind to violence even though it’s likely less of a chore to note down the violent things that come to mind from day to day (yes, I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that lots of violent thoughts and images come to mind all day…it’s just a shame I don’t write any of them down…and maybe that’s something that separates us regular folk from the crazies {terrorists}…just kidding). Not too long ago, I got home from watching the first half of the Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle at Bailey Hall, an event in which the powers that be managed to con everyone into believing the pretty awesome and noted Leon Fleisher would be performing-which he most certainly did not. Anyway, as I was listening to these concertos, portions of movements were strongly reminiscent of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (aka Eroica), which in turn meant that the uber famous 2nd movement from that symphony, one canonical Funeral Marches in music managed to play over and over again in my mind. (For those unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, check out the video below).

As one who believes that should an advanced alien race visit, they’d probably be most impressed with our culinary and musical achievements, I also find the propensity of music to meld memory with ineffable emotion is perhaps why civilization has developed such a strong attachment to it. Originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, this Heroic symphony explores many of the emotions connected to one’s admiration of a larger than life figure. For me, it prompted me to dwell on a subject intimately connected with this week’s big news, Osama’s death and his legacy.

While the funeral march is a solemn testament to the depth and means by which society mourns the death of a celebrated hero (a la Horatio Nelson, JFK, etc.) what it does equally well is note how we put our villains to sleep. We weep rivers of tears for our heroes and rejoice exuberantly with the death of our enemies. Osama’s death has been described by the media as well as president Obama as the culmination of an effort to bring this mass murderer “to justice,” but let’s be frank with ourselves. From the way this country has celebrated, this isn’t just righting a wrong, it’s simply revenge. The circumstances with which we’ve treated Osama are akin to those of Mussolini in 1945. Even when society tries its very best to put on a veneer of detachment and rationality, emotions often overwhelm. Let’s try once again to be earnest with ourselves-were the outcomes of Adolf Eichmann’s or Saddam Hussein’s trials ever in doubt? We were simply trying our best to expedite the process of burying them while providing shaky grounds on which to justify our actions to our progeny (it’s a little like Henry VIII’s assertion that the ungodliness of marrying his brother’s wife was grounds for a divorce- bullshit). What makes it alright for the US to violate national sovereignty to kill Osama? What makes it acceptable for us to unceremoniously dump his body at sea without even giving his family the chance to mourn? The man we see in the videos may have been a monster, but privately he does seem remorseful, capable of compassion and cognizant of the legacy he’s leaving behind for his children. I understand the rationale of eliminating all possibility that his resting place be a shrine, and no I’m not saying that Osama deserves a state funeral (or something similar in scope), I’m just curious why his family did not get a chance to see the body before it was destroyed? Isn’t it Christian to express compassion and respect enemies even when wronged? Thus, shouldn’t Osama’s family have been afforded some measure of dignity in the aftermath of his death? They’ve already suffered enough by sharing a last name with him, why humiliate them even more?


  1. Osama bin Laden's death and legacy are definitely interesting points of argument because I feel it impossible for 99% of Americans to see him as more than just in a terrorist. I am deeply intrigued by his ability to separate his family from the violent message he sent out and his realization of impending doom upon the 9/11 attacks. He by no means deserves the title of innocent, but there is a still a human nature to him that must be respected no matter how bad the deeds committed. Furthermore, there is much about bin Laden that we may or many never know, despite the massive wealth of information that appear on Wikipedia and other biographical sites. The song definitely conjures the idea of a grandiose funeral, but one reserved for a national hero rather than extremist.

  2. This is not justice, it is revenge. For the patriots and people directly effected from 9/11 this is justice only in a irrational manner. We broke all rules of international conduct to catch this man. The Navy Seals did not even have clearance from Pakistan, and bin Laden did not receive a trial. Wait, I thought everyone was innocent until proven guilty? Obviously terrorists are an exception to this rule. Not to say bin Laden was innocent or did not deserve the death penalty, but a civilized society has rules and procedures for a reason. Hopefully this will serve as a learning experience to promote rationality over emotions. The next time we have a national crisis, we have something to look back on.

  3. I think the concerns that you have about the circumstances around Osama’s death are misguided. Yes Osama is a human being, yes he may be capable of genuine emotions and remorse, yes he has rights, and yes it is difficult to justify killing him solely on the grounds that it was justice and not admitting that revenge had something to do with it too. But it cannot be ignored that this is a man who planned the indiscriminate killing of thousands of innocent people and was the head of a network that had every intention of doing so again and again. Osama bin Laden and terrorists like him step outside the conventional rules of war and sovereignty when they target innocent people and civilian buildings and because of this they are the enemy of civilized society in general, not just the United States.

    When Nazi soldiers were caught wearing American uniforms in the Battle of Bulge, they were simply lined up against a wall and shot. Many might disagree with killing them, perhaps it is too harsh or inhumane, but it still is very hard to argue that these soldiers should have been treated as normal POWs after blatantly violating the most basic rules of war. When terrorists plan with others to pose as civilians and attach bombs on their bodies to blow up innocent people, or plan a scheme to go on a civilian airplane and drive it into a buildings exclusively with innocent people, I really don’t believe that they should be deserving of some of the basic human rights or consideration as other people. I feel bad for his family of course, who like you said did not have the chance to even see his body, but Osama bin Laden seems to me a special case considering his role and involvement in al-Qaeda.


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