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Cary Brunswick

May 14, 2011

Peace, not death, would be cause for celebration

"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy."

— Jessica Dovey, English teacher, after hearing of Osama bin Laden's death

The other day, on the 18th tee of all places, the matter of Osama bin Laden's assassination came up. After exchanging positive remarks about the success of the operation, I said I thought the public celebrations by Americans after hearing the news were over the top and didn't reflect well on us.

Within seconds, I had one guy in my face and another not far behind.

"He killed thousands of innocent people; we ought to be celebrating," was the message I received as they sincerely and emotionally reacted to my comment.

Believing it wasn't the time or the place for a lengthy discussion, I responded merely by saying it was OK to be pleased with the killing, but added that we were quick to condemn the celebrating in parts of the Muslim world after 9/11, so our celebrating now puts us on that same level.

They didn't agree.

And, sure enough, it wasn't the right time or place. I then snapped my drive into the left rough behind a tree.

President Barack Obama said "justice has been done" when he announced bin Laden's death to Americans on May 1. I'm not sure gunning down an unarmed enemy qualifies as justice. Revenge perhaps, retaliation for sure, but justice would have meant capture and a trial to prove he was actually behind the horrific 9/11 attacks.

And justice surely didn't mean a burial at sea, probably into the first school of sharks spotted by a Navy helicopter.

Some experts have raised the question of the legality of the way we killed bin Laden, based on the tenets of international law. Despite his involvement in 9/11, his demise was an assassination or "extrajudicial execution" carried out by a government.

He may have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of American civilians, and therefore a heinous war criminal guilty of a form of genocide. And, in addition, he continued to verbally threaten the U.S. with more deadly attacks.

But the leaders of the Nazi regime captured at the end of European fighting in World War II were also guilty of genocide and considered war criminals. When caught, however, they weren't summarily shot on sight. The U.S. insisted the trials known as the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals be held to prove the Nazi leaders' actual involvement in the murders of millions of people.

Nazis were executed or sentenced to prison only after being found guilty, and in the vast majority of cases they were indeed found guilty.

The bin Laden killing leads you wonder if enough evidence existed to convict him of planning the 9/11 attacks. Now, we'll never know.

Meanwhile, the world continues to be dominated by hate, the killing of civilians and retribution.

About 3,000 people lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks. A month later, we invaded Afghanistan to drive out al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts, and to track down bin Laden. It took nearly a decade to accomplish the latter, while we're still fighting to achieve the former. Thousands of Afghan and Pakistani civilians have been killed.

More than eight years ago, we invaded Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein. We got him, but not before the deaths of thousands of American troops and at least tens of thousands of Iraqis. And the nation was plunged into civil war in the process, resulting in thousands more civilian casualties.

It seems the U.S. strategy since 9/11 has been to do whatever it takes to kill suspected al-Qaida terrorists, whether with rocket or drone attacks on vehicles, homes or neighborhoods. OK, it is a war on terror, so perhaps those assaults are justified. Unfortunately, thousands of civilians have been killed as mistaken targets or collateral damage.

Maybe it's time for the war and the killing to cease now that bin Laden has been killed. Our revenge has been accomplished and the world presumably is safer from the threat of terror.

We should turn more of our attention to the other significant events in the Middle East, the popular protests for more freedom and opportunity in Syria and other countries, not just Libya.

Our goal should be an occasion to celebrate more peace in the region, rather than the killing of suspected terrorists.

Cary Brunswick, of Oneonta, is a freelance writer and editor of oneontatoday.com. He can be reached at brunswick@earthling.net.

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