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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 5, 2011 @ 10:34 am

    Obama/Osama: What a Difference a Consonant Makes

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    So much has  been written and said about the gunning-down of Osama bin Laden that one is reluctant to “add a sum of more to that which hath too much”. It evoked the killling of various gangsters in the J.  Edgar Hoover days: Machine-Gun Dillinger perhaps.

    It’s not good for America’s moral capital to be shooting people in front of their wives and children but – wait for it – on the other hand this guy had been responsible for the massacre of 3,000 innocent civilians on 9/11.

    It has always been suggested there was ambivalence among elements of the Pakistan system towards bin Laden and his ilk. Now we have something close to proof.

    The photo of Obama and Hillary Clinton watching the whole thing on video was startling. Look at Obama’s face – he’s very much on edge – and Hillary putting her hand to her mouth.

    Wasn’t it Teddy Roosevelt who said the US should “walk softly and carry a big stick”? No rightwing republican is gonna accuse Barack of being a softy after this …

    The worrying thing is that the Al Q’Aeda types will be out for vengeance and this time they may go nuclear.

    P.S. Sorry we haven’t been blogging much lately – seduced by the glamour of print :-)

    • robespierre says:

      This is one of the areas where Ken Waltz’s classic text: Man, the State and War tends to come in handy.

      Ultimately, Al Qaeda, have set themselves up a supra-national organisation. A modern, all too real version of Blofeld’s SPECTRE.

      As such they compete in the international system with nation states. Moral standards in the international system are different to those in place in national systems.

      In international diplomacy, there has been an acknowledgement that internal matters are internal matters since the Treaty of Westphalia but where national jurisdictions are transgressed war can be both justified and warranted.

      Time has obviously moved on but the United States got a UN mandate to go to Afghanistan and pursue those that orchestrated 9/11. I have seen nothing to indicate that this is a breach of the Geneva Convention against a combatant. If there is a single shred of evidence that he was orchestrating terror then the killing is more than justified. These days all one needs is a computer or phone to cause death and mayhem.

      A strict adherence to Westphalian protocol would have meant Vietnam not invading Cambodia and NATO not protecting Kosovo. We have seen in Rwanda, East Timor and Bosnia, the terrible consequences of standing by watching “internal” matters.

      There are some good books on Al Queda by a journalist with the Manchester Guardian (Jason something). They are worth reading.

      On the threat of the so called “clash of civilisations” Bernard Lewis of Oxford is quite interesting. I agree with very little he writes though.

    • Simon McGuinness says:

      Welcome back Deaglán. Now here is a task for you: Some truth-concealing “journalist” edited out the legs and feet of an official of the US government dressed in a civilian western business suit who’s presence was accidently recorded in the room where Osama was shot on the fuzzy video released to the media. This is a very significant aspect of the story which demands an explanation. See the censored frame here: http://wp.me/p9jQl-18x

      Since US journalists, to a man and a woman, are going along with that anti-First Amendment censorship, in breech of their professional code of conduct, perhaps a certain Australian/Swedish fugitive under house arrest in England with a laptop and an abiding interest in protecting democracy can enlighten the rest of us to who it is they are all protecting?

      We certainly can’t expect the “free press” to enquire. Or can we, Deagán?

    • Patrick Hennessy says:

      Sam Harris reckons that it is the moderates in religious faiths that inadvertently protect the extremists. There is so much room for cherry picking in the Bible and Quran that moderates can find an abundance of positive things to take from these works to live and promote a sound value based way of living. The problem is that these very same books contain the most dreadful commands to maim and kill those who do not believe like us. Until moderates “revise” these books to reflect modern civilization we are doomed to have extremists who will use the negative within these books to wreak havoc. But the who will start a movement to edit “the Word of God” ? Therein lies the huge challenge facing us today when the power to destroy others has never been more potent.

      The last week has been Osama killed for 9/11. This is much too narrow a narrative. Osama’s apostasy is part of a long continuum of horrors in the name of Islam going back centuries and sadly much alive today. He is s symptom of a generic problem that cries out for a solution. The other Abrahamic religions ( christianity and judaism) have the same demons to exorcise.

      Osamas death should reignite a discussion about the dangers religious faith hold for a 21st century world. Something needs to be done to put religion on a new footing, where acts “in the name of Allah or God” are universally condemned and punished if they go against human rights.


    • flem lad says:

      “on the other hand this guy had been responsible for the massacre of 3,000 innocent civilians on 9/11″
      what evidence is there of his guilt that would hold up in a court of law? Answer: none – unless you still accept assertions from US govt sources without question. See here for a summary of the dubious evidence:


      as for the picture, Clinton has since said “I have no idea what any of us were looking at at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken.” and “I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs,” she said. “So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever.”. It has also emerged days after the photo was released that once the US special forces entered the compound there was a complete blackout of the live video/audio feed for about 25 minutes ..so in fact Clinton, Obama et al had little knowledge of what was transpiring in there…never mind, the picture had the desired effect in the general publics minds!

      the comment above says “Al Qaeda, have set themselves up a supra-national organisation.”. This myth was dispelled by last year Alain Chounet a former head of the DGSE (the french equivalent of the CIA or M16) as nothing more than media hype. Interestingly the subtitled version of his video statement seems to have disappeared from youtube and other video upload sites (although you can still view an un-subtitled statement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLCb5w1IqIE) . A translated transcript can be viewed here http://world911truth.org/al-qaeda-dead-since-2002-says-ex-head-of-the-french-dgse/

      We live in scripted times!

    • Keith Brennan says:

      It seems quite likely, given the scale and ambition of previous attacks, that going Nuclear in vengeance is no more or less likely an aim that it would have been prior to Bin Laden’s death. He was a blindingly murderous psychopath, and the people he worked with seemed to have a higher than normal quotient of murderous and beweaponed psychopaths in their number.

      More germane than your flippant “on the other hand, wait for it comment” is, that as a democratic society, with a reliance on jurisprudence as the way we like to get things done, straigtforward assasination where other options present themselves seems clumsy, unethical, and vengefully macho. My understanding was that we typically tried people in a court of law, as opposed to shooting them in the face, when the option presents itself.

      I had also understood that shooting people in the face was the first resort of the bad guys, and the last resort of the good guys. But it’s good to see you intelligently re-evaluate the shoot-him-in-the-face-the-first-chance-you-get school of jurisprudence for the readers of the Times. Maybe I’m all turned around on this shooting-him-in-the-face school of justice.

      If, indeed, an important aspect of this is that Republicans will no longer call Obama a softie, it would seem a far less grave concern than applying the rule and practice of law. Certainly, it’s not a good reason have someone shot in the face. Admittedly, they won’t be able to trot out that old saw “our president is the kind of president who would commit someone on trial rather than have him shot in the face at the first opportunity commie pink liberal” that we all see so regularly at election times, but I’m pretty sure other commie pinko liberal saws will be trotted out. Maybe Pat Kenny should build that in to his political grillings. Just when would you have someone shot in the face in the name of national security? And how many times?

      We could establish a scale, the shoot him in the face scale of Infinite Justice. Going from one Infinite Justice on the Infinitie Justice scale (for shoplifting maybe, but only when the person shoplifts a shedload) to Inifinite Infinte Justices, for hideously beweaponed thugs with mass murder in mind.

      We’ll probably never really know whether it was safely possible to have taken him alive. It’;s entoirely possible that the Seals made a judgement call, in a highly pressured, dangerous environment, that shooting first was the responsible and safe thing to do, in an uncertain environment, with a proven dangerous enemy. They may well have made the correct, rational and justifiable decision to shoot. I certainly do not envy the decision and context, and it would have been a fiendishly tough job.

      But the idea that we should assassinate our enemies, as opposed to bringing them to justice, corrodes our sense of ourselves, and the institutions of our democracies. It is, in war, quite a task to avoid becoming, in some respects at least, the mirror image of one’s enemies.

      Seems a lot less trite than your treatment, Deaglan.

    • robespierre says:

      Flem lad if you raised your eyeline above the temporal you would understand my point. Philosophically, Al Qaeda is a network of individuals coalescing around a concept that has a genesis in moral theory. Qutbism and jahaliya to be exact. I don’t agree with their view of morality but moral it is – transcendent from a higher power and demonstrably above the ethics (laws) associated with nation states and inter-state systems.

      Try reading Man, the State and War or Rousseau and come back and say the same thing.

    • Ian Paisley, of all people, had a good column on all this in the Belfast News Letter today. The Fifth Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is a good moral guide. On the other hand – and there is no one-handed solution to this riddle – the Seals were arguably acting to prevent bin Laden from killing more Americans as he did on 9/11. As Hamlet said to Horatio, or was it the other way around: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    • Sarah Dunleavy says:

      Truthfully, I could add a thousand paragraphs with my comments that would include many of “on the other hand” mentality of which I am known for but instead I would just like to add a few questions and comments that will hopefully spark the part of the brain that helps analyze a situation on the basis of looking at the proverbial other hand.

      To address any question of the lack of a fair trial for bin Laden, I ask: IF bin Laden was captured, where would you suggest he be kept before, during, and after his independent “fair and just” trial? – Before you let yourself answer that question think about the entirety of the threat that bin Laden posed to not just the US but also to many other nations including his own. Then take a moment to attempt to devise a plan to protect the area he would be kept throughout the judicial process including the consequential imprisonment after the trial in which he would undoubtedly be found guilty of his own confession (which is already the case and has been since the 1980′s). While devising the plan of protection consider the other prisoners he would be held in captivity near since I am certain that attempts by his supporters/followers to free him would surely ensue. Also consider the possibility of an Al Qaeda attack on the country that is “independent” enough to hold a fair trial.

      The moral of that story is that the end result would have been the same as it is now, just more expensive to taxpayers. Even where capital punishment is prohibited there are prisoners who don’t feel the same or feel they have nothing to lose by killing a then convicted mass murderer. And if the prisoners didn’t get him then he would die of old age in a prison of a nation that has now asked its taxpayers to continue paying for his true justice by keeping him alive and safe in prison.

      I would also like to point out that no matter what happens, no matter how much time passes, and no matter who demands answers, we (the world) will NEVER know the WHOLE truth of what happened that night. I am no conspiracy theorist but I am no dummy either. Not even the US government will know. The people that were in the situation room with President Obama and the team of people that performed the operation will get their stories straight eventually and will then determine what their official story should be. That’s what we will hear. There is no point in wasting one precious moment of life hoping for the truth, for you will only get pacification.

    • Simon McGuinness says:

      Maybe Sarah, but can Obama really take the risk that, as he walks back to the Oval Office from the Rose Garden where he has just pinned a medal on the chest of the paid assassin (or war hero, depending on your nationality), the Wikileaks website will not post the decrypted live stream video showing that it was Osama’s bodyguard that shot him dead, as per his orders?

      How can a bullet enter the right temple and exit the left, if the shooter is facing the target?

      That was what shocked the assembled group in the situation room and is captured on the photograph released, and that is why the press conference was delayed for some 37minutes whilst they (almost) worked out a story to tell the world.

      The plan was to capture Osama but Osama wasn’t going alive.

      Everything after that first shot rang out is merely the victors’ clumsy attempts to rewrite history to avoid their own embarrassment. And can the 15 people in that room and the 25 technicians that patched the signal through from the other side of the planet really be trusted to go to their graves and never tell a soul what they really saw on that screen?

    • berao says:

      I must say, I tried to weigh it up — philosophically; as you do when you are somewhat removed — that is, not directly involved in this terrifying scenario (al-Qa’ida vs. the US) where each side sees itself as “the good” vs. “the evildoer.” The only conclusion I can come to at this point is that hate breeds hate and violence breeds violence. But now, Deaglán and on top of everything else we have to worry about in the Emerald Bile – sorry, Emerald Isle (consonants — what are ya gonna do) — you are suggesting that a nuclear strike is imminent. Maybe then it is time to finish lead lining the window in the cellar (if you had a bit of lead…or a cellar even) and start stockpiling the cans of Heinz tomato soup and the iodine tablets. We may be sure of one thing anyway; when the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
      Oh……….another thought just occurred to me. Perhaps, when a force, such as that force which drives that whole project we know as “The United States”, begins to lose direction and corruption begins to take hold, then an equally, apparently opposite, corrupt force (such as al-Qa’ida at this present time) rises up to confront it (basic science, really – Newton’s Third Law; every action has an equal and opposite reaction). And this quite apart from any Supernatural interventions – then we truly will be talking apocalyptic…and then yiz can forget about yizzer lead lined bunkers. I kind of know what I mean, anyway.

    • Religious fundamentalism is no justification for scrapping religious books. That´s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.. In my opinion fundamentalism derives from living according to the law when practised by people who believe in an ideal centered in their heads and not centered in their hearts. The same `conflict´ between Jesus and the Pharisees which reappears time and again through history. Eliminating Bin Laden won´t eliminate the mindset and worse, is more likely to reinforce it. It makes Obama look good in Americans eyes, temporarily, at least, but politicians aren´t so different from religious fundamentalists…. they´re both disconnected from their source….

    • dave says:

      Bin Laden was someone who was responsible for planning – and inspiring others to do the same – the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians (most of whom were MUSLIMS) around the world.

      Had he been innocent of even one of the atrocities he would have come out and repeatedly denied it and told the world that those nasty Americans were behind a campaign of vilification of him. He never did so.

      In all his released tapes he never once proclaimed innocence. Quite the contrary: he simply raved on about carrying our even more attacks on “the West”. His smiling enjoyment and pleasure while watching the 9/11 massacre said it all.

      The Americans will never experience the talion law of “eye in place of an eye” justice in his case, as 3000 American lives are simply not compensatable. “Eye for an eye” relates to actual COMPENSATION of the victim, and not to revenge, and this is often misunderstood. The death of Bin laden can never compensate for the unending suffering that the many thousands (estimated to be surely at least 10,000 relatives and partners, etc) of people will have to endure for the rest of their lives.

      Full justice cannot be achieved here, as the ideology that caused the deaths in the first place continues to influence others to carry out more 9/11s, given the chance, thus resulting in more innocent victims.

      The only thing that would satisfy those who wish to destroy the West is its destruction. As the West is obviously never going to cooperate in its own demise, the conflict will continue unresolved. What a sad crazy world this is.

    • dave says:

      Simon McGuinness @9

      “How can a bullet enter the right temple and exit the left, if the shooter is facing the target?”

      and “That was what shocked the assembled group in the situation room and is captured on the photograph released, and that is why the press conference was delayed for some 37minutes whilst they (almost) worked out a story to tell the world.”

      Sorry, but you and those “not in the know” don’t know “diddly-squat” what took place there. (I do however know that is the first time I have used that term, “diddly-squat” !!)

      Also I would expect that any victim facing the barrel of a gun might instinctively move their head or body, rather than simply remain static. there may have been seconds between being faced with the shooter and the actual firing. Any way, at the moment all anyone -except the shooters – knows is diddly-squat.

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Well I for one am glad he is dead and won’t waste a second regretting it or judging those who killed him or ordered it.

      He is one of about 400 or so people out of a population of 7 billion for whom a bullet to the head is more than they deserve for the evil they unleashed. You can add Mr & Mrs Mugabe to the list too and the Burma generals and their wives and a whole range of African and Arab despots and the first and second rank of generals and ministers who facilitate their terror.

      It’s amazing how many people have a PhD in The Benefit of Hindsight – gained from the comfort of their armchair.

      I’m only surprised the Palestinian lobby haven’t blamed Israel for it yet. Give them time.

      Osama was pure evil and those who say the US should have brought him to trial like how Israel did to Eichman fail to realise we live in 2011 and Eichman was captured, tried and executed before the world knew about it via twitter or Sky News and where do they propose the trial would take place – are the people of NYC or The Netherlands to be exposed to the risk of all manner of nutters wanting to kill themselves and anyone within a 100 feet radius trying to free him or will they be lining up to have him held in The Four Courts in Dublin – no, didn’t think so.

      He’s dead and gone, good riddance to him and the energy that would have been wasted on a trial can now be turned to finding a way to contain the nutcases who are waiting in the wings to take over control of Iraq/Afghanistan and Pakistan – who would have done it long ago without the presence of US and other troops.

      Why don’t those anti US types explain their solution to how you stop Muslim terrorists – are they really so naive as to think the US pulling out is going to stop the mentality of extreme Muslims who want to kill as many non Muslims as possible.

      It’s always someone else’s fault – it’s the UK’s fault nutcases in Ulster kill innocent people there, it’s Israel’s fault nutcases from Palestine fire rockets into Israel, it’s the US’s fault that nutcase Muslims drove planes into the Twin Towers – it’s never the fault of the grown adults who committ these horrors and we’re all expected to turn the other cheek is it?

    • Dave Duggan says:


    • a.commenter says:

      The recent images of Osama Bin Laden showed an old man sitting on the ground wrapped in his blanket watching video footage of himself on a clapped out old tv in a house that looked more like a shed that a ‘miilion dollar mansion’ as portrayed by the good ol US of A…
      Another news programme…Newsnight or Panorama…stated that he was on dialysis…which I am sure the good ol’ US of A knew when they decided to shoot him in the head at close range …
      I am no supporter of Bin Laden or Islamic terrorists but neither am I a supporter of cold blooded murder…what is called ‘cruel and unusual treatment’ I believe… in the good ol’ US of A…
      Still Obama showed them birthers…for what it’s worth I don’t believe anything the good ol’ US of A have said about the incident…I did not rejoice in the murder…I found it repulsive.

    • dave says:

      To commentator

      Yes “rejoicing” in cold blooded murder is somehow distasteful in regard to most murderers getting back what they have done to others.

      But is it “murder” when you kill your sworn enemy who has already murdered -and continues planning the murder of – as many of your loved ones, or simply people unknown to him, as he could or can. I would have thought that you are not then “murdering” him, but rather saving the lives and well being of many others.

      Your comments simply reflect your anti-American stance on most things. Such bias prevents clear and rational thinking on all things to do with the USA. Logical thinking, without employing the visceral automatic anti-American spectacles is so much more reasonable.

    • robespierre says:

      As I see it, this is a moral equation.

      The Bible does not exonerate Herod for the slaughter of the innocents even though he did not wield the sword. In fact, one of the gospels for definite called Herod a “wicked man”. He is also deemed to be base, lascivious and distinctly amoral.

      I personally would not describe Bin Laden as amoral by any stretch but his philosophy rooted in Sayyid Qutb’s concept of Jahiliya and selected aspects of conservative Wahhabist Sunni Islam manifested itself in an immoral, unacceptable manner.

      In Aristotle’s Nichomacean book, he outlines the basis on which most western thinking and legal systems have subsequently been founded. It draws greatly on Plato’s work in the Republic and of course on Socrates but it is Artistotle’s “Ethics” that is the baseline for morals and ethics.

      Morals are immutable concepts that are transferred down to us from the gods. Breaking these rules may not be illegal (e.g. lying to a friend, cheating on a wife or husband) but they are immoral. They may form part of human nature but they run against the trend of what gut instinct over millennia has deemed to be “right”.

      Ethics are the rules communities use to live peacably beside one another. The feudal system, the brehon system, the bailey system, the common law system etc. are all systems of rules that are designed to allow the majority of people live side by side in relative peace and harmony.

      Aristotle said that to live outside the system of rules or ethics you had to be either a “god or a monster”. Socrates himself eventually defiled the code and was forced to commit suicide or leave Athens per this formula (a monster).

      Bin Laden will be considered by some in the muslim world (a minority) to be a “God (in the aristotelian sense)” that was on a morally justifiable mission to bring down a base, apostate west. Others will see him as a monster, making up a version of islam to suit his own political ends.

      Bin Laden in most readings, will not be exonerated for Kenya, Tanzania, Aden, New York, Pennsylvania or any of the other places from Indonesia to Morocco that have suffered because of his radicalisation of extreme elements that have been educated by Saudi funded madrassas. He will be looked upon much as the bible looks upon Herod.

      The reason this won’t happen straight away however is that America’s assassination of Bin Laden violated ethics or laws in relation to territorial integrity and sovreignty. I am sure the Americans are quite comfortable with this but we in Ireland were not best pleased with Mossad using Irish passports when performing extra-judicial executions. This is the source of much of the heat, not necessarily the killing.

      Legal systems since the beginning of time have had a concept of a just sanction of death. It may be going out of fashion in Europe but it is still provided for in many parts of the world including the United States.

      When a stoning is stopped by Jesus in the scriptures he invites those in the crowd that are without sin to cast the first stone. The woman in the story is alleged to have committed adultery. She hasn’t slaughtered three thousand people indiscriminately. The United States is a far from a perfect actor in the international system and it has a lot of blood on its hands.

      I recognise the United States however as a country where you can live peacably if you respect the law and where your rights are enshrined in the bill of rights. Indeed it could be argued that the mission to kill bin Laden was to guarantee such freedoms by laying down a marker that there are consequences for such attacks.

      I look at Pakistan and much of the crescent stretching from Morocco to Indonesia and ask whether questioning the motive of the United States in this action is the right place to begin a moral investigation. Personally, I would start a lot closer to the middle east. That is not to exonerate the United States but merely state the obvious point that I would direct any moral standards at the most unjust systems. Autocracies like Saudi Arabia and Syria would be quite high on my list in that regard.

    • a.commenter says:

      I’m not sure I do have an anti-American stance on most things but if that’s what you want to think so be it..
      My comment merely reflects my reaction to the murder…naked aggression for its own sake…ambushing and shooting a defenceless sick old man in the face in the middle of the night…then trying to cover up the truth of how the mission was accomplished with spin…Is the world a safer place without Bin Laden…? Even the Yanks can’t answer that one…on the one hand it’s their justification for the way in which their war crime was carried out, on the other they say the West will now subject to retaliatory attacks…the author of this post seems to suggest we could now be nuked…It’s all just warmongering…God Bless America…! I call it barbarism…!

    • a.commenter says:

      I posted a reply to Dave above which for some reason has not been published…any reason why…?

    • @20: The delay was due to one of the following two reasons: 1) This Blog is in the pay of the CIA; 2) The poster was observing the discussion in the Dail on a range of matters, including the Jobs Initiative. Take your pick!

    • dave says:


      Let me suggest that the answer to the delay (21 above) really lies in the words of Commentator who denies being anti-American: The delay is a either a “war crime” or “barbarism”. Anti-Americanism is like any other “anti-nationality -anti-Irish, anti-German, anti-Islamic, anti-Israeli, anti-Palestinian – an indication of the lack of rational thought.

      Some would say it is employed by people having a covert agenda to propagate -especially on the internet – a hatred against a given people or country etc., It is simply pure prejudice, and should always be exposed and condemned. Given that the Irish have experinecd enough such prejudice from the British colonial occupation over many hundreds of years, you would have thought this anti-prejudice would have become part of our genes by now. But obviously not so: it’s even represented in many of the electors who voted for at least one of our anti-American Dail deputies.

      So, whenever anyone constantly and repeatedly condemns a whole people or country – as in “the US of A”, or “Americans”, it is a sure sign that they are lacking in rational thought, and their words and perhaps their motives should be taken as suspect.

    • a.commenter says:

      Guess it’s a) then..!

    • sonykopines says:

      Womb to Tomb it surely does. Tho’ it might be argued that from a higher perspective they’re one and the same; regardless of spelling they’re both perfectly consonant with one another.

    • a.commenter says:

      Indeed sonyk…or comb and bomb…but you’d have to pronounce bomb ‘bome’ a la Clousseau….!

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