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President Obama and members of his administration observe the U.S. attack on Osama bin Laden's compound (AP)

There is a lot of celebrating surrounding yesterday’s U.S. assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Looking at it from the person on the street perspective, what’s not to celebrate? This is a man who was responsible for the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, the attack on the USS Cole, and of course for the September 1, 2001 attacks that resulted in the deaths of nearly three thousand people. He declared war on America and on the Western way of life, murdered people of all faiths and backgrounds, and took the lives of innocent civilians. The most generous among us would be well justified in saying that, at the very least, bin Laden got what was coming to him; he reaped what he sowed. And for this article we will conveniently ignore the fact that bin Laden was a product of American military opposition to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

For his part in it, President Obama acted magnificently. He was presented with information and took prudent steps to verify the intelligence and insure that he was operating with the best possible information. He decided against an aerial attack that may have created blurry results and inflicted innocent casualties in order to carry out a surgical strike that targeted only bin Laden and his associates. President Obama acted patiently and prudently and when the time came to deliver the news to the American people he offered a message of resolve, calm, confidence, and compassion. He acted the way a President should have, and despite any other differences I may have with the man’s policies, I offer my congratulations, admiration, and respect.

But does bin Laden’s assassination deliver what President Obama claimed last night when he stated that “justice has been served?” Has it? It was striking that President Obama chose to end his address last night with a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance, stating the famous line, “with liberty and justice for all.” For all, he said.

Certainly vengeance has been delivered. But justice? The answer to that question proves a bit more difficult to address. How does one define “justice”? And how does justice differ from vengeance in a case like this?

Perhaps Rev. Martin Luther king, Jr. summed it up best:

“‎”Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Reading this quote, I understood why I felt so uneasy sitting in the comfort of my home watching thousands of Americans celebrate in glee over the sanctioned murder of another human being. We are not supposed to feel good about that, are we? And yet at the same time I felt this sense of patriotic pride in knowing that bin Laden had finally paid the ultimate price for his horrific crimes. But I had to consider, was this really patriotic pride that I was feeling, or just what I was supposed to be feeling, having been brought up in a militaristic society that seems to have no problem utilizing its military might to suit its own interests?

And that’s when the answer to our question struck me.

Osama bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, the overwhelming majority of whom were non-combatant citizens. While all warring nations violate the rules of law to some degree, this indiscriminate killing of civilians helps form the basis that separates war from terrorism. This man represented no nation; his cause was a perverted form of militant Islam from which to wage Jihad. bin Laden was deeply anti-Semitic and saw Israel and the United States as the collective cause of much of the injustice he perceived in the world. He was staunchly undemocratic, believing that Sharia law should be imposed through Islamic theocracies.

By any definition, the man was a terrorist.

And thus, for anyone killed during any of bin Laden’s attacks, his assassination represents justice. For anyone affected through the loss of a loved one in any of bin Laden’s attacks, his assassination represents justice. And to the many thousands of Americans, Afghanis, and many others who were killed, wounded, displaced, or otherwise affected by the American invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, bin Laden’s assassination represents justice.

Justice was served in these cases because people were affected who should not have been – lives were impacted or ended because of the actions of this evil man.

If our story ended there, we could give a resounding “yes” to the question of whether or not justice has been served. Unfortunately, the story does not end there.

In order to answer the question in full, we must address Iraq. In this nation, in the name of a “war on terror,” the United State of America attacked a sovereign nation without provocation or legal authority in order to fulfill a vendetta that American President George W. Bush had for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Widely thought (with some evidence) to be in Bush’s sights since his election, Bush shrewdly took American fear of terrorists, added two cups of falsified intelligence data, and stirred in Congressional misfeasance to whip this nation into a war frenzy, falsely believing that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with al Qaeda or the “war on terror.” The cost of this attack? To date, 4,452 American service deaths, 318 coalition deaths, and the deaths of at least 150,000 Iraqis. All of this because President George W. Bush had a personal grudge against Saddam Hussein. And we will once again conveniently forget that Hussein was also a product of American military interests, namely our desire to create a counter-balance to Iran in the region. This was, of course, undone by the Bush invasion.

It is our farce in Iraq, first about al Qaeda, then about weapons of mass destruction, then about genocide, then about (insert your reason here) that has me realizing that bin Laden’s assassination brings little justice and even less meaning. This is not to denigrate the efforts of our service people, nor to minimize the lives of the Iraqi people. It is simply worth noting that Osama bin Laden had absolutely nothing to do with the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, and his death serves to change nothing about that painful conflict. Nothing can change about Iraq, and no justice can be served, unless our own criminals are taken to task.

Yet we all know that this will never happen, and this further serves to confound any feelings of justice that we may have been allowed yesterday.

For that matter, as armchair quarterbacks we can also ask the question… would we have captured or killed bin Laden sooner.. would many thousands of innocent lives have been spared… if we had never taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan? It’s a fruitless question to try to answer, but it certainly balances against any belief I hold that justice has truly been served.

I thank President Obama for ordering this mission. I thank the Navy Seals who carried it out. For many people, justice has in fact been delivered. But not for all.

One Response to “Has justice really been served?”

  1. i don’t think there is justice…don’t think there can be justice…in the ‘practical’ sense- one life against thousands is not “justice”…but i feel that even if the same number of those lost were assassinated- there still is no justice….and it is not our place to expedite it….i find alot of hypocrisy in all of this ‘justice’….nature has it’s own way of dealing with it and i believe we humans have already interfered with that far too much…now it is just a huge downward spiral that is out of control in every aspect of human life…
    as far as finding bin laden goes….there is no way ‘we’ have not known where he was all this time…if ‘we’ didn’t then the mossad did and they gave us the info- just as they did about 911 BEFORE it happened…bush was told in august what was afoot…
    bush was friends with the bin laden family- the only planes flying out of this country the day after 911 were carrying members of osama’s family….quite honestly i think there is so much bullshit in everything that happens in this country and government…and i am quite sure there is some contained in these latest events, as well…..
    so now we get the troops out of afghanistan? right there is some bullshit…not that i don’t want them to come home…i DO and think we never should have been there to begin with….but why does this end the ‘war’? bin laden’s followers are still there…and here and in every country in the world and if we think for one second this has ended anything- we must have our collective heads up our asses…because i believe this will BEGIN something – and something not very good…..i do hope that i am gravely mistaken…..this was a mistake, to my mind and served nothing…i know that is not the popular opinion but it is what i feel in my gut….
    your quote above is the best summation i can write: “‎”Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

    and i will add what marianne williamson said the other night….celebration of this is spiritually inappropriate and politcally naive…and i agree with her 110 percent….
    just my opinion….

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