Monday 2 May 2011

Sometimes 140 characters aren't enough

This morning I've read a lot of different reactions to news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, and to the response there has been in America.

I neither revel in his assassination nor decry the fashion in which he met his end as murder, which at least a few have done, and more likely will as today rolls on.

Someone tweeted bemoaning that 'now we won't get to hear his motivation'. (I Don't attribute the quote, as I hope it was written in haste, rather than the product of great reflection)  in the opinion of your humble correspondent, there are likely relatively few of us who have not seen one of the video messages, or heard one of the audio messages, in which the 'motivation' for attacks on the West was set out.

The 'Great Day for Freedom' line taken by Iain Dale, Guido et al (which I'm happier to reference as being consistent and unlikely to be retracted at any point in the near future) doesn't appeal to me particularly, though. 

I'm flying (a domestic flight, I'm afraid to say) twice this week, and while I won't be changing my plans, I am slightly more apprehensive after this news than I have ever been before about doing so.  This doesn't smack of freedom to me.

Bin Laden was the leader of an active terrorist organisation, who had claimed responsibility for atrocities around the world.  The movement he led was not one of freedom fighters, and the indiscriminate attacks he assumed responsibility for paid no attention to the political nuances of those who died.  He should neither be considered a hero nor a martyr.

His assassination will not herald the end of terrorism of this type, but that does not mean that it was immoral to move in for the kill - some innocent lives will be saved as a result, and that is a good thing.  On a utilitarian basis, the greater good has been served. 

However, the deaths of innocents will not stop with his death, and so the triumphalism evinced today is naive.

Bin Laden was, in order to fit with a narrative that is friendly to dumbed down news and a cinematic storyline, set up as the big bad guy at the end, ultimately responsible for all the evil in the world.  The actual situation is infinitely more complex, and for as long as there is oppression and injustice in the world, there will be conflict, and none of us will be free or safe.

Bin Laden's death may be one I am willing to countenance, but I cannot countenance the countless deaths of innocent civilians and working soldiers that have been caused by Governments desperate to be seen to be doing something. 

The continuing presence of occupying forces in the Middle East serves to foment the kind of hatred that Bin Laden felt, and while the loss of a leader may create a vacuum that temporarily unsettles the operation, new recruits to that cause are created every day, some of whom will have the abilities to take Bin Laden's place.

Today's news may bring some succour to families here, in the US and elsewhere, that the objective that their loved ones died trying to achieve has now been accomplished. The strategy was wrong, however, and unless there is a radical rethink and a withdrawal of troops, the killing will sadly never stop, in either the Middle East or in the West.

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