Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Examining My Head

From the 60 Minutes interview on CBS on Sunday night, 8 May (last page), with President Obama.

OBAMA: As nervous as I was about this whole process, the one thing I didn't lose sleep over was the possibility of taking bin Laden out. Justice was done. And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn't deserve what he got needs to have their head examined.

I'm trying to unpack this quote and keep getting hung up on the word "deserve." I'm not a proponent of capital punishment, but I would have to concur with the President that in an eye-for-an-eye world that if ever there was a crime deserving of death, bin Laden deserved to die. What an awful creature he was.

However (and there's always a big however)...our legal system has gone beyond mere eye-for-an-eye retribution. Every accused person, from a street punk to a mass murdering terrorist, deserves a fair trial via the legal system, and not vigilante justice. My opinion is that nobody--even bin Laden--deserves summary execution. Especially when it appears that we could have captured him.

Otherwise we have a two-tiered system of justice: one tier for the really bad guys, in which we can conveniently serve as judge, jury and executioner when it's expedient to do so. And the other tier for your regular accused folks. And who would be the gatekeeper for opting for one over the other?

We're the United States of America. We're the good guys. We stand for the rule of law, innocent until proven guilty, and fair trials.

I am not fond of slippery slopes. And two sets of justice certainly qualifies.  So I guess I need my head examined.

(NOTE: I don't know what happened in the compound in the small-unit action when bin Laden was confronted by the Navy Seals. The Seals may have had no choice but to shoot him. But it sure sounds like the default approach going in was to assassinate him rather than take him alive, presumably because the latter approach would be more inconvenient.)


1 comment:

  1. Gary,

    I agree with you. I haven't spoken up or said anything to any of my friends since the sentiment is so obviously in support of the action. I also agree that none of us know what happened that night, so it's hard to judge the outcome.

    But I do worry when we celebrate the death of anyone, no matter how heinous their crimes. War and death are serious, serious things and while I unfortunately agree that sometimes they can be the "best" option, MY slippery slope comes when instead of approaching them with grave seriousness, we throw a party.

    My two cents...