Bin Laden’s killing: Four questions and a funeral
By Rupert Read
1) Obama said to Congress yesterday that Bin Laden was “captured and killed”. Does that imply that he was captured alive, and then shot in the head? If so, then this was murder. OK, it was the murder of a mass-murderer; but that’s still murder. The state should not murder – especially, obviously, without any due process whatsoever.
2) Bin Laden was code-named ‘Geronimo’ during the operation. That is deeply tragic, horribly unwise. Did nobody in the military / in the President’s office consider that this code-name might just possibly bring back memories of the disgraceful racist campaign of murder and assassination that the U.S. engaged in for two centuries against native American leaders and resistance-fighters?
3) It is extraordinary that photos of the dead Bin Laden have not yet been issued, and apparently might never be. Not issuing at least one photo would be a cataclysmic mistake. It would fuel endless pathetic conspiracy theories. Presumably, the same morons who drone on about the ‘troof’ about September the 11th would then drone on endlessly about how Bin Laden is in fact living in Paraguay along with Adolf Hitler and Lord Lucan etc etc. Won’t the U.S. authorities spare us that fate? It is very unwise for a democracy to foster disempowering paranoid denialism. It takes people out of even a minimal level of involvement in and belief in the democratic system.
4) There seems to be a consensus emerging that some in the Pakistani military must have known of Bin Laden’s whereabouts in Abbottabad. That seems to me a rash, dangerous, politically-motivated assumption. Moreover, it presumes a level of competence among the Pakistani authorities that may well be absent — and, more tellingly, a level of incompetence among Al Qaida that is profoundly questionable. In other words, it tacitly buys into the same prejudiced logic as the 9/11 troofers do: It assumes that a bunch of Arabs/Muslims couldn’t by themselves organise a terrorist attack in a brewery. Whereas: All that Bin Laden had to do was get safely smuggled into his enclave, with some plausible cover-story for the place, and that was it. Yes, he would have needed some kind of support-network – but that would presumably have been very small and tight-knit, and needn’t have extended to anyone in the security services etc. . Given that Pakistan is a catastrophically unequal society, in which it is common for the very rich to have in effect armed private enclaves, why should 1 more, even in Abbottabad, have caused any great surprise or suspicion? The real reason that Bin Laden wasn’t detected in Abbottabad, as testimony from some locals makes clear, is that it just doesn’t attract much notice to live within high walls and barbed wire, in a neoliberalised society run by plutocrats and kleptocrats.
Bin Laden’s being given a swift funeral and then being buried at sea made sense, in terms of preventing his place of death becoming a shrine. But one has to wonder whether, given the worrying questions raised above, his place of death — his ‘martyrdom’ — in Abbottabad may, within our lifetime, become some kind of shrine.