RYLE DWYER: Americans cannot be allowed think they can just do as they please

Osama bin Laden’s “demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace with human dignity,” President Obama stressed on Sunday night.

“On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaida’s terror: Justice has been done.”

Nowhere in the US Constitution does it give the President the right to act as judge, jury and executioner. The American forces sent in to get Osama bin Laden went in to kill him, not to take him prisoner and bring him before any court of justice, if possible.

One should not expect the naval personnel who engaged in the operation to take further risks with their own lives, but bin Laden was unarmed. If he had been a wild animal, they might have shot him with a tranquiliser dart. Taking him away in such circumstances would not have been any more risky than taking his body away and burying him at sea, which is what they did.

Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal, was accused of killing many more people than Osama bin Laden, but when the Israelis seized him, they brought him back to Israel. He was tried and found guilty in a court of law, before they executed him.

Killing bin Laden when he could have been taken alive is a sad reflection on the American concept of justice and the rule of law.

“The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called targeted assassinations of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive,” according to the former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Of course, he was in the British government in July 2005 when the London Metropolitan Police pinned down Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, on a tube train and shot him several times in the head. He was totally innocent. It is to protect innocent people that we have the rule of law, and President Obama should not be allowed to think that Americans can behave as outlaws and just do as they please.

“We are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to,” he told the American people on Sunday night. “That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.”

What was he really saying — America has the right to do anything it likes, because it has the power to do it? His campaign slogan was: “Yes, we can.”

The publicity surrounding the whole thing was handled like an election stunt, especially with mindless chanting of the gathering claque. In the past year many Americans were comparing Obama to President Jimmy Carter.

In his final year in the White House Carter was plagued by the Iran hostage crisis. American diplomats were being held as hostages in Teheran. In April 1980 Carter authorised a rescue mission that went horribly wrong, and with it went his chances of re-election.

If the mission had gone wrong in Abbottabad, Obama would have been pilloried as another Carter. Maybe this explains his triumphal attitude he adopted in making his statement.

President Obama talked about making the world a safer place. The Americans undoubtedly played a major role in blocking totalitarian aggression during World War II and the Cold War, but we should also remember their savage behaviour during the war of independence in Vietnam.

The French colonists had agreed to withdraw from Vietnam in 1954 and for free elections to be held throughout the country in 1956, but US President Dwight Eisenhower blocked those elections.

Eisenhower wrote in his memoirs that he never talked or corresponded with anyone knowledgeable about the region who did not think that, “possibly 80% of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh.”

The Americans intervened to block the democratic will of the Vietnamese people. The ensuing actions of American soldiers in Vietnam made the behaviour of the Black and Tans here look comparatively moderate.

The Americans were also responsible for an earlier 9/11 when they orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Chile on September 11, 1973, and replaced it with the neo- fascist regime that trampled on the human rights of the Chilean people. Over 3,000 Chilean people were killed or “disappeared” during the ensuing regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

When Obama talked about American history, the struggle for equality and making “the world a safer place”, the ultimate breathtaking piece of insensitivity was that the mission to kill bin Laden was called “Operation Geronimo”. It was named after the Native American Apache warrior Geronimo (1829-1909), who died in a US prison, because he dared to stand up for the rights of his people and against savage repression.

Geronimo and the other Native Americans were robbed of their land in the US, and became victims of ethnic cleansing long before the term was used. The Americans need to realise that they can no longer do whatever they decide just because they are Americans.

Humanity will forget the mistakes of history at its own peril.


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