Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Case For Moral Ambiguity?

This whole question of bin Laden's killing is troubling on many counts and deserves more than just a cursory sigh of relief that the mother of all terrorists has finally met his demise. In particular it is the nature of his dispatch and the exquisite level of premeditation that went into the plan before the Seals "went in". For some the whole affair poses a dilemma of moral ambiguity, situation ethics, and pragmatics when trying to reconcile our constituted beliefs in due process with Obama's "justice done" statement. We will never know what will make for a safer world as only one course was taken and what might have been can only be studies in counterfactual conjecture. It does appear, however,that the Obama team set out on a search and kill mission as its only objective. From the very outset, long before the black hawks crossed into Pakistan air space, the plan was one of summary execution and swift burial at sea. This alone should cause some reflection. There will be no shrine erected to the "modern prophet" and the place where his bones lie unless one at some point is prefabricated.In an odd legal consideration,the writ of habeas corpus has been denied post mortem- denied those who might glorify him in death.
Was this the best thing to do, considering that the bones lying under any shrine may incite a more intensified jihad? Should we not at least admit to ourselves that an exceptional suspension of law, custom and decency was warranted in the case of bin Laden?

This is the rub of moral ambiguity which, for me, makes the question important- at least, to ask.
Qaddafi, Saddam pose no such dilemma, really.Are we laboring the death of Qaddafi's son from a surgical strike? I'm not. If Qaddafi was assassinated in a surgical strike, would there be this hue and cry? Not from me.
If a drone rocket had blown up bin Laden, his children and everybody in the compound, would we be asking any questions about moral ambiguity? If we knew his location for months, which it appears we did, observed the comings and goings of the people who lived in the compound, struck the compound when the children were not there--(were any of these options ever considered?) would the moral question even arise? Is there something about facing the enemy at close quarters with the whites of their eyes clearly visible that compels us to think longer, to apply a different set of standards? Why?

The fact of pre-meditation, pre-orchestration and preconceived
means of execution and burial rights in a seeming strict chronology gives me the chills. The question of whether or not his capture and trial on a world stage would have made the world a safer or more dangerous place will always remain an open question now. But I think it is an important question to ask any way.


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