Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: You know what ...

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  • webweaver, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    With all due respect to President Obama, vengeance is not justice. It wasn’t in 1946, and it isn’t now. Justice is hard and elusive; perhaps we will never find it in this world, or any other. But I just thought we were supposed to be better.

    This.

    I understand on a practical level that Osama was in a highly fortified compound, he was playing home advantage, it was a crazy unpredictable firefight etc etc – I know all that – but that doesn’t stop me feeling uncomfortable about the end result.

    To me, elements of the discussion that relate to the fact that he was a bad bad man who killed heaps of people shouldn’t have a place in a civilised society where justice is supposed to be the ultimate aim, rather than vengeance.

    If you say it’s OK to take into account someone’s past history when you decide whether or not you’re going to take them out, doesn’t that take us all into a very grey and murky area? At what point do I say “well he killed X number of people so I’m allowed to kill him”? A thousand, a hundred, ten, one? Where do we draw that line? And who gets to decide where the line is drawn? Can I also make the same calculation about other leaders whose decisions (IMO) led to the deaths of many people? Blair? Bush? Rumsfeld?

    Haven’t we instigated the rule of law and developed legislation relating to crime and punishment in order to move away from a world where it’s OK to do away with someone because they looked at you funny, or did something you didn’t like, or even committed murder?

    There are a bunch of old cliches about the way a society behaves towards the least of its citizens, and others about the measure of a society being how it treats its enemies – and I think they’re important things to think about.

    How am I any better than my enemy if I treat him in the same brutal fashion that he treats me? Shouldn’t we, as Craig says, be trying to be better than that?

    It’s all so bloody Medieval otherwise….

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 332 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    call Jerry Mataparae a liar

    Senior military personnel are quite well known for saying things that are not the truth. Sometimes it's even their job. I am significantly less concerned about his role than I am about successive political leaders, but not surprised.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Jolisa,

    Echoing Danielle's earlier point about the composition of the crowd outside the White House: college kids, pumped up about nothing in particular, kind of being idiots.

    And doing what Americans do best, shouting "Wooo, Yeah, USA, USA"
    In the end it's a game of two halves. When the sucking of oranges and the gulping of kool-aid is over the second half will begin with substitutions on both sides...
    The celebration of a death is the lowest of behaviours and makes me wonder what the hell it is they are fighting to protect, the right to gloat about killing?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I still don't really know what I feel about bin Laden's death. I had no inclination to raise a glass in celebration, it never occurred to me to celebrate a man's death. I felt uncomfortable about the cheering crowds because they felt extreme in their response. I don't know if it will change the world.

    I do know that the destruction of the WTC towers did change the world, regardless of how important they really were, it was the way people felt that meant that act of terror actually changed the world.

    In the same way the death of bin Laden may also change things in a manner out proportion to his actual importance. That it comes at a time when the Middle East is changing both peacefully and violently will also play a role.

    I don't quite know what I feel, but I have a nagging feeling that this really is more significant than logic would dictate.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Andrew C,

    As the population increases there is more chance of a random match, but saying that above this at least one other person will test positive is not a true. Its more likely, but not definite. And the same sentiment works in reverse too.

    I’m sure it was just a nice simplification, but it shows how the sort of human-can-understand-this projection onto a statistical number can be a bit misleading. I wonder if this sort of twisting is used by lawyers in the courts to confuse…?

    Hrm, okay: try "you can't rule out the possibility that there could have been a random match". For things like murder (or identifying dead terrorist leaders) it's a possibility you need to be able to rule out (to a reasonable degree).

    It also depends how much other evidence you have and how many people you're testing, of course. If you have no circumstantial evidence and/or are testing a lot of people, you need higher certainty. One person, also ID'd through other methods - less certainty needed.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Elderly! Oh dear, Osama bin Laden was born the same year as me...

    Oh you young pup ;-)
    I'm surprised he is not regarded as a Baby Boomber
    <Coat>

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    going past the judge and jury and straight to the executioners?

    I don't know if the SEALs would have been able to capture him. I don't think it's possible to define his death as an execution without more information. However, it will be viewed that way by many people.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to webweaver,

    How am I any better than my enemy if I treat him in the same brutal fashion that he treats me? Shouldn’t we, as Craig says, be trying to be better than that?

    I doubt very much that they wanted him to die in the capture. They would have wanted to torture information out of him, at the very least, and then conduct a show trial, after which punishment could be dispensed in the whatever way they liked. He would surely have known this and long ago resolved never to be taken alive.

    It is Medieval, for sure. There is only a thin veneer of civilization over all of us.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That was a cynical and unpleasant display by the Prime Minister and his Minister of Defence today. They dismissed Jon Stephenson's credibility without providing a skerrick of evidence for what they were saying. They basically dared people to call Jerry Mataparae a liar instead.

    Does the catchphrase, "Don't you worry about that!" come to mind?

    I understand on a practical level that Osama was in a highly fortified compound, he was playing home advantage, it was a crazy unpredictable firefight etc etc – I know all that – but that doesn’t stop me feeling uncomfortable about the end result.

    So much for gated communities.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    ETA Never mind. Neither the time nor place for my irritation.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Senior military personnel are quite well known for saying things that are not the truth. Sometimes it's even their job. I am significantly less concerned about his role than I am about successive political leaders, but not surprised.

    Well does he know when to stop, what if he decides that as GG there are things we're just no supposed to know? Hopefully when we finally set up our parliamentary republic we'll start to hold public hearings a bit like the US Senate's supreme court justice confirmations - there are difficult questions that need to be asked here and answered in public

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I don't quite know what I feel, but I have a nagging feeling that this really is more significant than logic would dictate.

    I know what I am supposed to feel - that it's the end of an era. But it doesn't feel like that to me - the era fizzled out long ago. However, humans like closure, so this could be a good thing, a good justification for some major movements in the right direction. Rather like 9/11 itself, it feels to me like there is the potential in the air for a good change. Reducing the American military presence in the Middle East would be a good start, and could hardly be more timely, as the US heads into election madness.

    A Mormon colleague called me today from Utah, and asked with genuine curiosity whether the news was considered good in NZ. It's the first actual discussion about anything to do with their Middle East policy that I've ever had with any of those colleagues. Everything else was too controversial to be appropriate in a workplace. I hope this changes, that this event leads to a more outward looking US citizenry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    And am I not the only one to think of Medgar Evers' immortal quote, "You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea."? That was in context of the US civil rights movement, but unfortunately it can also apply to terrorist organisations, in which case it overlaps with the Cycle of Revenge (TM).

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Danielle,

    ETA Never mind. Neither the time nor place for my irritation.

    You can probably get an ointment for that.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    and asked with genuine curiosity whether the news was considered good in NZ

    What did you say? My own answer would have been "I guess so".

    And most importantly did you ask where to get good coffee in Utah?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Senior military personnel are quite well known for saying things that are not the truth.

    But as Jon pointed out in passing on Media 7, this particular senior military person also seems to think he and his underlings are exempt from the Official Information Act. (Which, I suspect, was deliberately designed to be not only toothless but soft-gummed.) Perhaps I’m an old fashioned girl, but I’m not as relaxed as the Prime Minister about senior military staff who treat the law like the pick ‘n’ mix bins of lollies at the supermarket. X10 when one of those gentlemen is now the Governor-General designate.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    So they tell me. Having to apply it a zillion times a year gets pretty annoying, though.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And most importantly did you ask where to get good coffee in Utah?

    Jack Mormon Coffee Co (known locally as 'beans worth roasting for').

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    And doing what Americans do best, shouting “Wooo, Yeah, USA, USA”
    In the end it’s a game of two halves. When the sucking of oranges and the gulping of kool-aid is over the second half will begin with substitutions on both sides…
    The celebration of a death is the lowest of behaviours and makes me wonder what the hell it is they are fighting to protect, the right to gloat about killing?.

    I saw a lot of Americans today (as I do every day -- just walking past in the street) and not a one of them was chanting U-S-A. I have to say that taking the telegenic reaction of a relative handful of people in a country of 300 million (and who can blame an American for feeling some degree of satisfaction at this news) and drawing some overarching conclusion has a name -- and it is not a pretty one. Applied to pretty much any other country in the world, this sort of analysis would look pretty thin, but somehow it is fine to apply it to the good ole USofA.

    (And yes, this place is crazy in many ways -- no argument about that. But it is also complex.)

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    And am I not the only one to think of Medgar Evers’ immortal quote, “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.”? That was in context of the US civil rights movement, but unfortunately it can also apply to terrorist organisations, in which case it overlaps with the Cycle of Revenge (TM).

    But sometimes the death of a person invested with symbolic significance acts as an attack on that idea. It isn't as if people like Bin Laden were irrelevant to jihadism, or as if the entire thing could simply be argued out of existence with a few forthright blog posts.

    Almost ironically, it's Bin Laden's own success at evading capture for so long that has made this such a powerful symbolic act. If he had been killed a few months after September 11, he would have quickly been replaced, and we'd see the same cycle we see with many jihadist organisations-a new leader with the same policies and an even more diffuse structure. Instead he became a figurehead, which makes the fact of his death profoundly destructive to the organisation in question.

    Will this stamp out anti-Americanism and extremism in the Middle East? Of course not. Nothing can do that other than the growth of secular democracy in the region, combined with easy access to worldwide media and travel. What it can do is put a dent in a criminal organisation that spent a long time after September 11 killing a lot of people (mostly in developing nations, lest we forget.)

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Careful, your stereotype is showing.

    ETA:

    Applied to pretty much any other country in the world, this sort of analysis would look pretty thin, but somehow it is fine to apply it to the good ole USofA.

    Oh, snap, -ish.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to webweaver,

    If you say it’s OK to take into account someone’s past history when you decide whether or not you’re going to take them out, doesn’t that take us all into a very grey and murky area?

    Is it the past history itself that's important, or the future risk we assess based on the evidence of the past history? I think there's a high degree of certainty that Bin Laden would have been responsible for further deaths if he'd lived, and we make that judgement based on his record. If there was some reason to believe that his past was no longer a reliable predictor of future actions, I'd agree it would become irrelevant. But given that he was using his own family as hostages when he died, it's beyond my skills to make a case as Devil's Advocate.

    Which is not to say I wouldn't have preferred a trial, I just don't think that was ever a possibility. Bin Laden was never going to come peacefully, and presumably the mission was designed on that assumption.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to webweaver,

    If you say it’s OK to take into account someone’s past history when you decide whether or not you’re going to take them out, doesn’t that take us all into a very grey and murky area? At what point do I say “well he killed X number of people so I’m allowed to kill him”?

    Decide? Allowed? It sounds like you think the soldiers attacking this fortified compound sat around for a while philosophising about death and morality. Tactically it is highly relevant to know whether the person you are confronting in battle has a proven willingness to kill, and mass killing is regarded as another class of ruthlessness again isn't it? If the US just wanted him dead they could have bombed the place.

    Perhaps John can clarify for us what he was saying upthread because you and I have heard it rather differently.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    the future risk we assess based on the evidence of the past history

    snap

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Sacha,

    If the US just wanted him dead they could have bombed the place.

    They thought about it, and decided not to on the grounds that then they'd never get anyone to believe he was dead. Which is probably correct.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

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