Noam Chomsky, on the killing of Osama Bin Laden

Here’s what he says:

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

I don’t agree, and don’t find many similarities, but it never hurts to have a bit of perspective.

Also read: Squashed’s response:

Chomsky, as usual, offers an interesting, divergent view. He’s wrong in an interesting way—which, if you’re going to be wrong, is the way to do it.

Did Pakistan really not know? – Part II

Here’s Daily Show, and Jon Stewart, about the Osama Bin Laden episode. Classic, as always:

As I mused a couple of days ago, either Pakistan knew, or their intelligence is really that stupid. Which do you think is the right answer?

On how Pakistan could really not have known about Osama

Salman Rushdie’s take on the idea that Pakistan did not know about Osama’s presence:

Many of us didn’t believe in the image of bin Laden as a wandering Old Man of the Mountains, living on plants and insects in an inhospitable cave somewhere on the porous Pakistan-Afghan border. An extremely big man, 6-foot 4-inches tall in a country where the average male height is around 5-foot 8, wandering around unnoticed for ten years while half the satellites above the earth were looking for him? It didn’t make sense. Bin Laden was born filthy rich and died in a rich man’s house, which he had painstakingly built to the highest specifications. The U.S. administration confesses it was “shocked” by the elaborate nature of the compound.

[…]

This time the facts speak too loudly to be hushed up. Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, was found living at the end of a dirt road 800 yards from the Abbottabad military academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst, in a military cantonment where soldiers are on every street corner, just about 80 miles from the Pakistani capital Islamabad. This extremely large house had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. And in spite of this we are supposed to believe that Pakistan didn’t know he was there, and that the Pakistani intelligence, and/or military, and/or civilian authorities did nothing to facilitate his presence in Abbottabad, while he ran al Qaeda, with couriers coming and going, for five years?

I agree, it just seems too flimsy an excuse that they didn’t know – given the circumstances. They could perhaps have not known if he was living in nondescript quarters in a downscale neighborhood of an unknown town, but this seems a bit much.

Unless… Pakistan intelligence is exactly this grossly malfunctioning, and they really didn’t figure it out. In which case, they will be inept at handling intelligence of similar or more serious nature. If this is so, Pakistan should be declared a state that is incapable of managing and protecting its nuclear technology, and be asked forced to dismantle its nuclear installations by the international community.

Which conclusion does Pakistan prefer?

Was it right to kill Osama Bin Laden?

Squashed brings up some interesting points in this post:

  1. Did justice demand Osama Bin Laden’s death?
  2. If justice demands retribution, is the United States the correct agent to deliver that justice?
  3. Were just procedures employed in the killing of Osama Bin Laden?

… and answers those questions with: maybe, no, and possibly.

I think the point of view in this case needs to be a little different. It’s very difficult to apply ‘normal’ principles or ideas to situations which are too far removed from the ‘usual’.

Justice should not be retributive – that would lead to an impossible situation very quickly; but in that respect, was it only justice that demanded Osama Bin Laden’s death? No. It was more than that.

Bin Laden was perhaps one of a select few individuals who was hated by everyone outside his sphere of influence. Hated, not for ‘petty’ things, but for causing harm deliberately to other human beings, in a large scale, outside of a war situation. Justice is a part of it, yes, but along with it was the crucial idea that his absence would be a blow to his minions – morally and emotionally if not in direct operation. Given a choice, how many nations would say that having him alive and leading Al-Qaeda was an option? None, is what I think.

Was it justifiable that Osama Bin Laden be killed? Yes. (I realize “justified” is a looser word than “justice”, and I believe should only be applied to someone as notorious as Osama Bin Laden.)

US is certainly not the right agent to deliver that justice… in an ideal world. Remember, this is a man who has made it an art to be in hiding, away from prying eyes, while always being in command of his troops and being their leader. This is not a man who would be easily captured and brought to an international criminal court for trial.

Was there any other agent who could have achieved the justifiable end of having Bin Laden dead? No. No other nation could have sustained a military operation, however efficient (US has been terribly inefficient, but still) for 10 years in unforgiving and foreign terrain. In that respect, was US the best agent to deliver that justice? Yes.

In his third question, by just procedures Squashed asks whether taking him alive was considered an option, or whether killing him was the sole objective. In that respect, I read an article where an administration official was quoted to have said that indeed, taking him alive was an option; if possible, that would have been done. (I can’t find a link to that article right now; I will update this post with a link.)

But there’s more to procedure: is it okay for USA to barge into another sovereign nation and conduct a covert operation? No… in an ideal world. Osama Bin Laden has been a target for a long time; there has been immense speculation that he was in Pakistan; Pakistani intelligence had not made much headway (to be lenient on them). Would the US trust Pakistan to be able to conduct a covert operation successfully, under the circumstances? I believe no, for a variety of reasons.

Considering it all, were just procedures followed? Yes, I think.

To summarize, I would modify the questions asked a little bit:

  1. Was it justifiable that Osama Bin Laden be killed?
  2. Was there any other agent who could have achieved the justifiable end of having Bin Laden dead?
  3. If not, was US the best agent to deliver that justice?
  4. Were just procedures followed?

… and answer them as: Yes, No, Yes, and Yes.

Osama Bin Laden is dead

This is “old” news by now, I guess – now that it’s more than an hour since official confirmation.

But, some interesting links:

NY Times obituary of the man.

Apparently the ghost of Osama Bin Laden is on Twitter, here: @ghostosama

Google Maps location of the Osama Bin Laden compound. Don’t forget to read the reviews of the place!

So now that he’s dead, what next? It’s certainly not the end of the terror campaign; it might even trigger reprisal attacks from his followers. Interesting times lie ahead.