On OBL, Gaddafi, assassinations, and the remnants of international law
After nearly ten years of fighting in Afghanistan and eight years of occupying Iraq, Americans seem more than willing to forget everything they might have learned since Sept. 11, 2001, and gladly accept the government’s story that Special Forces took out the #1 American nemesis in a midnight raid – the stuff of legend, made for Hollywood movies and late-night TV.
If we are to believe what the U.S. government tells us about its purported commando attack on Osama bin Laden over the weekend, we are expected to rejoice over the extrajudicial killing of a suspect in one of the greatest crimes ever committed against the American people.
The alleged killing of bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces means that there will never be a trial in a court of law to prove bin Laden’s complicity in the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans, and many other individuals of various nationalities.
Assuming for a moment that the government’s story is true, what we are talking about here is an extrajudicial killing in violation of international law.
As the Harvard Law Review pointed out in a 2006 article:
Black’s Law Dictionary defines assassination as ‘the act of deliberately killing someone especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons.’ If termed ‘assassination,’ then attacks on leaders have been construed as prohibited by Article 23b of the Hague Convention of 1899, which outlaws ‘treacherous’ attacks on adversaries, and by the Protocol Addition to the Geneva Convention of 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflict (Protocol I), which prohibits attacks that rely on ‘perfidy.’
For the reasons laid out in international law, the U.S. and Israel have abandoned the use of the word “assassination,” and adopted the more politically correct “targeted killing.”
[E]specially since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Israel and the United States have reframed such actions as ‘targeted killings,’ defining the victims as ‘enemy combatants’ who are therefore legitimate targets wherever they are found. This redefinition has relied on and benefited from the work of some in the international law community who have long argued that in some instances, targeted attacks on leaders are not prohibited by international law. This reinterpretation of law is not a radical shift; the radical shift is US and Israeli willingness to engage in attacks openly, whatever may have occurred covertly in the past decades.
But the change in terminology does not indicate a change in the law, which prohibits extrajudicial executions, including state-sponsored assassinations, and requires that even the worst criminals be granted due process and fair trials.
Regardless, it should be remembered that following the heinous attack of Sept. 11, 2001, Afghanistan’s Taliban government offered to hand over the alleged mastermind, Osama bin Laden, to a third country. As the Guardian reported on Oct. 14, 2001,
The Taliban would be ready to discuss handing over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country if the US halted the bombing of Afghanistan, a senior Taliban official said today.
Afghanistan’s deputy prime minister, Haji Abdul Kabir, told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that Bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.
‘If the Taliban is given evidence that Osama bin Laden is involved” and the bombing campaign stopped, “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country’, Mr Kabir added.
But the U.S., for whatever reason, was unwilling to entertain this offer, or to provide evidence of bin Laden’s complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Instead, the U.S. government insisted on launching wars that in Iraq and Afghanistan that have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and cost the American taxpayer upwards of a trillion dollars.
Now, by purportedly killing the alleged mastermind of 9/11 without the benefit of a trial, the U.S. is still not compelled to produce any evidence of bin Laden’s guilt.
Coincidentally, perhaps, the extrajudicial killing of bin Laden falls just on the heels of the botched assassination attempt of Muammar Gaddafi. While failing to kill the leader of Libya, the U.S./NATO strike on Tripoli did manage to kill Gaddafi’s son, and three of his young grandchildren, who were still in diapers.
In response to Saturday’s attack on Gaddafi’s home, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made the following statement:
NATO’s leaders have blood on their hands. NATO’s airstrike seems to have been intended to carry out an illegal policy of assassination. This is a deep stain which can never fully wash. This grave matter cannot be addressed with empty words. Words will not bring back dead children. Actions must be taken to stop more innocents from getting slaughtered.
Today’s attack underscores that the Obama Doctrine of so-called humanitarian intervention appears to be a cover for regime change through assassination and murder.
These tactics are in serious violation of international law, signaling a return to the law of the jungle. By legitimizing them in the mass media through images of Americans celebrating the extrajudicial killing of an alleged murderer, the United States falls further into the abyss of lawlessness.
And this is assuming that the story told over the weekend is true – that the USA killed an internationally wanted criminal, accused of killing people of numerous nationalities, without allowing an outside source to independently verify that it was in fact Osama bin Laden who was killed, and he was in fact killed the way that the Pentagon claims. Instead, the U.S. just dumped his body in the ocean.
All of those claims are highly dubious.