Bin Laden killing is a failure of Western democracy
Mahatma Gandhi had a decent turn of phrase and a fair degree of common sense.
One of his real gems is "an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind".
That was what came instantly to my mind when I heard of the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The phrase borrows from the Hebrew scripture, in Deuteronomy chapter 19, which says: "Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot".
It was part of God’s instructions for the official legal system to be instituted as the Israelites prepared to enter Canaan.
But too often down the years it has been used by people of all creeds to justify vengeance, not justice.
Gandhi saw the perils of its misuse and pithily summed up the potential results.
Unfortunately, too often our leaders do not heed such wisdom.
When Osama bin Laden oversaw the 9:11 attacks, the response from the then president, George W Bush, was perfunctorily about hunting him down and seeking justice. But the clear sub-plot was revenge.
Bin Laden’s death does not deserve to be mourned. His life is not to be celebrated. And, if I’m being honest, I did feel a slight sense of excitement when I heard of his demise.
I think of the thousands of families who still suffer daily the aching pain of loss from the many terrorist atrocities that bin Laden was behind.
His death brings a certain degree of closure to some of those people, whose anguish at losing a loved one has been exacerbated by the knowledge that bin Laden was still at large and spreading his message of hate.
But it should not be the trigger for whooping, hollering and high fives outside the White House.
Such feral demonstrations yesterday morning left me feeling sick – and fearful for what the repercussions might be.
I suspect it may be partly cultural. While there are some unsavoury examples of lynch mobs outside courthouses in the UK, there remains a decent balance between justice and revenge.
In the US, the death penalty exists in many states. And that is a punishment that I believe crosses the line from justice to revenge. So perhaps I should not be surprised when the baying Washington crowds wave the Stars and Stripes and behave in exactly the same way as the supporters of al Qaida do when terrorists detonate bombs in the West.
Not that they will notice the irony of their actions. Nor will they recognise that the cold-blooded execution of a human being – however inherently evil he appears – is a failure of the "American way" that they celebrate.
Here we had a man being killed without a trial, which goes against the heart of the democratic, balanced system that we purport to defend.
In this country, both David Cameron and William Hague achieved the perfect tone, by welcoming bin Laden’s death with an absence of gloating and a degree of regret that it was necessary.
Meanwhile, the boyfriend of one of the 7:7 bomb victims spoke with quiet dignity on BBC Breakfast, saying: "A human being has died. And that is never to be celebrated".
His words should be repeated to everyone who thinks that we are engaged in a worldwide Call of Duty game, where we "take out" targets.
What we are engaged in is a global conflict that is likely to escalate as those on bin Laden’s side, who certainly believe in "an eye for an eye", seek vengeance against the West. How long will it be before the world does indeed "go blind"?
posted on 03 May 2011 08:14 bySteve Downes