Content endorsed. Scientific justification: to neutralize unscientific maundering
about human nature.
My Reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death
By Noam Chomsky, Reader Supported News
07 May 11, http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/268-35/5859-noam-
It's increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply
violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been
no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been
done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition - except, they claim,
from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some
respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I
stress "suspects." In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed
the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could
say no more than that it "believed" that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan,
though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April
2002, they obviously didn't know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed
tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they
were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with
evidence - which, as we soon learned, Washington didn't have. Thus Obama
was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that "we quickly
learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda."
Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin
Laden's "confession," but that is rather like my confession that I won the
Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.
There is also much media discussion of Washington's anger that Pakistan didn't
turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces
were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger
that the US invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-
American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to
exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably,
provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.
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. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's, and he is not
a "suspect" but uncontroversially the "decider" who gave the orders to commit
the "supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it
contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" (quoting the
Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of
thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country,
the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
There's more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just
died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the "Bush doctrine" that
societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and
should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling
for invasion and destruction of the US and murder of its criminal president.
Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so
profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are
glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against
genocidal invaders. It's like naming our murder weapons after victims of our
crimes: Apache, Tomahawk ... It's as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter
planes "Jew" and "Gypsy."
There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts
should provide us with a good deal to think about.
On Mon, 9 May 2011 16:47:53 +0200, Michael Balter
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>No endorsement of this content is implied. But worth reading.
>May 5, 2011
>Why We Needed Bin Laden Dead Revenge as a biological imperative
>[image: Why We Needed Bin Laden Dead 1]
>Chris Kleponis, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images
>People celebrate the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden at the
>White House in Washington, May 2.
>By David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton
>"Ding-dong. The witch is dead!" "Which old witch?" We all know the answer:
>that bin Laden witch. And who did it? Jubilant crowds in Washington, New
>York City, and elsewhere knew that, too, as they chanted "U.S.A., U.S.A.!"
>For all our personal abhorrence of violence, we shared some of their relief.
>To be sure, Osama's demise brings attendant risks, not least the prospect of
>retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers, furthering yet another
>rejuvenated cycle of killing. But there are gains as well: getting rid of a
>genuine malefactor who threatened not just the West, but also the peace of
>the world; making it clear that innocent Americans cannot be attacked with
>impunity (thereby reinforcing, it might be hoped, a kind of nonnuclear
>deterrence); and�not least�insulating the Obama administration against
>claims of being weak or half-hearted in defending the country.
>But as for the high-minded claims about "justice," we're not so sure. More
>likely, something deeper, more primitive and potentially more troubling
>motivates the near-universal glee (at least in the United States) at bin
>Laden's death. Scholars since Plato have argued endlessly about the meaning
>of justice, and will doubtless continue to do so. Increasingly, however, a
>biological perspective suggests that the craving for justice is intimately
>tied to another cross-cultural universal: the demand for revenge.
>It's an old dance�denying the latter while insisting on the former�whereas
>in fact, a yearning for revenge, or something very much like it, has a
>well-established evolutionary pedigree. At its heart is what might be called
>"passing the pain along": Victims respond to their distress by victimizing
>someone else, when possible, of course, the initial perpetrator. It's the
>original Three R's: retaliation (immediate tit for tat), revenge (payback
>after a delay, and often magnified in intensity), and redirected aggression
>(taking it out on a third party, often an innocent bystander).
>The underlying biology of the Three R's has become increasingly clear. After
>being attacked�like America was on 9/11�victims suffer "subordination
>stress," a physiological syndrome that includes hypertension, increased
>cortisone secretion and other adrenal effects, reduced sex-hormone levels,
>and possible ulcers. Of particular significance is that when such victims
>avail themselves of the opportunity to get back at their victimizer, their
>stress is substantially alleviated. In short, they minister to their own
>distress by passing their pain on to someone else. That has been found for
>captive rats, free-living baboons, and also *Homo sapiens.*
>Even as the underlying physiology of the Three R's has become increasingly
>clear, another question emerges: Why? Why should natural selection have
>designed so many organisms to respond to injury by causing yet more injury?
>(This question is especially acute, incidentally, in cases of redirected
>aggression, which, for all its serious mayhem, brings to mind the old Three
>Stooges routine, in which Moe hits Larry who turns around and slugs Curly.)
>The answer appears to be that in any social species, individuals are
>exquisitely sensitive to a variant on Lenin's famous question: Who, whom?
>Who has done what to whom? And has he or she gotten away with it?
>Once one has been successfully attacked, not only has that individual
>suffered an immediate cost (injury plus likely loss of whatever resource may
>have precipitated the attack), but he or she also runs the risk of losing
>social standing. Animal studies confirm that in the aftermath of an attack,
>if victims refrain from responding�if they neither retaliate, redirect
>aggression, nor get revenge�they are then more likely to be subsequently
>attacked by others in their group. It seems, therefore, that passing along
>one's pain is a way of signaling,"I may have been victimized this time, but
>don't get the wrong idea: I'm not a patsy." If so, then natural selection
>could well have engineered subordination stress and the widespread tendency
>to diminish it by retaliating, redirecting, and/or revenging as a means of
>salvaging as much as possible from a bad situation. There is, accordingly, a
>certain cruel logic to the Three R's. As Mario Puzo put it in *The
>Godfather,*"Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a
>Note: Just because revenge appears to be natural and sometimes even
>functional does not mean that it is laudable. But when people speak, for
>example, in highfalutin terms about seeing justice done, they may well be
>saying less about balancing the cosmic scales than about balancing their own
>physiological stress, as well as righting an unconscious perception of their
>own social imbalance. That, we suspect, is the real redress people seek when
>passing along their pain after having been aggrieved ... but naked revenge
>is unseemly, so we call it the pursuit of justice instead.
>"Justice begins with compassion and caring," wrote the philosopher Robert C.
>Solomon, "but it also involves, right from the start, such 'negative'
>emotions as envy, jealousy, indignation, anger, and resentment, a keen sense
>of having been personally cheated or neglected, and the desire to get even."
>It is payback with a purpose. In large measure, the quest for justice
>emerges from the pain of injustice. What, then, is punishment?
>Some see punishment as the embodiment of justice itself, not some sort of
>bio-psycho-social expediency; hence, to justify the punitive impulse as
>serving deterrence, enhancing social safety, or responding to physiological,
>as well as evolutionary, influences is to demean with trite practicality an
>act that is ethically pure and valid unto itself. Crime requires punishment;
>justice is the punishment of injustice. As John Stuart Mill wrote in his
>classic, *Utilitarianism,* "We do not call anything wrong unless we mean to
>imply that a person ought to be punished in some way or other for doing it."
>And punishment implies pain. The same powerful forces that demand revenge
>urge that only the pain of others can allay our own distress, that only
>someone else's suffering can soak up our blood. We dearly wish it were not
>true, but the likelihood is that natural selection is at the root of most
>demands for punishment: It acts "proximally," or directly, via subordination
>stress, as well as "adaptively," via the evolutionary payoff of announcing
>one's self as capable of inflicting painful payback upon whose who have
>harmed us. The yearning to exact a toll on the wrongdoers is so powerful and
>widespread that one might even equate the degree of civilization in a
>society with the extent to which pain-passing is administered by civil
>authority rather than by the aggrieved party. Thus, a reason for having
>police, laws, and prisons (and even executioners) is to prevent wronged and
>vengeful people from taking the law into their own hands.
>"Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord," not so much to legitimize
>vengeance per se as to reassure those who have been "done wrong" that
>need for violent revenge will eventually be satisfied.
>According to H.L. Mencken, there is an abiding pleasure that comes from
>inflicting pain on wrongdoers, a relief and release that lies at the heart
>of punishment in general, and of capital punishment in particular. There is,
>nonetheless, something uniquely dismaying in the exorbitant glee shown by so
>many Americans in the immediate aftermath of bin Laden's death, just as
>there was in the celebration by Al Qaeda sympathizers after 9/11, and in the
>oafs and thugs who revel in TV reports of a state-sanctioned execution.
>Mencken maintained that crime victims and members of society at large are
>concerned only indirectly with deterring other criminals when they call for
>the death penalty. The thing they crave primarily is the satisfaction of
>seeing the criminal actually before them suffer as he made them suffer. What
>they want is the peace of mind that goes with the feeling that accounts are
>squared. Until they get that satisfaction, they are in a state of emotional
>tension, and hence unhappy. The yearning is not noble, but it is universal.
>As biologically influenced universals go, pain-passing in general (whether
>manifested as retaliation, redirected aggression, or revenge) is deeply
>troubling, in a way that other such universals (for example, metabolizing,
>reproducing, sleeping) are not.
>Thus, the Three R's emphasize the disconnect between what is "natural" and
>what is morally desirable. Although many ethical systems legitimize
>retaliation, if only as a form of self-defense, even that form of payback is
>discouraged by the better angels of many religions, like, for instance,
>Christianity. The more we understand the biological underpinnings of the
>Three R's, the more can we understand why turning the other cheek is so
>difficult (to err is human, to forgive, supine?). But that doesn't make
>Redirected aggression and revenge deserve even greater condemnation, if
>because the former aims at innocent bystanders and the latter has been
>responsible for unending cycles of violent retribution, a history of horrors
>that truly sapient *Homo* ought someday to outgrow.
>"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" Myriad
>moviegoers thrilled (and laughed) to those lines in the film *The Princess
>Bride.* But relatively few are likely to recall this morphing of Montoya's
>mantra, spoken after the estimable revenge-seeker finally achieved his
>retributive goal: "I have been in the revenge business so long, now that
>it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life."
>In killing Osama bin Laden, the United States may or may not have achieved
>justice; we have definitely obtained a measure of revenge. But it remains to
>be seen what we shall do, and what others will do, with the rest of our
>lives and theirs.
>*David P. Barash is an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at
>the University of Washington and a blogger for Brainstorm. Judith Eve Lipton
>is a biologically oriented psychiatrist. Their most recent book, *Payback:
>Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression, and Seek Revenge, *has just been
>published by Oxford University Press.*
>Contributing Correspondent, Science
>Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>New York University
>Email: [log in to unmask]
>"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor
>have no food, they call me a Communist." -- H�lder Pessoa C�mara