I think there is a continuing misunderstanding about this. There is a
disctinction to be made between what we say among ourselves about an issue
and what we do about it in the real world. I am confident that Mandi is not
out organizing rallies in defense of OBL's rights, and neither is anyone
else on this list. Neither is any other left group that I am aware of. And
rightly so. We can write some articles about it, as soon have done, but no
one on the left is really going to make a big deal out it. They are going to
fight over issues that matter more. That is what in fact is happening. This
is all I have said from the beginning: Pick your battles. And in actual
fact, this is exactly what everyone on this list is doing.

We must learn to make a better distinction between what goes on in our heads
and what we choose to do in the real world; given our limited resources, the
latter must be chosen very carefully.

That's really all I intend to say on the subject from here on out. What am I
suggesting is in fact what is really happening.


On Wed, May 18, 2011 at 5:50 AM, Mandi Smallhorne <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> “Raw power and with it the ability to do good or evil trumps all”
> That is what the rest of the world sees. The impression is that the USA
> thinks that it’s acceptable to do whatever it wishes anywhere else in the
> world, on its terms, without regard for the sovereignty of nations or the
> opinion, beliefs and principles held by others.
> MB says, “I think there is plenty of evidence that Bin Laden is
> responsible for the murder of thousands, thus I give the killing of him a
> lower priority.” I think in so saying he expresses a belief which is
> probably held by many USA and global north citizens. And it’s
> understandable, but I believe it’s wrong. If you do not follow your
> principles strictly, with the very worst of people, you create precedent
> which can ultimately be used against the innocent, or the less-innocent. Who
> decides what person is sufficiently evil to kill without legal process? What
> makes them so evil – their killing of other people, or their ideology, or
> the fact that they stand against the USA, or….? What are the parameters used
> to decide who is evil enough to kill extra-judicially, and who is not?
> If the USA was not so powerful in military terms, the world would rise in
> outrage against the unfairness of it. (Heavens, there are enough people
> round the world who make quite sober cases for George W Bush to be had up as
> a war criminal – as a killer of many thousands through his commands, just as
> Bin Laden was – but how would the USA react if a bunch of SEAL-equivalents
> parachuted into your country and shot dead Bush?)
> If you have such power, it is even more incumbent on you to exercise it
> with absolute fairness, evenness and justice – or you risk exactly what is
> happening around the world right now. You see an uncomfortable
> ‘counter-narrative’ this writer speaks of emerging in the British press – do
> you have any idea how much greater the resentment is elsewhere? What does
> that lay up for future interactions between the USA and the rest of the
> world?
> M
> *From:* Science for the People Discussion List [mailto:
> [log in to unmask]] *On Behalf Of *Michael Balter
> *Sent:* 17 May 2011 07:21 PM
> *To:* [log in to unmask]
> *Subject:* But Was It Murder?
> [[This is contributed to our ongoing discussion of these issues, and
> Mandi's post from yesterday. If you don't agree with it, please address the
> issues raised, don't attack me personally for posting it.]]
> But Was It Murder?
> Posted on
> May�13,�2011
> By Bill Blum
> Osama bin Laden is dead and the verdict is in. As �Weekend Update� host
> Seth Meyers quipped on �Saturday Night Live� in the show�s first broadcast
> after the terrorist�s death, �Somewhere, high above us, there are 72
> bummed-out virgins.� It didn�t matter to America, Meyers continued,
> whether bin Laden was armed or resisted or was �holding a bunny. We�re
> totally cool with it.�
> The day after Meyers� joke-fest, President Barack Obama�declared on �60
> Minutes�<>that
> �justice was done� and that anyone who questioned that truth needed �to
> have his head examined.�
> Since then a number of polls have shown that the American people, by
> margins of up to 90 percent, support not just the fact but the manner of bin
> Laden�s killing. The president�s popularity has rebounded to levels not
> seen since the early days of 2009. The country, by some indicators, feels
> renewed and vindicated.�
> But amid all the wisecracking, backslapping and official
> self-congratulations, a different and uneasy counter-narrative has emerged,
> best�expressed by Gary Younge<>,
> a columnist writing in Britain�s Guardian newspaper: �This was not
> justice; it was an extra-judicial execution. If you shoot a man twice in the
> head, you do not find him guilty. You find him dead. This was revenge. And
> it was served very cold indeed.�
> As much as we all might wish that the counter-narrative, with all of its
> uncomfortable implications, would fade away, it�s not likely to, given
> this country�s obsession with legal process. �In the United States,� as
> the French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, �everyone is
> personally interested in enforcing the � law.� So it was in 1835 when de
> Tocqueville penned his classic study �Democracy in America�; so it is
> today as the nation continues to celebrate the May 1 death of the world�s
> terrorist mastermind.
> And so it is incumbent upon us to ask even in this highly charged period of
> unbridled emotions: Who�s right on the law, those who praise the killing
> of bin Laden as just and legal or those who condemn the killing as an
> illegal act and even an act of murder?
> The answer, unfortunately, is that there is no easy answer�at least not
> yet. The legality of the killing depends not only on the facts as they
> unfolded at bin Laden�s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but also on what
> body of law, domestic or international, is used to analyze the facts.
> In congressional testimony in the days after the killing, Attorney General
> Eric Holder pronounced the act lawful under any legal standard. The killing
> of a man who was himself responsible for mass murder was warranted,
> according to Holder, and no apologies are needed.
> But even if apologies are unnecessary, a more complete explanation is. To
> test the attorney general�s view, let�s start with a common domestic
> definition of murder. In the U.S., murder generally is defined as the
> unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Murder, in turn,
> is divided into first and second degrees. The degrees and the corresponding
> penalties they carry turn largely on a perpetrator�s state of mind, with
> first degree reserved for killings that are premeditated and deliberate.
> Domestic law recognizes that some killings, though intentional but carried
> out in the heat of passion, fall short of murder and rise only to the level
> of voluntary manslaughter. Equally important, the law recognizes that some
> killings, even when intentional, are lawful, such as those committed in
> self-defense or in the defense of others facing imminent deadly harm.
> It doesn�t take a legal scholar to narrow the debate over bin Laden�s
> killing in a domestic framework. The first question is: What was the
> administration�s intent? Was the mission to capture or kill Bin Laden or,
> as CIA Director�Leon Panetta told<>
> NBC�s Brian Williams, simply to kill him? If the goal indeed was to kill
> bin Laden, then it�s hard to argue that the carefully planned and
> meticulously carried-out work of the Navy SEALs was done with anything less
> than premeditation and deliberation.
> But that�s only the start of the inquiry. The next query is whether the
> killing was justified as an act of self-defense. It�s here that the
> proverbial �fog of war� enters, sparking a series of secondary questions.
> Was there a firefight at the compound, as the first reports suggested? If
> not, was bin Laden armed, or did he lunge for a weapon, as we�ve become
> accustomed to hearing after police shootings at home? Or was he, given his
> reputation and past deeds, to be regarded as a �walking IED� and thus
> capable of causing an explosion that might have killed the Navy SEALs even
> if he had seemed to surrender, as was suggested by�an exchange<>between
> Sen. Lindsey Graham and Holder during a May 4 Senate hearing?
> Were there ever to be a domestic trial, these questions and many others
> would be resolved by a judge or jury. And in resolving the issues, due
> deference would be accorded to the SEALs in recognition of the
> lightning-speed decision-making required of them at the compound. Hindsight,
> any good defense lawyer might argue, is always 20-20. Real time is another
> matter.
> And in any event, defenders of the deed have reminded us, the killing of
> bin Laden was not a domestic law enforcement operation but an act of war
> clearly permissible under the norms of international law. In September 2001
> President George W. Bush signed an executive order authorizing the use of
> all necessary and appropriate force against the perpetrators of 9/11. Obama
> was simply making good on that order. Besides, the case could never come
> before an American jury, so why bother to assess it even hypothetically
> according to the rigors of an American jury trial? Because the case�*could
> *, hypothetically at least, come before an American jury.
> Since the invasion of Iraq there have been several military prosecutions of
> U.S. service personnel for unlawful killings abroad, even some perpetrated
> in the midst of battle. The most notable of these cases concerned the
> courts-martial of two Marines conducted from 2007 to 2009 at California�s
> Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. The Marines were accused of executing
> four unarmed would-be terrorists detained during the 2004 battle of
> Fallujah. Another Marine, discharged from the service before his
> court-martial could convene, was tried before a federal civilian jury in
> Riverside in 2008 under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, a
> statute passed in 2000 and originally intended to oversee the conduct of
> military contractors such as the company once known as Blackwater but
> extended in the Riverside case to cover military members.�
> While the Riverside prosecution and the Fallujah cases resulted either in
> acquittals or plea bargains, each of the accused had been charged with
> deviating from the �rules of engagement� that in essence had obliged them
> to comply with what is often called the International Law of Armed Conflict
> (LOAC). Derived from both customary international law and treaties like the
> 1949 Geneva Conventions, the LOAC prescribes three overarching principles to
> govern killing in war:
> 1. Military necessity, limiting combat to the degree of force needed to
> achieve a legitimate objective.
> 2. The drawing of distinctions between combatants and noncombatants, the
> armed and the unarmed, those who resist and those who surrender.
> 3. Proportionality, prohibiting the use of excessive force.
> Of course, there is little possibility that the Navy SEALs who eliminated
> bin Laden will ever be summoned to an American court to account for exactly
> what occurred at Abbottabad, whether under ordinary criminal law standards
> or those of the LOAC.
> Nor�for better or worse�is it likely that the SEALs or members of the
> Obama administration will ever be summoned to offer an explanation before an
> international tribunal. There are many international courts across the globe
> today, but as a rule, sovereign nations submit to them only by consent. And
> in 2002 the Bush administration �unsigned� the initial U.S. pledge to
> accept the jurisdiction of the tribunal best suited to a bin Laden probe�the
> International Criminal Court, which sits in The Hague under a mandate to
> investigate acts of war.
> In the last analysis, then, unless and until all the relevant facts are
> known, we will be left with a set of unanswered questions about what
> happened and why. Or it may be that the search for answers will yield
> another, even more daunting realization: that despite this country�s
> devotion to law, when it comes to the most vital affairs of state, such as
> killing the world�s most heinous terrorist, we�re in a no man�s land where
> law has no reach, morality is always subject to debate, and raw power�and
> with it the ability to do good or evil�trumps all.
> ------------------------------
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> --
> ******************************************
> Michael Balter
> Contributing Correspondent, Science
> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
> New York University
> Email:� [log in to unmask]
> Web:� �
> NYU: � �
> ******************************************
> �Faced with the choice between changing one�s mind and proving that there
> is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
> � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � --John Kenneth Galbraith
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Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is
no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
                                                  --John Kenneth Galbraith