I’ve heard speculation that recent events in Pakistan — the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and others — may finally make it possible for the US to locate Osama Bin Laden.
Assuming that theories that the US doesn’t really want to capture or kill Bin Laden because of connections to his powerful family are false (I honestly have no opinion about this), the question arises:
If we get him, what should we do with him?
Some will undoubtedly want to put him on trial, while others would like to publicly throw him off a tall building. Some will claim that our behavior must be based on our commitment to universal principles of morality and law, while others will point out that he didn’t treat the 3,000+ victims of 9/11 morally and he shouldn’t be treated any better.
There will be the usual statements that “it would be bad to make him a martyr”. Let’s dismiss this right away: his supporters are already fanatical enough to commit suicide in order to advance their goals. So it really doesn’t matter if they have one more picture of a dead guy to hold up.
My point of view is beginning to show: a war-crimes trial would be incredibly expensive and provide a long, drawn out opportunity for his supporters to present their point of view to the world. This point of view is not something that can be debated alongside our Western one; it represents a wholly different paradigm. There’s nothing to talk about.
Indeed, if we do anything other than kill him, we will be sending a message to the other side. It will not be the message that we are moral and strong enough to treat him ‘fairly’, it will be the message that we are too weak and cowardly to fight back. The message we might want to send won’t cross the barrier between our disparate conceptual schemes.
Don’t even bother arresting him, even if the goal is to electrocute him after due process. Just find him and blow him to bits in the cheapest way possible.
The other side will understand.