September 22, 2006

A fantasy scenario of trying Bin Laden.

Lawrence Wright, author of “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," was asked by a "member of the intelligence community" to use his screenwriter skills to concoct a futurist scenario of what we would do if we caught Osama bin Laden. That got him thinking, and he wrote this op-ed:
First, don’t kill him....

And, please, don’t send him to Guantánamo or torture him in an undisclosed location.....

But don’t bring him to the United States to answer for his crimes, at least not at the beginning....

We should, instead, offer him to the authorities in Kenya, where, on Aug. 7, 1998, a Qaeda suicide bomber murdered 213 people in the attack on the American Embassy....

Then take him to Tanzania, where on the same August morning Al Qaeda hit another American Embassy, killing 11 people, most of them Muslims. ...

Thus exposed as a mass murderer of Africans who had no part in his quarrel with America, Mr. bin Laden would be ready to stand trial for the bombing of the American destroyer Cole and, of course, 9/11. By treating him as a criminal defendant instead of a enemy combatant, we could underline the differences between a civil society and the Taliban-like rule he seeks to impose on Muslim countries and eventually the entire world.

Mr. bin Laden could go on to many other venues to answer for his crimes — Istanbul, Casablanca, Madrid, London, Islamabad — but in my opinion there is an obvious last stop on his tour of justice: his homeland, Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of his countrymen and expatriate workers have died at the hands of Al Qaeda. There he would be tried in a Shariah court, the only law he would ever recognize.

If he were found guilty, he would be taken to a park in the middle of downtown Riyadh known as “Chop Chop Square.” There, the executioner would greet him with his long, heavy sword at his side. It is a Saudi tradition that the executioner personally beseeches the audience, composed of the victims of the condemned man’s crimes, to forgive the condemned. If they cannot, the executioner will carry out his task. After that, Osama bin Laden’s body would be taken to an unmarked tomb in a Wahhabi graveyard, as he would have wanted.
I don't quite understand this scenario. Why would he proceed past the death penalty as a consequence of the first trial? And what makes you so sure the Saudi "audience" wouldn't forgive him? And wouldn't his followers all along be figuring out their own strategy, pursuing their own ends, as their leader held the public spotlight? Wright is so focused on how to use the symbolism of trial to convey the right message to the world, which is fine as far as it goes. But he seems seduced by his own idealism and hope. I'd like to see a second scenario, where idealistic officials embrace the Wright plan, and everything that can go wrong does. Now what?

30 comments:

tjl said...

Wright briefly mentions the possibility that during Ben Laden's captivity his followers might take hostages and commit reprisals. He dismisses this by suggesting that it wouldn't happen if we turned BL over to third-parties like Kenya.

How naive. Any prolonged detention of BL, particularly the multinational one envisioned by Wright, would inspire multiple bloody attacks by Al Qaeda and its wannabes. Atleast Wright has enough sense of the realities to reject the idea of a domestic criminal trial for BL.

If BL simply disappears, on the other hand, his followers will probably do nothing as they will cling to the hope that he is still alive. THe whole discussion exemplifies why the "law enforcement only" model is poorly adapted to anti-terrorism.

monkeyboy said...

hostages taken, venues attacked, and the chance that someone declares him innocent and blames the Jews and President Bush for 9-11.

While his death or capture would be a great thing, he is not the focus of this war.

MadisonMan said...

What if a jury in Kenya or Tanzania or somewhere else finds him innocent? Wright seems to think this couldn't happen. I'm not sure how a jury could do that, but it's not impossible.

Anyway, I still think OBL is dead.

George said...

What a silly person.

Let's remember that New Yorker Contributing Editor Wright also wrote the screenplay for "The Siege," the 1998 movie in which the fascist Arab-hating general (Bruce Willis) is thwarted by noble FBI agent (Denzel Washington).

For expert in-depth analyses of Wright's weltenschaung, consider these comments from Netflix and Amazon customers....

"This film disgusted me when I saw it BEFORE 9/11 and disgusts me even more now as it is an obvious "Hollywood Agenda" movie trying to push this idealistic political view of "love the enemy trying to kill you fueled by their insane views and hatred of their own existence". ..."

"Yep, like most Hollywood movies, they seek to make the military look like a bunch of racist buffoons who are interested in nothing but power. No, I have no association with the military. Most of what happened in the movie would never happen in real life, but everything that happened served the purpose of making the country and military look bad. Why must Hollywood do that? Grrr...."

"...A laughable, Hollywood-style paranoid fantasy that is completely unbelievable and almost unwatchable. If you can accept the idea of a US Army general not only ordering the torture of a captive, but doing it himself, in front of an FBI agent no less, then you'll have no problem believing the movies other ludicrous plot points. These include believing that Arabs would accept training at the hands of a female agent, that the CIA is responsible for training the Middle Eastern suicide bombers, and that the US Army is full of thugs just chomping at the bit to become full-fledged Gestapo officers. After watching this dud, it's obvious that the movie's makers never bothered to do any reasearch on the issues behind the problems of the Middle East and that they were too lazy to notice the incredible amount of plot holes and unresolved story issues in this mess...."

On the plus side, Annette Bening is in the movie.

Faeless said...

It's the Aaron Sorkin version of reality.

Fenrisulven said...

Islamabad might also be problematic, considering they recently released 2,500 Taliban and Al Queda prisoners.

I wonder if Fantasy is permitted under Sharia.

knoxgirl said...

By treating him as a criminal defendant instead of a enemy combatant, we could underline the differences between a civil society and the Taliban-like rule he seeks to impose

It's an absurd notion that we need to somehow demonstrate that "civil society" is better that OBL's vision of the world. If there's any (non-zealot) out there who doesn't already see it, I doubt they ever be convinced.

Balfegor said...

We should, instead, offer him to the authorities in Kenya ...

Then take him to Tanzania,

If he were found guilty, he would be taken to a park in the middle of downtown Riyadh known as “Chop Chop Square.” There, the executioner would greet him with his long, heavy sword at his side.

Hmm. Sounds like . . . rendition!

My own preference is the cage pulled by jeweled elephants down the National Mall.

shimmy said...

Sounds like a pageant of show-trials. Not good.

Mike said...

I really hope we do not capture him alive, but rather that he dies during the raid (if he's not already dead, as MM says). The West, for whatever reason, has lost the ability to pass judgement on evil. Handing him over to a third-party, and thus losing control over him, is stupidty. (I might trust the Saudis to excute him quickly).

monkeyboy said...

My fantasy scenario for a captured Bin Laden is simple. Suspend him from the bottom of a helocopter in a wooden box. Fly him up to the altitude of the 120th floor, and set the box on fire.

SteveR said...

I agree with Mike, much better to see his Uday, Qusay, al Zarqawi dead looking mug on some table than anything else.

Fenrisulven said...

Mine is similar to how Saddam went down. We find "Saladin" hiding in a hole, he surrenders without firing a shot and submits to a hygiene inspection. Hijack Al Jazera's signal and loop it 24/7.

Fenrisulven said...

I agree with Mike, much better to see his Uday, Qusay, al Zarqawi dead looking mug on some table than anything else.

Yah but thats a "war crime"

David said...

Thus exposed as a mass murderer of Africans who had no part in his quarrel with America

Yeah, because unlike killing innocent Africans, his actions against us are justified as part of our spat.

How incredibly offensive. We should riot and threaten his life unless he converts to Americanism.

Seven Machos said...

Yeah, that's pretty dumb. The Aaron Sorkin thing was right on. (Having said that, the guy does seem to have been asked to write a script, and a script is supposed to be dramatic.)

A trial is not a symbolic act, like a funeral. A trial is boring. It's a process geared toward determining what to do about disputes and crimes.

If Osama bin Laden is caught, he should be killed. Whatever the case, he should never, never, never face a civilian justice system.

I personally suspect that he is dead already.

John said...

What if a jury in Kenya or Tanzania or somewhere else finds him innocent? Wright seems to think this couldn't happen. I'm not sure how a jury could do that, but it's not impossible.

In fact, far from impossible! Remember OJ? Remember that 30% of the American people believe that the US and this administration were complicit with the WTC attack?

Do we really want to increase the chances of an innocent verdict by trying him multiple times in questionable venues (including US courts)?

I'd prefer to deal with the fallout from his martyrdom.

J2 said...

Wright's concerned that OBL's followers won't accept an American verdict? Is this a remotely legimate concern for any thinking person?


He thinks an international tribunal might be prolonged and he concerned about enhancing his stature in the Muslim world, so he proposes a rock star equivalent world wide rolling thunder judicial review.

This is not intended as a serious proposal; he gives away the game when he cites 'the erosion of the American legal system'.

altoids1306 said...

The real problem with this fantasy is not that it is laughably impossible, but the implicit moral judgements it makes - that criminals must be tried by laws they recognize, that criminals committing crimes on our soil must be tried in ways other countries accept. That the moral standing of the US is so thin that we cannot imprison and interrogate him.

What men like Wright seem to think is that their disapproval of war and torture and imprisonment somehow makes them clean of these necessary evils. We may not kill cows, but if we eat beef, we are guilty just the same. In the same way, the safety Wright enjoys is built on a network of soldiers fighting in faraway lands, terrorists being tortured in Pakistani and Egyptian prisons, extralegal imprisonment in GitMo, and NSA wiretapping. This is self-defense on a civilizational scale, and even if we don't pull the trigger or crack the whip, we all benefit, and we are all guilty.

His fantasy of multicultural, universally-accepted justice is simply impossible.

The Drill SGT said...

This is the ultimate in "terrorism is a criminal justice matter" writ large with a flavor of "Trans-National and Universal Justice" fantasy thrown in. Pure drivel.

If we get him, it's going to be either with a 500lb laser guide GP bomb like we got that Jordanian coward Z, or we'll get him with a Delta force Kill Team. The written orders will be to take him alive, but I expect that we'll not be successful. Sh_t happens.

The sorts of folks who will be called on to execute the mission have already thought through the ways that their higher ups, politicians and judges could screw this up. I don't think the professionals will let that happen.

The Drill SGT said...

yeah, what altoids said :)

The Drill SGT said...

LOL, commenting on my comments:
The Drill SGT said...
The sorts of folks who will be called on to execute the mission have already thought through the ways that their higher ups, politicians and judges could screw this up. I don't think the professionals will let that happen.


The criminal analogy is the larger number of cop killers that end up shot while being arrested or die while trying to escape or commit suicide even while under a watch.

Sometimes the "justice" system doesn't fully trust the "legal" system

Mike said...

Yes, I pray the folks carrying out the mission are smart enough to not take him alive.

Fenrisulven said...

He might still have relevant intel... McCain could invite him over for tea & crumpets and ask nicely.

Yeah, I agree. Cap him. Allah wants to have a little chat with him.

XWL said...

If we really want to fantasize about appropriate punishments for Osama Bin Laden then I think I have one of the better ones.

I have three words for you, Gender Re-assignment Surgery.

After interrogating him, getting all we can out of him, change he to a she.

Given the society he wants to impose on the rest of the world. Un-manning him would be a fate far worse than death.

Of course, he may have already done this to himself. How else has he evaded capture all this time.

If anyone comes across an unusually tall woman in an Islamic country, I'd check their eyes very carefully.

And even if that's not true that he's had a sex change, it's an excellent rumor to start spreading, as it would force him to come out and deny it, and when he comes into the light, he can be squashed, once and for all.

The Drill SGT said...

XWL said...
I have three words for you, Gender Re-assignment Surgery.


XWL, you are one sick puppy, but I like it :)

XWL said...

I'm not joking about spreading that as a rumor throughout the arabic speaking world.

It would go a long way to damaging the cult built around him.

Psy-ops should be taken seriously, and should be played dirty. The bad guys seem to be doing a better job of it, plus they have the benefit of seeming complicity from our media for their made up shit.

In WWII they turned a simple tune from Snow White into an anti-fascist song, seems like the same should be done on a wider scale today.

(and not just from Parker and Stone, though they have made more effort in that direction than anyone else in Hollywood)

Finn Kristiansen said...

Ever see those comics or cartoons or movies where the evil villian catches the hero, and then devises an elaborate method of death, only to have the hero pull a secret key out of the well hidden utility belt in his buttox? (Or something like that. I think Batman once got out of a human pretzel by bending a finger joint... don't question it, it was physics).

This is like that. It's like a Batman episode, except the opposite. We get the villian, have him tied and twisted, and instead of killing him instantly, we extend his life to make broader points that will only aid in his escaping.

No thanks. Find him, say "Hello Osama, you look well," then kill him dead.

The Drill SGT said...

Finn,

That reminds me of Admiral Halsey, arriving on the carrier Enterprise into Pearl Harbor the evening of Dec 7th, 1941, and viewing the devastation. His remark is very non-PC now: "When this war is over, Jap will only be spoken in hell". It's nice to think our leaders were in full touch with their emotions. Perhaps, a variant should replace your greeting.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Indeed, Drill Sgt.