Taking Out Bin Laden: An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth

A Commentary by

Osama bin Laden's death is a victory for America and President Barack Obama. His end brings the hope of a better world a bit closer. It's a chance the West must not squander.

Crowds celebrate the news of bin Laden's death in front of the White House early on Monday. Zoom
AP

Crowds celebrate the news of bin Laden's death in front of the White House early on Monday.

The scene was unforgettable. Then-President George W. Bush sat in the White House shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Like a Wild West sheriff talking about a despicable criminal, he made it clear he would do everything possible to find Osama bin Laden -- "dead or alive."

Now the Americans have found the al-Qaida leader, and killed him immediately. Thus the complicated question of how and where to try such a mass murderer remains unanswered. But according to the old American understanding of guilt and punishment, justice has been done: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

One can question this form of revenge. Still, even diehard critics of America cannot ignore one simple fact -- bin Laden's death is good news for the world and for freedom.

Death of a Revolutionary

Osama bin Laden, the Arab prince of terror who kept the world on tenterhooks for a decade, has failed in his mission. Many people regarded him as an idol. He promised to free the masses from the control of the West, Arab despots and their followers. But his path produced only new terror, new war and new suffering -- and ultimately his own downfall.

The people of the Arab world have long since chosen a different, better path to freedom. They are currently fighting for more democracy and improved human rights. Bin Laden didn't determine the political agenda. Instead, it was set by freedom fighters in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and beyond. They realized that Islamic extremism, terrorism and the fight against the West don't bring prosperity and security -- that can only be achieved through their own struggle for freedom. In this way the terrorists lost their breeding ground, piece by piece.

It would be naÔve to think that the fight against terror is over. Naturally al-Qaida will continue to exist. Other terrorist leaders will take Osama's place. Many lunatics will see bin Laden as a martyr whose death needs to be avenged, which will make them highly dangerous.

Nevertheless, Islamic extremists have now lost their guiding star, role model and spiritual leader. They will find themselves increasingly isolated. With that comes the hope that their movement will one day simply run out of steam by itself.

Obama's Chance

America has every reason to celebrate. President Obama's domestic standing will be strengthened -- the assassination operation dispels his opponents' suspicions that he is a weakling when it comes to foreign policy.

But that also means that Obama must use this momentum. America can't return to its old hubristic foreign policy, a policy which inadvertently gave monsters like Osama bin Laden supposed justification for their struggle. America must help to strengthen democracy in the Muslim world, and America must finally make sure there is peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Otherwise there will be another Osama.

Roland Nelles is SPIEGEL ONLINE's Berlin bureau chief.

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1.
BTraven 05/03/2011
The allegedly complicated question of how and where to try bin Laden has been the easiest problem to handle since the International Court of Justice has been given the task to hold people of whom is believed that they committed crimes against humanity to account. The judges have been quite successful so far therefore Den Haag would have been a proper place to find out which role bin Laden played when he was still the public figurehead of al-Qaida. A trial would have attracted a lot of media interests, and itís not quite hard to understand that such an hearing could have played a similar role as the Eichmann trial did when his testimonies which were comprehensively broadcast by the media caused the large parts of the public that itís time to accuse late nazi for their crimes. I do not know whether it was possible to get him alive. Perhaps they could have used teargas to numb him and his comrades. A further strange point is that no press conference where details of his elimination are explained has taken place yet. Normally, officials are eager to tell the public how it happened, especially when their special forces have solved their tasks. The combat should have lasted 40 minutes Ė and no Pakistani policeman or soldiers emerged on the site in that time. It would be impossible in Germany. The conclusions which can be drawn from it are limited - either Pakistani officials knew what was happening or the place is far remoter as it has been depicted by the media. I think there are lot more questions which must be answered, of course.
2. An eye for an eye?
Old_Gregg 05/03/2011
---Quote (Originally by sysop)--- Osama bin Laden's death is a victory for America and President Barack Obama. His end brings the hope of a better world a bit closer. It's a chance the West must not squander. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,760166,00.html ---End Quote--- "An eye for an eye" is not an American ideal. "An eye for an eye" comes from the Jewish Torah or Christian Old Testament. We don't walk around over here in the US extracting an eye for an eye. We actually have a very fair and just system of justice. OBL had the past 9+ years to turn himself in to the International Court for a fair trial. He did not. Any rational person would see that as an attempt to outlast the West so that he could once again kill thousands, if not millions of innocent civilians. Not once since 9/11/2001 did he recant or express remorse or guilt for the thousands of innocent men, women and children that he killed. This kill by Seal Team Six was a righteous and professional kill. They did the peace loving portion of the world a favor. Had OBL been taken alive the following media circus may have strengthened his cause. Thank God we killed him and thank God he did not want to be taken alive. This was not "an eye for an eye" this was a rekoning, I hope you are civilized enough to tell the difference.
3. An Eye Ffor an Eye
Ozzoid 05/04/2011
---Quote (Originally by sysop)--- Osama bin Laden's death is a victory for America and President Barack Obama. His end brings the hope of a better world a bit closer. It's a chance the West must not squander. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,760166,00.html ---End Quote--- There is a small problem with this
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