MAY 2nd 2011 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world/

It was not necessary for Bin Laden to die in this way, but it seems to have been his choice. If he had believed in the cause he financed and manipulated, he could have surrendered publicly any time in the past few years and demanded to be put on trial. Had he done so, he would have had quite a choice of how to play the field and even recruit more followers. But Osama just believed in Osama and his ideas of how to solve the world's problems. It was a belief he desperately wanted the world to espouse. The way he went about it was, how shall I put it, counterproductive?

He found the combination of his considerable wealth and imposing presence played very well with the dispossessed and all those who had genuine grievances to lay at the door of their less than perfect societies, governments, police forces and heads of state whose regimes were not by any stretch of the imagination capable of making the change to liberal democracy in a constitutional republic or monarchy. That these regimes were supported by oil-wealth (western money with America the big spender) and western military alliances (with America the big spender) put him on a collision course with the US. But if that was not enough, where there was no oil wealth, America backed and bankrolled a country that ignored all UN resolutions in its occupation of Palestinian land.

So Bin Laden took his stand. Seeing that the norms of law and order, the rules of both war and peace were stacked against him, he decided with impeccable logic to take advantage. Bound by no rules or laws at all, he would arm the dispossessed with weapons and training in the art of terror.

It has to be said he had very considerable success, but all of a negative character. As with other historic examples, Bin Laden had nothing to offer by way of alternative to our various attempts at civilization. It was yet another example of 'Will without Idea' - to quote a well known parody of one of the philosophers who inspired Adolph Hitler. 

US Republicans who are happy to give President Obama credit for ordering the careful operation which culminated the action in which Bin Laden has just died are now keen to criticize Bill Clinton for not dealing with him years ago before the attack on the twin towers. I cannot agree. Clinton would have caused different, unimagnable problems if he had attempted continued premptive strikes on Bin Laden or tried to bring him before a criminal court without cast iron proof of his actions in connection with the terror attacks he had ordered and financed.

Bin Laden was someone we had to endure. He was a product of the mistakes that any superpower is prone to make. Any biologist who has studied the principles of organic agriculture, or of the dietary health of animals and humans, will confirm that the development of conspicuous growth that produces any relative excess will produce a response by nature to test it to the ultimate, to curtail the abuse of privilege and power that may come from the amassment of wealth without due regard to the less fortunate, and may through negligence allow the seeds of hatred to germinate. Osama was driven by vanity, which prevented him from accepting the conventional means of working for the betterment of his fellow humans. He did what he did because he could, and because he could manipulate his followers. There are others who will try to follow in his footsteps. We must hope that they will diminish with time.

I can't help adding that, given what we have learned about the desperate behaviour of New York's banking fraternity over the past few years, it is only Bin Laden's pitiless methods rather than his choice of enemies that .can be seriously criticized in demolishing the sacred cows of US capitalism. It's a pity he didn't have a nice wife from Balham telling him to "calm down dear" - though given the living hell the Palestinians have endured, it is still possible to understand people losing it big-time. That is where the Christian philosophy would seem to have an overwhelming advantage if cycles of revenge and distrust are to be broken.

MAY 4th 2011

Although the planning and timing of the actual raid was clearly kept a secret from all (including the Pakistan ISI) it is pretty obvious that the compound had been the subject of shared intelligence and suspicion over the past year or two. I see no reason why relations with Pakistan's current administration should be strained as a result of what has just occurred; but it is clear there are those within the Pakistani military and security service who have connections and relations with those who are opposed to any alliance with the USA or any western or non-islamic countries. That's just a fact. I don't see how it could be otherwise. It in no way detracts from the bravery of those in the Pakistan military and security services who have fought against terrorism or the civilian population who have suffered terribly from it.

I see absolutely no point in releasing photos of the dead Bin Laden. As for those who think he is still alive, why worry about them?
Anyone who can show that they have a legitimate need for proof of his death can naturally be invited or send an official representative to a private viewing of material evidence, including videos. A formal death certificate can be issued by Pakistani authorities based on such evidence.

That Hamas and Fatah are joining to prepare for a new Palestinian election is an obvious necessity, as they must have a single, elected government. Unfortunately Israel will not negotiate with the elected government that follows, on the grounds that Hamas supporters are terrorists. That could be true of a few of them and would be reasonable if Israel gave a fig for the law and the UN, but  it doesn't. Netanyahu has no intention of returning the land seized and settled by Israel. Result: more deaths must be expected of innocent citizens of all nations, creeds and colours who have no say in this dispute. The death of Bin Laden will make no difference at all, and growing democracy in the region, even if Al Qaida has no part in it, will not bring support for Israel's illegal position.

The Moral Maze discussion on Osama Bin Laden was extremely good. Many points were very well covered.

What was overlooked was the extreme danger for the American troops doing the job, and the very limited time and opportunities.
There was a 40 minute violent fire-fight, and it could have gone wrong right up to the last minute.
At any moment a prepared explosion could have blown up the attackers and Bin Laden could have escaped.
When they finally got to him, he had not surrendered.

It turns out he was unarmed. But suppose he had been an Osama look-alike with a suicide vest.
Anyone in charge at that moment would have taken the decision to take him down, and then verified his identity, and then taken him away to make sure they had the right man. That is what they did. Any other action risked disaster, militarily and politically.

It has NOT made the world a safer place. Nothing will. That is not the issue or even the aim. If safety was the key to life, we would not be here. Let me put it really simply just in case there are people who still don't get it.

Due to the excessive amount of murder and mayhem organised and promoted by Osama Bin Laden over many years, involving the deaths of people all over the world, there was a strong case for his arrest and trial before an international court. Realising his freedom was seriously at risk, Bin Laden managed to go to earth in Pakistan, a country suffering domestic confusion and division where he had a chance of hiding away without being detected.

There were then two possibilities:
1. The Pakistan authorities locate and arrest Bin Laden.
2. Failing (1) above, the US goes in and takes him out.

Number one above failed. We do not know exactly why, and it doesn't make a lot of difference. I do not consider unqualified blame can be laid at the door of the Pakistan administration.

That left option (2). There is nothing more useful to add.

Legalistic arguments cannot override at this level, where by definition law enforcement has broken down. Even 'laws of war' are a convention, not an a priori truth. The BBC has quoted a typical pundit (turns out it's the Archbishop of Canterbury, who I rather admire) as saying "The killing of an unarmed man leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling". Diddums, he must be spared that of course, that is what the law is for isn't it? Well, no. The purpose of laws is to avoid violent or damaging and escalating conflict. The abuse of law is more subtle than the refusal of law, but each can cause the other and both can result in a situation where law enforcement within the law is rendered impossible - see Gödel, Escher, Bach for further enlightenment. Unless the law is enforced by the 'sovereign power' the social contract breaks down, and with it all law.

OBITUARY (Highly recommended): http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/02osama-bin-laden-obituary.html

There is now another debate about whether water-boarding is torture, when the obvious answer is: if applied either repeatedly or to a sensitive person, yes. If used to scare a terrorist into talking because he believes mistakenly his end has come, certainly not. Torture, as the world means, is physically damaging. Waterboarding properly timed leaves a terrorist in much the same condition as before. after recovering from the shock that caused them to cooperate. Whether what they say is the truth is not relevant to this debate. That always has to be assessed. If it warns of a pending attack, there is nothing to lose by acting prudently on it.

MAY 16th 2011
Senator John Kerry seems to have done a good job on his visit to Pakistan, not to apoligise but to ensure future cooperation in anti-terror operations.
He has explained the secrecy of the raid as a security necessity, and surely that is credible from any point of view.

MAY 22 2011
In a frank and informative interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, President Obama indicated that, if he had to, he would mount a raid like the one that took out Bin Laden again if it meant preventing plans to attack Americans and their allies 'coming to fruition'. This declaration was not aimed at Pakistan or any other country but at terrorist leaders, financiers and controllers who might think they were safe if they had sufficiently terrorised and blackmailed any individual(s) within another county's security services so as to prevent those services from discovering and betraying their presence.