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Monday Message Board

May 9th, 2011

It’s time again for the Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

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  1. May 9th, 2011 at 17:37 | #1

    Perhaps an idee fixe on my part, but it strikes me that the “cold-blooded” execution of bin Laden (and his son) is identical to way that criminal organizations behave. It would seem clear intent involved. The fact that it might be supposed that any person in their nightwear may be wearing a suicide bomb goes beyond incredulity. How convenient that the full facts of the occurrence will never now be revealed?

    If actions are not in accordance with the rule of law – and that applies especially in a war – and if violence is the first resort, what is the difference to the philosophy espoused by bin Laden? We have to be careful regarding the implications and ramifications of statements expressed that “justice was done”.

  2. Ikonoclast
    May 9th, 2011 at 20:59 | #2

    When Alexander the Great asked a captured pirate “what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea,” the pirate answered: “What meanest thou by seizing the whole earth? I do it with a petty ship amd I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.” (St. Augustine, The City of God).

  3. Freelander
    May 9th, 2011 at 23:15 | #3

    If the murder was motivated by the ridiculous concern OBL was wearing a bomb, why then only shoot the wife in the leg? Surely, following that reasoning she could have been sporting a bomb as well? What was dispensed was comic book justice. With a Nobel Peace Prize winning law lecturer as President we could have expected better.

    Just as concerning, closer to home, are the almost regular executions by police who seem particularly threatened by criminals our grandparents’ generation of police seemed better able to arrest without that ultimate sanction. That, and the now regular use of tasers for summary extrajudicial punishment.

  4. Jim Birch
    May 10th, 2011 at 09:45 | #4

    A quick visualization of the relative size of several big economic numbers

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWKV-EkF8WI

  5. Jim Birch
    May 10th, 2011 at 11:08 | #5

    @wmmbb

    Perhaps an idee fixe on my part, but it strikes me that the “cold-blooded” execution of bin Laden (and his son) is identical to way that criminal organizations behave.

    Perhaps. OBL is an avowed terrorist (jointly) responsible for a huge number of deaths. There’s no substantive disagreement between AQ and the US about what he actually did; the dispute is about the ethics of the actions. We can be certain (“beyond reasonable doubt”) he would have been found guilty and executed in a US court.

    It may have been preferable to see OBL in court, but:

    1. Would you volunteer to be the person to take him in to custody? Under what conditions would you want to be able to shoot to kill? After-the-fact armchair analysis is quite different to placing your own body in a life threatening situation. If you were sending someone else and had to take the best care of them that could be reasonably achieved what rules would you enforce?

    2. Taking OBL into custody would have significant risks of reprisals and hostage taking (ie further innocent deaths). How would you trade the requirement for proper process against these deaths if they had occurred?

    3. Reality check: There are plenty of people more deserving of justice than OBL, aren’t there? Of the players and bystanders in this unfortunate set of events he was one of the seriously bad guys: he wasn’t writing anti-US literature to achieve political objectives, he was directing the violent deaths of numerous innocent individuals. Are you falling for something like Stalin’s “tragedy and statistic” illusion?

    To my mind this was, while imperfect, one of the least unsatisfactory outcomes in the whole monstrous mess.

  6. May 10th, 2011 at 22:14 | #6

    I used to think The Fin Review aimed at a target audience of higher mental age than did the others. Sadly, the inclusion of Greg Craven’s, VC of Australian Catholic University, attempt at debunking climate science kills that. (AFR, Mon 9May p54)

    His argument in summary is atmospheric physics have 2 extremes, doom-saying scientists and professional skeptics. And then there’s ‘us’ in the middle who shouldn’t worry our pretty heads on this highly technical scientific controversy that has no evidence. Thus there’s no evidence we need a carbon price.

    I think the Fin used to be able to claim a better product than the tabloids.

  7. Jill Rush
    May 10th, 2011 at 23:06 | #7

    The death of Bin Laden is troubling on many levels. However from a practical point of view it stops hostages being taken to free him, it means that there is no place for people to make pilgramages to his grave because he was buried at sea and it prevented him from having a soapbox in court to declaim his viewpoint and possibly continue to radicalise young people to become suicide bombers.

    A trial would also have allowed him to make a mockery of the court process as we have seen with the trials of people such as Milosevic. For those of us who disagree with capital punishment he would have also brought about divisions in society in regards to what a post trial future would have been.

    Obama seems to have chosen the least worst option knowing that there would be consequences that would arise such as people being troubled by extra-judicial killing and invasion of a sovereign nation. He obviously decided that the benefits outweighed the negatives.

    There are those who will mourn his death such as Abu Bakir Bashir – but this is hardly likely to make the rest of us sorry even if we disagree with the killing. No doubt this was part of the calculation in making the decision. It was an extraordinary operation.

  8. TerjeP
    May 10th, 2011 at 23:53 | #8

    Budget 2011 is a disappointment. There was no income tax cuts. We should always have income tax cuts until there is no income tax. Even if things are tight there should still be some token cutting of income tax rates. It is wrong not to cut income taxes. It seems the ALP only cut spending to fund new spending. They are worse than Howard.

  9. May 11th, 2011 at 00:25 | #9

    @ Jim Birch

    I am not sure that bin Laden would get a trial in the US, many of those held in Guantanamo Bay have not. It would seem that torture is more probable. Public trials are essential for establishing the facts of the case, rather than burying them at sea or holding them as state secrets.

    Democracy presupposes accountability and transparency. The separation of powers is a useful doctrine. Typically, totalitarian rulers, with Stalin not an exception, can find plenty of irredeemably evil people to be done away with, or those you unfortunately are in the way. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the War on Terror, and there is no end in sight.

    Retaliation and revenge, often indiscriminate, inevitably adds to the cycle of violence, which was bin Laden’s essential strategy.

  10. Ikonoclast
    May 11th, 2011 at 07:39 | #10

    @TerjeP

    TerjeP says, “We should always have income tax cuts until there is no income tax.”

    Is it just income tax you want abolished or all taxes? With your answer, give a quick outline of why you say this.

    I guess abolishing taxes does not presuppose there will be no government. MMT-Chartalists would say you could fund government without taxes. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to ask. Do you see any roles for a government? If so, what roles and how would you fund them?

  11. Ernestine Gross
    May 12th, 2011 at 06:10 | #11

    @TerjeP

    Why do you want income tax to be successively reduced until there is no more income tax?

  12. Alice
    May 12th, 2011 at 06:58 | #12

    @Ernestine Gross
    Ernestine, its because Terje thinks we will turn into little happy friendly villages and be ruled by no government because without tax, there can be no government. God help us at the thought of what or who would spring up to grab the reigns of power and control. If Terje thinks we would pay “no tax” (or a variant of) at all in that perfect libertarian world, then he would be proved wrong pretty smartly is my guess.

    For Terje, abolishing income tax is just a method to abolish government.

  13. Jim Birch
    May 12th, 2011 at 11:20 | #13

    @wmmbb

    Democracy presupposes accountability and transparency.

    Yes, but it also conversely proposes freedom and privacy. AFAICS it’s driven by a mix of conflicting principles, plus a lot of other less noble stuff. (Unfortunately) recourse to hypothetical entities like ethical principles is unsatisfactory unless everyone presumes the same ones and agrees they apply to the situation. In other situations, we are forced weigh up the actual costs and benefits. I certainly agree that getting OBL to court would be preferable other things being equal, but not at all costs.

    I’d still be interested in your reply to my specific points if you’re willing. You could also add the point Jill raised about not leaving a place for pilgrimages, and the problems with a trial. Without a basic level of shared purpose and values, courts become simply a smug weapon of suppression.

  14. May 12th, 2011 at 12:08 | #14

    Ok Jim:

    Whatever can be said about the apparent execution of OBL it was not justice.

    It may be able to be argued that it was an act of war, but then it seems to me you concede that those describe as terrorists to behave in accordance to those conditions, which seemingly provides no constraints with respect to civilian deaths. I don’t think that is a good idea, but I suppose it is the underlying argument.

    It seems that OBL both claimed and denied involvement in 9/11, and so the extent of his culpability was inferred rather than proven. It is on the record that the Taliban Government of Afghanistan, except that portion controlled by the Northern League, asked for evidence of OBL’s involvement and was not given any perhaps implying there was no evidence.

    As your specific points:

    We do not know, and probably will never know, other than the witness accounts of the wives and children, the sequence of events. One-sided is one description. His DNA was checked after he had been killed, and that evidence is on the public record.

    The second point is speculation, but it looks as it the war in Afghanistan will continue, including drone attacks. The suggestion of the Taliban Government to trial him in a Muslim country makes a lot of sense – now, for example, Egypt would have been an option.

    Even the most deserving, require justice. Otherwise, it leads to unanimous violence and scapegoating for which recent history provides horrible examples.

    As for Jill’s point about pilgrimages, European Medieval History illustrates how easy it is to create shrines.

  15. Ikonoclast
    May 13th, 2011 at 05:27 | #15

    @Ikonoclast

    Hmmm, I wish TerjeP would answer my questions.

    Is it just income tax you want abolished or all taxes? With your answer, give a quick outline of why you say this.

    Do you see any roles for a government? If so, what roles and how would you fund them?

  16. May 14th, 2011 at 08:18 | #16

    TerjeP’s post I began to read as a spoof, thinking that he had suddenly changed his spots, and moved from his fundamentalist libertarian (a tautology) stance far enough to be able to laugh at it. Then I realised that he was deadly serious. Oh dear.

  17. May 21st, 2011 at 14:22 | #17

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