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The European Media Reacts to Death of Osama Bin Laden

European journalists have focused on whether the killing was permissible under international law; some are now calling for an international commission to investigate the American action.

by
Soeren Kern

Bio

May 5, 2011 - 12:08 am

A story in the Guardian titled “Osama bin Laden Killing Sparks Calls for Early Afghanistan Withdrawal” says:

The killing of Osama bin Laden has opened up divisions inside Barack Obama’s administration over whether the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which is scheduled to begin this summer, should be bigger and faster than planned.

Politicians, soldiers and analysts from the U.S. to Afghanistan have debated whether the removal of the al-Qaida leader will shorten the war and open the way for reconciliation with the Taliban.

A fawning love letter to Obama by the left-wing Independent titled “Obama Has Shown the World Why it Fell in Love with Him” says:

He is not the Messiah, but he deserves to sleep easy in his bed, and leave the 3am angst to malevolent midgets like Donald Trump who will never trouble him again.

* * *

To those watching at home and around the world, he said, “a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.” After two years of hawkish foreign policy barely distinguishable from his predecessor’s, he has made good on that promise – not just with the killing of bin Laden, but by its manner. All the expert advice, we read, was to do what the Bushes, Clinton, Reagan and all other leaders in memory, recent or otherwise, would have done, which is flatten the compound and its environs with missiles.

* * *

People have criticised him for being ‘professorial’ as well as arrogant. They will do so no longer. He pondered for months, studied the research, weighed up the evidence, and reached the right conclusion. This is one cool, tough prof, and the lesson he has taught by example won’t quickly be unlearnt. In asymmetric warfare against a stateless enemy, invading sovereign states and slaughtering civilians is not the way to go.

If that sounds childishly simple, it defeated the simpleton Bush and his brutish cabal as they confused two-bit fake patriotism with American self-interest, and indiscriminate crusader cruelty with military wisdom. Let no one hear attempts to share Obama’s credit with Dubya without revulsion. He failed pitifully in this, as in almost every thing else, and even if water-boarding a key al-Qaeda operative helped to identify the courier, it cannot begin to justify holding boys of 14 and senile 89-year-olds at Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo remains open. Obama hasn’t honoured on every promise, nor will. He is not the Messiah, although if the Kool Aid truck has redelivered at last, make mine an octuple.

Also at the Independent, Robert Fisk, the veteran Middle East correspondent, like many of his left-wing colleagues, has tried to promote conspiracy theories.

One essay by Fisk is titled “If this is a U.S. Victory, Does that mean its Forces Should go Home Now?” It says:

And there’s Bin Laden’s secret burial in the Arabian Sea. Was this planned before the attack on Bin Laden, with the clear plan to kill rather than capture him? And if it was carried out “according to Islamic rights” – the dead man’s body washed and placed in a white shroud – it must have taken a long time for the officer on the USS Carl Vinson to devise a 50-minute religious ceremony and arrange for an Arabic-speaking sailor to translate it.

Another Fisk conspiracy theory is titled “Was He Betrayed? Of course. Pakistan Knew Bin Laden’s Hiding Place all Along.” It says:

A single shot to the head, we were told. But the body’s secret flight to Afghanistan, an equally secret burial at sea? The weird and creepy disposal of the body – no shrines, please – was almost as creepy as the man and his vicious organisation.

* * *

The Americans were drunk with joy.

* * *

By midday yesterday, I had three phone calls from Arabs, all certain that it was Bin Laden’s double who was killed by the Americans – just as I know many Iraqis who still believe that Saddam’s sons were not killed in 2003, nor Saddam really hanged. In due course, al-Qaeda will tell us. Of course, if we are all wrong and it was a double, we’re going to be treated to yet another videotape from the real Bin Laden – and President Barack Obama will lose the next election.

The center-right Daily Telegraph, in an essay titled “How Many More Details of the bin Laden Raid will need to be ‘Clarified’?” says:

Oh dear, and it was all going so well. The White House has just “clarified” crucial aspects of the special forces operation  that ended with the execution of Osama bin Laden. Specifically, it has pointed out that the leader of al-Qaeda was not firing an AK-47 when he was shot dead and that his wife was neither killed nor used as a human shield. Those three vivid details of the raid were the ones that dominated newspaper front pages across the world – and not one of them turns out to be true.

The glaring difference between the two versions was being attributed to “confusion” by the White House. What officials called the “fact pattern” – and we would call the truth – was only emerging as more of the participants were debriefed. This is all rather troubling. The fog of war does lead to confusion and mistakes but wouldn’t it have been more sensible if the White House had debriefed all the participants before pumping out headline-grabbing but inaccurate accounts of the action?

Also in the Telegraph, an essay titled “The Death of Osama bin Laden is American Rough Justice, Wild West-Style” says:

America is a nation of laws, but beneath all that fine sentiment about procedure there is a stronger hunger for natural justice. One is put in mind of the great, 19th-century historian Hubert Howe Bancroft, whose work on the Wild West discovered and defended an American tradition of personal, violent justice. Lynch law and vendettas, he wrote, were the informal exercise of a people’s will to obtain a verdict that the state was currently powerless to achieve. Europeans had been emasculated by their reliance upon formal law and bureaucracy. It was in the American wilderness that the individual was once again freed to pursue their own kind of rough justice. The assassination of Osama is as American as the shootout that killed Billy the Kid. It is a personal Wild West drama writ-large on the global stage.

Then there’s the continental European media.

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