In the quest to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, the option must be given strong consideration: capturing him, then taking him before an international tribunal. However unlikely, especially given our president’s call to bring him back “dead or alive,” bolstering the forces of international justice, not strengthening the hand of U.S.-led global policing, must be the clear aim of the coming actions. Such a goal is ultimately no more quixotic than the idea that terrorism can be eliminated by military action alone.
If pursued successfully, the trial of bin Laden could hearken back to Nuremberg or follow the more recent prosecution of Milosevic. Summon international outrage against the accused, which in this case means emphasizing the views of moderate voices from within the Arab and Muslim worlds. And let the accused have a say in court: here the U.S. could shock the world by actually giving a hearing to the resentments of the region that extremists like bin Laden and his followers have capitalized on. Let him discuss U.S. policy in Iraq and elsewhere, but at the same time grill him on the positions of the Taliban and other fundamentalist regimes.
The forces of world opinion will continue to condemn bin Laden’s evil actions, but the U.S. must now earn global respect for its policies in the Gulf region and Central Asia. Unilateral pursuits, in particular long-term presences in Pakistan and Afghanistan, will not do so. Operation Infinite Justice, perhaps, should be renamed Operation International Law.
DEMOCRACY MUST CONTINUE
The Brooklyn Rail joins in the widespread approval of Mayor Giuliani’s handling of the current crisis. Along with the city’s fire and police departments, as well as its thousands of rescue workers and various medical staff, Giuliani deserves a sincere thank you for an ongoing job well done. In the mayor’s case, however, such skill in the hour of need cannot be treated as a rational for negotiating the will of voters regarding term limits.
As a non-profit organization, the Brooklyn Rail, Inc. cannot endorse any candidates for political office. We can state, however, that we believe strongly in the democratic process, and that we encourage high voter turnout in every election. As mayor during the “prosperous” past eight years, Giuliani on far too many occasions proved quite willing to crackdown on free speech, freedom of expression, and the belief that one is innocent before being proved guilty. With ominous signs of national assaults on such freedoms already upon us—particularly given the racial profiling and detention of Arab-Americans—it is essential for New Yorkers to rally behind the Constitution. Voting in the upcoming elections is a good way to start.