|Nazis on trial, Nuremburg 1946|
Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn is being excoriated by the Tory press, the leader of what is left of the Lib Dems and by his own party's defence spokesperson for saying in 2011 that :
"There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest (Osama Bin Laden), to put him on trial, to go through that process. This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Centre was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died."
Lib Dem Tim Farron attacked these comments as "utterly wrong", apparently unaware that his predecessor Paddy Ashdown had in fact uttered very similar sentiments at the same time as Corbyn, saying that Bin Laden's killing rather than trial under the due process of the law was "wholly, wholly, wholly wrong".
Undeterred, Labour's Kevan Jones chimed in that Corbyn's comments showed he was out of touch with ordinary people. Yet, what is it that appals us most about al-Qaeda and ISIS and their ilk? Is at least one aspect of it not their arbitrary killings of people without any due process of law?
|Labour leader contender Jeremy Corbyn|
We will probably never know for sure what happened when Bin Laden was shot dead by US commandos when they burst into his bedroom. It may or may not have been possible to arrest him. But why would we not regret the absence of a trial?
After all, aren't some of the most famous trials in history the ones that took place at Nuremburg in 1946, when the surviving Nazi leaders of Germany were put on trial to account for their many crimes. It was a showcase for both the appalling acts they had committed and for the fact that, what defined democratic countries over brutal thugs like Hitler's henchmen and, by extension, Bin Laden's gang, was and should be the rule of law and the judicial process of fair trial.
Corbyn has made clear he totally opposes all that al-Qaeda stands for; none of the words he has spoken indicate any sympathy or support for Bin Laden and his terrible deeds. What they do warn is that, if we spiral down rather than hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards, we risk prolonging the agony of conflict and we also perversely allow al-Qaeda to win no matter how many times we kill Bin Laden. That is because what al-Qaeda and ISIS want more than anything is for us to stop being ourselves, stop having free countries ruled by fair laws passed by democratic legislatures and enforced by properly functioning courts using due process.
The trial of Osama Bin Laden would have laid bare his crimes, his poisonous worldview and might have put a crashing halt to the radicalisation of some of those who regard him as a hero. Doubtless, it might have raised some difficult questions too about his past affiliations and the Bush family's relationship with his own relatives; but in the struggle to oppose the Islamists advancing through Syria and Iraq, what could possibly have been a more powerful way of showing that we were better than them?