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John Passant

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May 2011



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bin Laden and justice

I was trained as a lawyer. An important part of my training was about justice. In a criminal context this included the idea that an accused person must be tried before their peers based on the strength or otherwise of the evidence against them.

The jury must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. To put it in crude terms they must be 99 percent certain the accused did it.

In Australia it also means that someone guilty of a heinous crime will not be executed.

Osama bin Laden had none of these rights bestowed on him. Instead an elite unit of US troops invaded Pakistan and executed him in his home. He was unarmed.

There are base reasons one can speculate about as to why bin Laden was assassinated rather than arrested with a view to being tried. He may have become a  living martyr for terrorists. He might have talked about the massive support US regimes gave him and the mujahideen in Afghanistan  in the 1980s.

Maybe the US feared he wasn’t directly involved in 9/11.  Far better to have a dead non-talking ‘martyr’ than a live talking one, especially when the only evidence needed to execute is hearsay, beliefs, suspicions and the like, all untested in court.

‘So what?’ you might say.  ‘He was evil personified and deserved to die.’

Certainly the attack on the World Trade Centre was an evil act. The deaths of nearly 3000 innocent people must be condemned. But principles are not principles if they are not applied universally; they are not principles if they give way to selective application. Who decides when and under what circumstances the principles will and won’t be applied?

Barack Obama? George Bush? Osama bin Laden? In executing bin Laden the US has mimicked the very act of terror he carried out.

In one sense this is not surprising because US terrorism across the globe every day kills tens if not hundreds of civilians. There is no due process for them.

That denial of justice externally is being mirrored in the United States itself. To quote Pullitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges in an excellent speech called on Osama bin Laden’s death:

 As Thucydides wrote, the tyranny that the Athenian empire imposed on others it finally imposed on itself.

Guantanamo Bay is US territory and the US has imprisoned thousands of alleged terrorists without any trial and tortured them.

In the US alleged Wikileak leaker Bradley Manning has been imprisoned since May 2010 and locked down for 23 hours a day. 295 legal scholars have argued his imprisonment contravenes the US constitution. It looks as if he will soon get a show trial.

The US is the prison house of nations. 40 percent of its prison population is black. More black men are in prison than in college. Even fair trials don’t address the systemic issues that produce these outrages.

Obama has continued Bush’s policy of allowing the execution of American citizens abroad. As Glenn Greenwald put it in Presidential assassinations of US citizens

Just think about this for a minute.  Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose “a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests. They’re entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations.  Amazingly, the Bush administration’s policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges — based solely on the President’s claim that they were Terrorists — produced intense controversy for years.  That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution.  Shouldn’t Obama’s policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind — not imprisoned, but killed — produce at least as much controversy? 

Obama determines guilt and the US citizen can be executed. No trial, no charges, no evidence tested in a court. As for non-citizens, the threats against Julian Assange show the ruling elite in the US will have and has no compunction in authorising specific assassinations if they think it appropriate.

Many of us think Henry Kissinger is a war criminal. Can we execute him with immunity? Of course not, nor would we want to. But should he not be before the International Court of Justice in The Hague? Unfortunately justice in these cases is reserved not for the leaders of the main Western powers but for third world dictators. 

On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror: justice has been done. ‘Today’s achievement is testament to the greatness of our country.

To me it shows once again in microcosm the country’s baseness and brutality, not its greatness. Certainly this wasn’t justice. It was an extra-judicial killing of a man whose organisation claimed responsibility for the World Trade Centre killings. But even then those claims, and bin Laden’s precise links to the crime, should have been determined in a court process.

Life is cheap under capitalism. What matters is profit, not people. One billion starve and one billion are malnourished despite there being enough food produced to feed everyone.

The US war in Vietnam killed 3 million; in Iraq more than a million; in Afghanistan tens of thousands. In the Middle East US supported regimes continue to repress their peoples as part of the US grand strategy to control the region and through it the world and to give it the upper hand in the coming battle with China.

Justice is expendable. If the ideology of justice stands in the way of the US winning an important propaganda victory then justice is overthrown.

Glenn Greenwald’s latest offering Killing of bin Laden: what are the consequences? is also worth reading.



Comment from Riley Downie
Time May 3, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Great write up, totally agree – don’t forget the justice bit Obama!

Comment from Calligula
Time May 3, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Mr. Passant –
You said it all in your first few lines.
About a dozen or so was enough.

I doubt whether it is all to do with your legal training though.
Doesn’t matter about upbringing or creed, or education.

There are some who are warriors and some who are peacemakers.
There are very few warriors of compassion but a damned sight less ethical peacemakers.

In this world ‘peacemaking’ has become an industry.
A monopoly of death.

Comment from Wendy
Time May 4, 2011 at 7:35 am

BS my man. We celebrated his death. evidence? He boasted of his crimes. And USS Cole. Hitler mmm not real sure you’re guilty so let’s have us a trial. They had them in the Soviet Union and Korea and every other commie country and they weren’t what you’d call fair.

Love it when all the bleeding hearts get all soft and fuzzy about someone who’d cut your head off rather than say booey. Go to New York and talk to survivors of Twin Towers. They’re having a few drinks at the moment.

Comment from Calligula
Time May 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm

John –
Line in my last, above should have read –
Doesn’t it matter about upbringing or creed, or education?

I heard the recording of the howling on the radio.
Could have been any crowd, even rent-a-crowd or something out of files – but it sounded about right.
Another seppo lynch mob.

Allegedly the New York crowd, supposedly celebrating someone’s ‘extra-judicial’ execution.
I say ‘someone’s’ execution for good reason since I’m only one of many millions letting the world know that I’m not convinced they actually bagged the Bush family’s ex – mate. Not convinced at all.

However I am convinced about the base immorality of those who staged this frightening charade and the unthinking vulpine mentality of those ‘celebrating’ this latest lynching.
The Nurnburg rallies ain’t in it – they displayed discipline. Yet as a kid the Nazi rallies and Benito’s sideshows were portrayed as something to hate and fear.

‘Running dogs of capitalist imperialism’ – must be right. They certainly sounded like enraged hounds after more blood.

But Wendy –
Mr. Passant is a bleedin’ heart. So am I.
Whereas you are savvy, street wise, a woman of the world who realizes that eggs have to be broken to make an omelette.
Forgive me for drawing your attention to the fact that even the rattiest omelettes rarely feature pulverized eggshells.
Might require reflection to work out what I mean. About the same amount of reflection required to sift through concepts like reciprocity, justice, jurisprudence, self-interest, even.
A hint – civilized people follow form and convention, whether omelettes or international policy, for good reason – especially in self-interest.

But don’t the seppos want to assassinate Assange too?
Just kill him without trial ‘cos his organization released a few embarrassing papers to the press.
Didn’t they say that he’d risked soldier’s lives?

Ever wonder why international conventions were introduced banning summary execution of prisoners and requiring the correct treatment and disposal of dead combatants?
Well, Wendy?
Can you imagine what it will be like for western soldiers from now on?
The USofA has created new precedent.
They will now face a new reciprocity.

Comment from Calligula
Time May 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Gitmo Bay –
I’m sure I read somewhere that Gitmo is long term leasehold from Cuba and that Fidel has always kept the cheque/cheques uncashed in his desk drawer.
Some of us forced to acquiesce under threat still manage some classy gesture and to maintain our pride.
Certainly sounds like our Fidel.
As to what happened there – is obviously still happening there – have you read Dave Hicks’ book yet?
I’ll tell you for free that it finished me.

Comment from jack lee
Time May 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm

As reagrds the OBL killing, do you disagree with US means John, or with ends? If the former, I’d suggest you take down the admiring pics of Lenin and Trotsky, whose lethality toward their enemies makes Obama look like Tiny Tim.
If it’s US ends you disagree with, then stick on that, and top being hypocritical about bourgeois legalism. Quaker-pacifist babble anyone?

Comment from Walter
Time May 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Permit me to try again, and I trust I won’t misrepresent your views.

Sheikh Azzam, bin Laden’s rival in the jihad movement, and the man who helped create Hamas, was opposed by bin Laden. He did not share their views and according to ‘The Paradoxical Kingdom’ hated Arrafat and the PLO because they were secularists. Al Qaeda wanted to overthrow the Egyptian government, which was their main target.

You may remember in November 1997 bin Laden’s emerging terrorists 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians were massacred near the Egyptian pyramids. That was his first major attack on civilians. Later he masterminded attacks in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and famously the US, Spain and England. The Egyptian attack was a year after Al Qaeda declared war on America. The reason, bin Laden wrote, was because of US troops in Saudi Arabia.

My issue with what I inferred from your column was the link to Israel-Palestine. Al Qaeda is an enemy of Hamas and always has been. They are on the opposite side of the Muslim religious schism and just recently Hamas began wiping out Al Qaeda elements in Gaza.

Al Qaeda’s main enemy was the Soviets. That is why they moved operations to Afghanistan.

Like many others, I am untroubled by the US military response. This is not a fight over occupation or land or even ideology per se, it is about religion – the cause of most conflict. It is about an extreme and dangerous sect who believe the Koran justifies killing non-believers.

Whatever evils or unforgivable acts the US, Australia etc commit, at least they don’t do it in the name of a God who rewards them with virgins if they slaughter non-believers. This was an evil person and the world is better off without him.

Comment from Ross
Time May 5, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Walter it was Zibigniew Brezezinski who trained and financed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan prior the USSR invasion.Zibig bragged about sucking the Soviets into their Vietnam.They trained the very people they are fighting now.Just as they created Saddham in Iraq they created the resistance movement in Afghanistan they now want to defeat.It is all about, oil,gas,lithium,selling arms and drugs.

The supposed death of Osama heralds a new era in the terrorist industry.I think there will be a new attack in the USA ( ie mini nuke that can fit in a suitcase) and it will be blamed on Pakistan,Iran or Syria.Today we see the Murdoch press that Pakistan was responsible of hiding Osama.There are 1000 drones bombing Pakistan and they have told the USA that enough is enough.They want them out.Saudi Arabia is also seeking a defence pact with Pakistan.This is why Pakistan is being demonised.

The Muslim nations are now looking for unity in the face of Western Imperialism.Any country with oil/gas or valuable resources are now under threat of invasion.

Comment from John
Time May 5, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Ross, I think the real threat to US influence in the region is the Arab revolutions. The US is doing all it can to contain them. Al-qaeda has had no influence in the uprisings for democracy and decency, freedom and food, justice and jobs. It is not about Saudi Arabia and Pakistan reaching a defence agreement; something I suspect the US supports. After all it was the US that agreed to Saudi Arabia going into Bahrain and brutally putting down the rebellion there.

Comment from Calligula
Time May 5, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Walter –
The Lord said – “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”.
Believe I know what he was talking about – ‘cos that sums it up for an ever increasing human biomass that collectively lacks the first sense of self-determination or first principle of decency.

I include the gutless, self seeking, prez of the seppos right in the midst of that list.
Your last two paragraphs – untroubled are you?
Join that list beside Obama.

Not a fight over WHAT?
Are you telling me its about religion?
What sect is killing non-believers?
Did any towelhead kill Dave Hicks when he was over there?

Did we kill anyone in the name of religion?
Beloeve we did. What have I been hearing from our ‘masters’ for bloody years?
JimJam Islam somefriggin’ outfit or other – Howard, Daffy Downer and now Gillard.

God knows what’ll happen if/when Jugears gets his oar in.

You pretend to be a man of the world Walter.
Yet from your safe distance you read as pretty bloody minded and prejudiced.

To me or any reasonable person your words read as kill, condemn. Then kill again.
Is it any wonder that the other team react the same way to the western world’s fit of rabies?

Have you ever considered how someone might assess what you write.
The way you project yourself and how that could be interpreted.

Say, for instance, if the big bunfight happened next week and the “rapacious towelheaded invaders” came pouring down the highway into town –
Can’t you appreciate that if such an unfortunate occurrence ever happened with a retreat in good order – that the authorities would lock you up.
They’d lock you up ‘cos you’d be perceived as a danger to everyone – as someone who refused to abide by the rules of conflict.
Don’t you see Walter that such is the same place Obama has put himself.
And please don’t blame me for that verdict.]
Blame Eisenhower, Montgomery, Guderian, Heinrici, Dowding, Park, Rommel, Smuts – even bloody minded Kitchener had to concede.
For that matter go back almost a millennium and look at what our past ‘heroes’ did to Saladin’s sense of honour.

Walter. For reasons of his own Obama has truly taken it full circle.
From now on our young soldiers SHALL be reaping what he has sewn.

Comment from Graham Dooley
Time May 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm

With respect I think Walter is being misrepresented here by several posters, including PNG. The US backed offensive into Afghanistan is almost 10 years old, one of its chief aims was to destroy AQ and the Taliban. To a limited extent it has achieved these goals but more needs to be done. OBL’s killing may have been extra-judicial or it may have been deemed necessary as the attempt to capture went haywire on the ground. One helicopter crashed into the compound so the SEALs were no doubt a little bit on edge to say the least. Geoffrey Robertson wrote a concise exploration of the issues surrounding the way OBL died just after the event, worth a read. JP’s “justice under capitalism is relative” theme sits somewhat askew with the OBL killing as it is by no means settled whether the death was extra-judicial or just a result of a life & death situation that formed part of the ongoing Global War on Terror. If people think the GWOT is not a good idea, I’d love to hear what the alternative is. Over to the experts. GD

Comment from Walter
Time May 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm


Normally I enjoy your missives but I fear our love and respect is being tested!

It is about religion, well a perverted variation of an interpretation. A religion that sees the West and capitalism and wealth and individualism as threats and thus those who kill go to heaven and get virgins and cable TV.

Check out Sayyid Qutb. He started it all. Studied in the US and found women distatesful. Didn’t make buddies on campus and went all fundamentalist and lets kill people. bin Laden was a disciple.

No love for us mate. They want us all dead or in long beards.

And John, they ban sport too! Barbaric I know, but the Taliban outlaws all games. Guess they wont watch the Kiwi’s thump you lot tonight!

Comment from Sean Bozkewycz
Time May 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Thanks John, you seem to have read a lot of the same articles I have, and come to the same conclusions. I wonder when people will really start asking questions about the WoT? I caught a brief glimpse of Negus the night of the announcement and it was running army recruitment propaganda masquerading as a special report on ‘our boys’ who are so patriotic that when they get maimed they’re not in pain they’re just disappointed they have to wait a while before getting back out there in the action.

Gillard mentioned 18 times in her press conference that ‘the war must continue’ or something very similar.

The message is clear. ‘Yeah we killed someone. It happens a lot. No big deal. Back to work’

I wrote a few questions I’d have liked to ask Gillard myself over at

apologies for the shameless self promotino but it relates well to this post…

I’ll be checking back in John, you’ve got a new subscriber


Comment from Calligula
Time May 6, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Walter –
In another lifetime (I mean back a few years in this lifetime) I used to manufacture sporting equipment. Match rifles.
Mine in 308 W could group consistently to less than point 2 MOA out to max R.

That meant they could, in ideal conditions punch little holes in a target a kilometer away in a tidy little circle not much bigger than about three inch diameter.
Some customers noticed that this might be handy for other than sporting purposes.

Our Army refused to buy off us.
In fact they had the state police illegally shut us down.
They tried to steal my designs too – but that is another story – read between the lines and fit in the concept of greedy bastards who’d prefer to steal other people’s work instead of putting in a few hours themselves..

We had approved overseas customers.
We had local civilian customers.

Some ‘approved’ overeas customers were ‘approved’ Islamic States. They were damned good people to deal with. As honest as the day is long.

Some weren’t.
Pakkers tried to buy my product through Qld state development/Austrade shady deals.
We told them (Pakkers) to ‘go far away’.

With me?
I told ‘em to sod off and was abused for doing so – both by the Pakkies and the local squeezers.
It was a steep learning curve designing, developing and marketing Australian product but to be left completely in the lurch having to do our own security assessments was utterly and completely demoralising and inexcusable on the part of Howard’s greedy stupid industry destroying government.

Then on top of that the idiot rednecks who turned up here, claiming to hate some abstract concept beyond their imagination.
The ‘yellow peril’ repainted and wrapped in a turban.
They wanted to buy my rifles so’s they could kill the invading hordes just waiting up there somewhere.
It became a chant – Reg/Ronnie, whatever – if ‘IT’ ever happens ‘they’ll’ disarm you – take your gun off you and lock you up – ‘cos you’ll be more harm to yourself and your family than you would ever be to that enemy of your sad little imagination.
Of course I had to put it more politely lest they shoot me.

Sorry. I’m sick of it.
Xenophobia is crap and Australians are increasingly becoming over-full of it.

But I will tell you something for free. There is a world up there full of people who do like the look of Australia.
They especially see how greedy, careless and incompetent our ‘ruling class’ is and the way that sort treat our peasantry.
Why not just accept that Passant is making some damned good points – it’s just that he isn’t quite game enough to extrapolate his learned views, their implications, into what is sitting as case one defence scenarios in the Citadel in Canberra.

Oh what Walter? Sorry mate.
No, it won’t be the towelheads, not as such

Comment from Walter
Time May 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

Fair call Calligula, though I don’t fully agree I see where you’re headed with this. let me counter with a notion about human beings and mankind. We’re the same be it capitalist, communist, socialist, Muslim, christian, Jew, athiets and so on.

What did Hobbs say – life is short, nasty and brutal? We are not that evolved. There are those who will always seek power and to kill and crush those who disagree.

Why has socialism never worked? Same reason as Capitalism – once they get in power they crush and surpress and censor and ban and lock up. My issue with John P is not his hatred of capitalism and the US, but his belief that socialism will somehow be a kinder, gentler society.

Yet what have we seen to suggest this? Not the Soviet Union, or China or Cuba or Nth Korea. And in the Arab world, we get Sha’ria Law and no female sufferage or even voting rights, defence of suicide bombing and praise for those who kill thousands with planes and bombs on trains.

Sure, the US is wrong on so many levels, as are we with out affluent greedy lifestyles and racist attitudes. And I certainly agree with John with his very powerful advocacy for Aboriginal rights.

But like Fox Mulder, I need proof. Why will socialism be any better? How will it change human nature? How will it stop the rednecks and the racists and the haters of this world?

Comment from John
Time May 7, 2011 at 11:47 am

A democratic society in which production is organised to satisfy human need comes out of the struggles against exploitation and oppression. In that struggle people change themselves. You can see that transformative process occurring for example in Egypt. None of the countries you mention were or are socialist.

Comment from Calligula
Time May 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Walter –
As John mentioned none of those nations you cited are/were truly communist/socialist other than some pragmatist collectivist elements operating within their social/ commercial/ industrial structures.

Even there both practice and ideals differed wildly from nation to nation.
China immensely different from the old USSR and poor bloody Cuba would definitely be a happier place without an implacable, unforgiving Uncle Sam breathing down her neck 24x7x52.

As for socialism never working – bloody piffle.
Sharing, specializing, working projects together, hoarding surplus, and ‘you name it’ ARE all elements of civilization which at its most sublime and altruistic collectivist form protects every man jack of us.
I choose to call a dedicated form of that – socialism.
Ad-hoc, wasteful, exploitative, punitive interventionist and exclusivist forms of that, I call – capitalist.

In the simplest terms, for sometimes that seems to be the way it needs to be put –
In any society there is always some greedy sod who’ll raid the fridge at midnight and drink all the beer.
The only difference I can tell between socialism and capitalism is that in one society the idiot with the hangover will rightly be told off for pinching everyone’s brew – whereas in the other, the pisstank will somehow have browbeaten everyone into believing he has every right to drink all the beer by right of his self-anointed status. Oh, and demand that someone go get more for him.

In my last I was telling you from my experience how laissez faire is a failure and how brutally even a successful business can apparently be destroyed (in the public view) but in reality stolen by faceless untouchable bastards.
It (laissez faire) is nothing but a medium for corruption – in Australia that means laborite and liberal.

Their policies are those of self-interest and greed.
One looks at what they perceive as the pot of gold from the ‘sunny side’ side – the other (depending who has ‘won’ the ‘election’) from the ‘shady side’.
In the meantime while they’ve been posturing and scrabbling over the prize neither has noticed it has turned into a crock of shit.

Then your ‘just wars’
In my view Arthur (Bomber) Harris and Carl (Tooey) Spaatz are both mass murderers and consequently war criminals.
I am shouted down and abused for believing certain images of blackened corpses stacked like cordwood are the victims of the around-the-clock firebombing of German cities.
Of course they’re not, I’m told. Only a dickhead would believe that. They are the victims of the ‘final solution’.

But I must be a dickhead ‘cos I also believe that Harris, Spaatz and all those poor bastards who did their dirty work were patriots and brave men who took the hell they caused with them in their dreams to their grave.
that is. I can respect those who found they had to do the filthy work but refrained from succumbing to murderous insanity and excess in their later public and private lives.
I can respect them because they were NOT assassins.

Yet if the second innings had gone against the Allies they would both have been executed for war crimes – indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations, mass murder.
As we know the Allies did prevail and established courts of law in order to try alleged Axis war criminals.
Any reasonable person would have to be convinced that there is some disparity between the conduct of the Allies immediately post WWII and that of the coalition of the willing in 2011.
I submit that Obama has treated Osama, a foreign national, extra judicially, in doing so has brought about his unlawful death on the soil of a sovereign nation state and has compounded that by causing the wounding and possible deaths of other foreign nationals during that assassination.

Such is a matter as is within the jurisdiction the International War Crimes Commission or the criminal courts of the nation state where the crime was committed.

Comment from John
Time May 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Our analysis is that the stalinist states were state capitalist countries.

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