Is it ghoulish to demand the body?

By skepticlawyer

Because I have a strong feeling that anything less will invite disbelief. In the alternative, I need to give my unwilling suspension of disbelief a bit of a rest.

[I am, in case you hadn’t noticed, talking about Osama bin Laden, who has cashed in his chips at last. Good riddance to bad rubbish].

46 Comments

  1. Posted May 4, 2011 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Patrick, I don’t think I’m being dogmatic. I’m just looking for a better reason than he was a ‘bad-guy’.

    Part of what war? The war on ‘terror’? There might have been an argument about Afganistan if Abbottabad wasn’t a couple of hundred kilometers from the border.

    Wars are against countries, not people or ideas. Does the ‘war on drugs’ justify the government assassinating drug dealers, or anyone who happens to be pro-drugs?

  2. Posted May 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I think it would be preferable that he was tried and convicted in a court. With one proviso- on the basis that the court is only there to strictly try the relevant elements, and not to provide a pulpit for whipping up general political support (or worse), the process should be far more tightly controlled than in the Milosevic scenario from the outset.

  3. Posted May 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I should add that I have no problem with the way OBL was killed; if we persist in believing that there can only be war against state actors, then we will do some very silly things indeed.

    I will also point out that I have almost zero time for arguments – from either side – derived from international law, which hovers between being ‘not law’ and ‘law, but hooey’ in my view. Law ‘runs out’ in situations like this because it is a blunt instrument; far better to use moral reasoning (with its particularity) in situations like this, in order to assess each case on its merits.

    Something of the problem of using law to resolve superficially similar conflicts can be seen in the ‘War on Drugs’ issue. It is very difficult to draw a legal distinction between the activities of Mexican drug cartels and al Qaeda. It is, however, easy to draw a moral distinction between the two.

  4. Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of what we call it, I think we need to consider very carefully the rules/laws/morals traditionally accepted in conflict between nations when applying them to other forms of conflict. There are many things that may be reasonable in a conflict between nations due to time and reasource constraints (i.e in a theoretical/moral sense POW should all have certain rights and legal processes followed, but its not always practically possible due to sheer number). However in cases of nations (particularly powerful ones such as the US) against small groups of individuals, these resource constraints do not really exist. Would it have imposed an unreasonable burden on the US to try to capture OBL rather than kill him? The circumvention of rights and processes is more about political expedience than practical limitations in this case, which is something I find troubling.

    It is, however, easy to draw a moral distinction between the two.

    It is? Both kill innocent civilians to gain power and further their political cause. At least al Qaeda have a superfical pretext of being selfless.

  5. Patrick
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    ah, desipis, now you are reasoning like a true international lawyer (I don’t, if anyone is misled, mean that in a nice way). There is strong prevailing trend in international law circles to consider US use of drones etc as impermissible, despite being by far the most targeted and humane means available anywhere, because drones are ‘too easy’ and thus, the idea goes, existing IHL is not enough of a constraint on powerful countries like the US (this reasoning also applies to Israel, of course).

    I disagree. I think the US and any other reasonably civilised and democratic nation is entitled to defend itself against nations, terrorist networks and pirates with whatever is the most precise means at its disposal.

    I have no problems whatsoever with calling this a war, that it what first Bush and then Obama have repeatedly called it and I agree with them. If you don’t want to call it war then I have no problems with calling it justifiable self-defense.

    kvd, I’m sorry I haven’t responded to your comments to your satisfaction. Unfortunately I don’t have much else to say about them except that we see the world from very very different places. I don’t think there is anything ‘extra-judicial’ or ‘amoral’ about this, in fact pretty much to the precise contrary I think that this was both a moral and legal act.

    I do think, btw, that this is a war, against organised Islamic terrorism.

    How else do you want me to answer?

  6. Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Patrick, my arguments aren’t coming from the point of international law. My arguments are coming from the point of view of the US people in terms of what is appropriate power for their executive to have. Or in general the power any executive government should have.

    I think the US and any other reasonably civilised and democratic nation is entitled to defend itself against nations, terrorist networks and pirates with whatever is the most precise means at its disposal.

    So if the government heard the rumour that you were a terrorist, you’re ok (from an objective view point) with them summarily executing you if they think it’ll help the war against terror and a trial would be too inconvenient?

  7. kvd
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] at #2 above I simply expressed doubt about President Obama’s “justice has been done” statement. By #53 SL was saying “Law ‘runs out’ in situations like this”.

    At #37 I used the word ‘amoral’ (which I understand to mean something like ‘without regard to the rights or wrongs’), but at #38 you batted this back as ‘immoral’. Then at #55 you use the term ‘extra-judicial’. That is not a term I used – but it has a nice legalish ring to it, sort of, maybe…?

    If I’d been in Obama’s shoes I would have simply announced something like “Osama Bin Laden has been executed on my direct order earlier today. His body was disposed of at sea with due regard to the religion he professed. No further detail or comment will be issued by my administration.” I would have given that order, and slept well at night.

    Nothing at all about “justice has been done”. So you’re right Patrick – we do see the world from very different places.

  8. Mel
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    SL:

    “I should add that I have no problem with the way OBL was killed …. There is such a thing as ‘good’ torture … Torture can probably be morally justified in certain situations … ”

    My Inner Reptile is as big as anyone else’s but I reckon each time we give in to it we make the job of moderating voices in Islam that much harder and the Jihadist’s job of recruiting fresh bomb fodder that much easier.

    kvd:

    “If I’d been in Obama’s shoes I would have simply announced something like “Osama Bin Laden has been executed on my direct order earlier today. His body was disposed of at sea with due regard to the religion he professed. No further detail or comment will be issued by my administration.” I would have given that order, and slept well at night. ”

    And thanks to your axe-head thoughtlessness, everyone taken captive by the Jihadists would sleep less well at night.

    Maintaining a bright, indivisible line of squeaky clean goodness between ourselves and the bad guys is the best way of winning the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world. It’s a matter of enlightened self interest.

    And what Geoffrey Robertson said.

  9. kvd
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] is that really you? So polite. My point is if you are going to claim an action is ‘just’ then either follow rules, or invent some – maybe in absentia trials? I dunno. Alternatively, call it for what it is, and cut the crap.

    Obama chose a very bad mix of both, and is now saddled with proving the death. I would much prefer the ‘bad guys’ as Patrick called them do the proving.

    And I prefer to be known as a polite meathead if that’s ok with you.

  10. Patrick
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Kvd, I was probably trying to address both your and desipis’ points at the same time. Sorry for the confusion!

    Alternatively, call it for what it is, and cut the crap.

    Ok, so let’s call it a war, cut the crap and get on with killing the ‘bad guys’ as you say I call them but actually Mel did.

    I think the difference between us is vast but simple – you think of all this as police work, I (and thank heavens above the leadership of America) see this as a war. Sure, it isn’t what war looked like in the Roman era, but that’s progress for you.

  11. Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    On the torture and legitimate questioning techniques thing, I’m sure there’d be some useful insights provided by someone who has probably had subtle evolution of his views recently… Hosni Mubarak.

    When in power, you should institutionalize the processes and constraints you’d want your most bitter enemies to have if they were in power over you.

    Everyone in power (or trying to get it) claims to be “the good guy”, says “trust me”, says “it’s ok if /I/ cut corners”.

  12. Mel
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Very correct, Dave.

    I would laugh myself into a coma if George W Bush, Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld were kidnapped by Jihadists and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques.

  13. Posted May 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] No, I didn’t say a trial would be a waste of money, I said it would put innocents at unnecessary risk.

    Can we go back to first principles please. We go through all the requirements of criminal trials to protect citizens — both victims and accused. ObL was not a citizen and eschewed any limitations of the ‘laws of war” variety. Since he acknowledged no one else’s moral protections, he was not entitled to them. He was, as pirates were classed, a hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind and subject to the same summary treatment.

    Surely this is not a hard point to understand?

  14. Posted May 5, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Since you cannot understand other people’s points, you cannot criticise them. I did not say putting indigenous australians back in the care of missionaries was a good idea, I said they generally did better than their replacements. Which simply happens to be true, no matter how embarrassing it may be some.

    It is not a comment on how wonderful the missionaries were, but on how awful the replacement arrangements have been.

  15. Posted May 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    On torture, I have had my say and that remains my view.

    The historical analyst in me understands how the “return of the C16th” has resulted in the re-birth of C16th responses. But, as a respecter of the common law, I am horrified and contemptuous that alleged “conservatives” show so little understanding of the heritage they are allegedly conserving.

  16. Posted May 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] said

    He was, as pirates were classed, a hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind and subject to the same summary treatment.

    Surely this is not a hard point to understand?

    No, it’s pretty much a fatwah, UNLESS there is some procedure, with the opportunity for representation of the “fatwahee” or the class of persons the fatwahee claims to act for, to determine what is effectively a sentence in absentia.

    The “all mankind” you refer to is a little vulnerable given the purportedly large number of supporters of OSB (even given the accusations of states assisting or protecting AQ), and the fact OSB explicitly said “don’t attack innocent states like the scandos”. “All mankind” is NOT a synonym for “the American way”.

    Given accusations of nations assisting AQ, is there is the label “pirate”, it’s more akin to the way the Spanish labelled Drake, given licence and a blind eye by Elizabeth I for his piratical operations.

    Burke had a few things to say about political use of the label “pirate” in letter to the sheriffs of bristol, while I admit the “pirates” he defended were hardly killing innocents.

    Finally, the phrase “enemy of mankind” reminds me of “axis of evil” from The Shrub, and indeed “Empire of Evil” from Reagan about the USSR. You seem to be supportive now of the notion of crimes against a reified entity, for a bodycount in the same order of magnitude as bhopal.

  17. Mel
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo:

    “I did not say putting indigenous australians back in the care of missionaries was a good idea, I said they generally did better than their replacements. Which simply happens to be true, no matter how embarrassing it may be some.”

    If the last episode of Four Corners and Noel Pearson are to be believed, the lifting of drinking restrictions rather than the end of the end of the forced servitude/ missionary system is what through indigenous communities into chaos, at least in Cape York. I suspect you’ve fingered the less likely culprit for ideological reasons.

  18. Posted May 5, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Mel, the missionaries kept the drink out, and more paternalistic state governments (believe me, I hate saying this) like Bjelke-Petersen’s in Qld retained those restrictions for as long as possible afterwards.

    Similarly, I was making (if you read the whole comment) an argument against torture, not in favour of it. I just happen to think that motherhood anti-torture arguments are not useful; they need to be evidence-based. I also think that conservatives who believe that human nature has somehow changed and that–given the opportunity–our troops will not behave egregiously badly given the opportunity (in this case, to torture) are kidding themselves, and engaging in a form of ‘postmodern conservatism’, where they are conservative without knowing why (and without having paid attention to the most valuable insight from conservative thinking): human nature does not change. On which, read Michael Oakeshott.

    Dave, by equating the bodycount at Bhopal with OBL’s killings, you are confusing a tort with a crime, which is exactly the same kind of sloppy thinking that those who blame rape and mugging victims for the way they dress or for wandering around alone at night engage in. It is the intellectual equivalent of mistaking murder for manslaughter. The first requires intent. The second does not. The law is not brilliant at drawing fine distinctions, but this is a good and important one. I know a lot of lefties would like to blur the two (especially when it comes to things like bombing campaigns and industrial disasters), but it will not wash: even woolly-minded international law (the ius in bello) draws a clear distinction. The law of tort and delict evolved precisely to deal with this distinction when it comes to industrial accidents.

    And, I might add, whole legal systems have fallen over historically because they didn’t understand the difference between intent and fault — even though many people can understand it intuitively. It led to endless cycles of vendetta and destruction, and eventually to the adoption of either Roman or common law (where it is very clear and consistent).

  19. derrida derider
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    As for the role of torture in tracing OBL, the information that was said to be useful here was marginal (ie “he has a courier- not sure of his name”), was obsolete (provided in 2003) and was accompanied by a huge amount of noise (eg rubbish about nuclear bombs in Europe) that obscured any signal, because the poor sucker was naturally keen to tell his torturers whatever they wanted to hear. Normal skilled and restrained questioning would likely have got the stuff about the courier out anyway, without all the distracting lies.

    Stuff coming from the pro-torture party claiming “see – it was all justified” has to be put under the Mandy Rice-Davies category of “well they would say that, wouldn’t they?”.

    Mind you, even if I’m wrong on this torture still wouldn’t be justified. Lorenzo is spot on here.

  20. derrida derider
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    PS I wonder if Obama will now release a long-form death certicate for OBL to prove he’s dead?

  21. Posted May 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    No, it’s pretty much a fatwah, UNLESS there is some procedure, with the opportunity for representation of the “fatwahee” or the class of persons the fatwahee claims to act for, to determine what is effectively a sentence in absentia.

    Not really, Dave. Hostis humani generis was one of the earliest attempts to come up with a legal class for groups that were clearly undertaking hostile operations but had none of the normal political affiliations (much like terrorists today). They weren’t national forces so you couldn’t ‘declare war’ in the ordinary sense, and while they were liable to normal criminal prosecution if caught and acting within your sphere of legal influence most of their organisation and operations occurred in neutral territory or someone else’s country.

    I take issue that the effective penalty being applied is summary execution as even pirates were generally captured and given a trial before they were hung.

    I don’t think any nation, organisation or individual has the right to just go out and murder people – that’s assassination. Presidents Obama and Bush would seem to disagree, but lets call it for what it is.

  22. Mel
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    @68- oh crud, that should be “threw into chaos” not “through into chaos”.

    SL- Marcia Langton reckoned Russ Hinze was determined Cape York should have a booze canteen.

  23. Posted May 5, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard that too, Mel. Apparently Hinze and Joh fell out over it big time — Hopevale was a Lutheran mission, remember, and Joh was a Lutheran.

  24. kvd
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    I agree with [email protected] – except I would go one step further and call it a “good crime”. President Obama should have simply announced the action, taken direct responsibility, and refused any further government response or discussion.

    I find it very hard to reconcile reports of “months of surveillance” and “SEALs training on a mockup compound” with the inept, seemingly ad hoc political handling of the aftermath. There are conclusions you could draw from this, none of which are very complimentary to the US Administration.

    And whoever is running the “Libya no-fly zone” must be very glad this has distracted from their attempt on Gaddafi.

  25. Patrick
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Well, have you all heard the wild theory that the current administration is really not that competent??

    Contrast, indeed, with reports of “months of surveillance” and “SEALs training on a mockup compound”, which is of course not the administration at all but the military.

  26. Posted May 6, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I imagine it’d be quite hard to predict exactly how the erratic modern media would respond to such an event, so it may have been a strategy to play the game somewhat reactively. It could also be a political strategy to draw the whole thing out longer to keep the focus something accepted as a success of the administration rather than on something considered a failure.

  27. Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    [email protected] “by comparing the body count” I did not say the actions were equivalent. Similar in magnitude, yet one gets the legal system nearly turned upside down, with retrospective legislation, extraordinary rendition, starting a war (more provocative, surely, than a trial of OBL would be, … so worth the cost Lorenzo?), Patriot Act 1 and 2 …. The other lead to what changes in law? Any heavy-handed intrusive safety inspections, oversight, on similar companies, to stop the NEXT greed-induced mass death? Parallel systems hassling the execs like sending in tax auditors with prejudice? Persecution of anyone wearing a suit and tie and driven by chauffers? Retrospective OHandS laws? A rush by the US to hand over the execs to India? Even the imposition of a pitiful fine to the corporate foot soldiers that knew of the ticking time bomb.

    Bhopal was as much an accident as a taxi fleet using unlicensed drivers and kitchen sponges for cheap break pads. The deaths were inevitable, and the execs knew it. They just didn’t know exactly how many people would die when the time bomb blew up.

    The body count, the certainty of deaths (but not the number) by those running the operation, the probability of further incidents … similar in both cases, yet the revoltion in laws, upending of freedoms, the strength of action, the whipping up and exploitation of public outrage and prejudices? Worlds apart.

    So, I wasn’t saying the actions of AQ and UC were morally equivalent. Merely similar body counts, similar in number of senior officers making decisions knowing what would happen. The difference in treatment by politicians is either ideological or self-interested.

    I suppose they can get away with “Islam evil, greed good”.

  28. Posted May 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Why the missionaries did better is a separate question from the fact that they did. I was merely referring to the historical fact, not attesting reasons.

    Also, claims of servitude are mostly nonsense. There was a lot of hostile propaganda against both missionaries and pastoralists to discredit prior arrangements before bringing in the Brave New World. A BNW mostly based on a mixture of Noble Savage and collectivist fantasies.

    History tends to be much more complex than the sloganeering. For example, Nicholas II — who was a bloody-handed tyrant — also presided over higher rates of economic growth than the Soviet Union ever achieved as well as a far richer intellectual and cultural life. This is not an argument for Tsarist autocracy, just how awful the Soviet replacement was.

  29. Posted May 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] The al-Qaeda network has killed considerably more Muslims than non-Muslims. And I don’t care that he has supporters, he effectively declared war against everyone who does not accept both his version of Islam and his methodology of achieving it.

    It is a case where his declaration of war unrestrained by any moral limitations should be taken at its word and action. And dealt with accordingly.

    The virtues of a trial were not worth the likely cost in innocent lives.

  30. Mel
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] – “History tends to be much more complex than the sloganeering.” …. “A BNW mostly based on a mixture of Noble Savage and collectivist fantasies.”

    One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong.

    I think I’ll give Noel Pearson’s recollections more weight than your ideologically charged interpretation of an event about which you have no direct experience.

  31. Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] If you misrepresent my position as being about the financial cost once again I call you out for being a lying shit.

  32. Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    This is a piece to annoy international lawyers. But makes some good points methinks.

  33. Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Dave, look up ‘reasonable foreseeability’ at the Duty, Breach, Causation and Remoteness stages, then consider defences, and you will see why we treat Bhopal (and other lefty ‘capitalism is EEEVIL’ shibboleths) as torts, not crimes. I’m sure LE can recommend a good ‘cases and materials on the law of tort’ textbook. I’d recommend a delict textbook, but that would probably make your head asplode, because civilian systems (even modern ones) do rather less about employee health and safety than do common law jurisdictions. It is one reason why France and Germany remain internationally competitive despite having sclerotic labour markets.

    And I should bloody well hope that no execs were subjected to Patriot Acts and other awful arcana as a result. That shouldn’t have happened in the case of OBL’s crimes, so a fortiori should not happen in the case of a tort.

  34. Mel
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Ah yes, but capitalism is not the EEEVIL only because we have paranoid lefties like Dave to keep the capitalists on their toes. That’s how the Open Society works. What a splendid thing it is!

  35. Mel
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    could last comment be fished out of mod, ta.

  36. Posted May 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] It may well be the case that the most important single thing the missionaries did was block alcohol. To repeat, I was not attesting causes, merely the historical facts.

    And it is perfectly obvious, when one reads a lot of the progressivist commentary on indigenous Australians that they engage in collectivist fantasies and have a “noble savage” outlook.

    Consider those ‘welcome to country’ rituals. Are they really claiming that in 50,000 years Australian aborigines did not violently take control of areas from each other? If not, why is violent supplanting by black folk against other black folk somehow “better” than if white folk are involved?

    Concepts of property which operated in hunter-gatherer societies have been projected into sadly standard collectivist frameworks. Such outback collectivisations have been such a failure, that welfare payments are the main reason Oz did not have its very own petit equivalents of collectivisation famines, given the IR system did so much to ban practical capitalist acts between consenting adults.

  37. kvd
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] I’m surprised you seem to quote some of that piece with approval? The unfettered right claimed by the author for the 300+ million people currently described as the USA to ‘extend’ their “sovereign will” to other parts of the single planet we all inhabit is highly debatable imho.

    It flies in the face of history to think that American supremacy will always be so. And to suggest that all law should be “sovereign country based” otherwise it’s crap, ignores the already enormous interaction between nations. I can understand why this piece was written in this way, but really I think it is so biased to the moment as to be useless for any other purpose.

    Just a comment seeking clarification, not a personal attack.

  38. DeusExMacintosh
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    I find it very hard to reconcile reports of “months of surveillance” and “SEALs training on a mockup compound” with the inept, seemingly ad hoc political handling of the aftermath. There are conclusions you could draw from this, none of which are very complimentary to the US Administration.

    Well we knew THAT when they put Iraqi reconstruction in the hands of the DOD rather than the State Department…

    Am afraid I side with Dave when it comes to unilateral assassination – I’m against. The last thing you want is a State assuming the power of life and death over individuals, it’s part of the reason I’m also against capital punishment.

    I’m with the old fashioned system – the pirate should at least be given a trial before you hang him.

  39. Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]: I’m confused. Unless you are reading my words “more provocative, surely, than a trial of OBL would be, … so worth the cost Lorenzo?” in purely financial terms. I’d assumed you (and therefore my response) were talking about costs in lives.

    [email protected] said “And I should bloody well hope that no execs were subjected to Patriot Acts and other awful arcana as a result. That shouldn’t have happened in the case of OBL’s crimes, so a fortiori should not happen in the case of a tort.”

    Absolutely correct. I was saying treatment of deaths by Bhopal and AQ *by politicians* were grossly different, at different extremes from what I’d consider ideal – and I’m pretty sure Patriot Acts and rendition were bound to AQ/OSB, while I’d bound OH&S/Tax inspections to Bhopal. (And, by the way, Bhopal was 50% nationalized at the time – the political parties in India, not just private industrialists, are equally to blame).

    Personally, I reckon the melamine-in-milk affair in China had a political and public reaction closer to the mark (though still not ideal).

    I’d have to be both stupid and a hypocrite to think Patriot Act stuff was inappropriate to OSB but appropriate for Union Carbide.

    So, together with [email protected], I can see where you are coming from.

    The simple fact is that the baying for blood, the ghoulishness of some sections of the public, the changes to the legal landscape, and the use of labels such as “evil”, seem independent of the body count, the knowledge of the threat to lives from planned actions, and the probability of repeat performances.

    The other simple fact is that the difference in the strength of the response (albeit, necessarily different types of response) to these things, both from politicians and the public mood, doesn’t help.

    And ye gods, I’d hate to imagine what the Bush/Cheney/FoxNews types would have done with the body of OBL (queues of paying customers for trophy photos next to the body, perhaps), and the consequences of how this would be viewed in sections of the Islamic world.

  40. Henry2
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    And ye gods, I’d hate to imagine what the Bush/Cheney/FoxNews types would have done with the body of OBL (queues of paying customers for trophy photos next to the body, perhaps), and the consequences of how this would be viewed in sections of the Islamic world.

    Bit of a strawman, that, Dave!

  41. Mel
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo:

    “It may well be the case that the most important single thing the missionaries did was block alcohol. To repeat, I was not attesting causes, merely the historical facts.”

    Well, no, you’ve missed the point as you nearly always do. Cape York didn’t get a booze canteen until approx 7 years after the local council indigenous council had replaced the missionaries and drinking was not a major social problem before the canteen opened. Also, state law banned Abs from drinking, not some missionary dictate, although obviously the missionaries would have enforced it.

  42. kvd
    Posted May 10, 2011 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Not to extend the discussion, but just to record two further items:

    Boris Johnson has his say – with which I largely agree, and

    An interesting data representation from the New York Times which appeals to me as a quite useful way of tracking responses to various questions. You can argue about the particular questions posed, but the computer generated representation very much appeals to this old computer guy. (Mouseover for comments attaching to dots)

    But I guess this comment will be thrown in the spam bin, which is probably all the judgement required.

  43. Patrick
    Posted May 10, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I agree with Boris’ sentiments, but as an international lawyer he makes a great politician.

    The legal issues are better debated here: http://opiniojuris.org/

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