Murderous strategies

Baroness Murphy

So Osama Bin Laden is dead, killed by an American military squad. What has been achieved? A demonstration of US power?  Yes.  Revenge for the Twin Towers? Yes, but revenge doesn’t help anyone, it leads to further counter revenge incidents. It doesn’t help the grieving relatives of atrocities; their grief can only be assuaged by time. The notion of ‘closure’, common in the press, is not an emotion that most people who’ve suffered a great loss recognise. I can understand the argument for the utility of killing someone who is an active terrorist leader but by all accounts Al Qaeda operates all over the world with other active leaders in charge. Nothing will be achieved by this murder except the loss of more innocent lives by further revenge terrorist attacks.

So let’s turn to the killing of Saif al-Arab Gaddafi and three children, presumably carried out by NATO in order to shake up the conflict stuck in the mire. It seems to me to be not only a tragic strategic error militarily but provides yet further reason for the Arab world to resent interventions ostensibly made to help them. I understand that the Bab al-Aziziya compound was the hub of important communication networks for the Gaddafi Regime and it was hoped that its destruction would cut off army commanders from control in Tripoli. But was the strike also an assassination attempt against Gaddafi? Probably it was. Do we really believe that by removing Gaddafi we will solve the civil war in Libya? No, no, no, just as we did not solve Iraq by removing Sadam Hussein.

Saif al-Arab was, unlike his brothers, was not of military importance. His death is almost certainly removing one of the least offensive of the Gaddafi clan. Gaddafi will use his death and the tragic death of the children in the propaganda war against western intervention; we’ve handed him this opportunity to him thoughtlessly. So was this attack intended to have a mainly psychological impact on the Libyans? If it was, the effect of the impact is unpredictable and will inflame opposition still further from Russia and China and fuel the doubts of less gung-ho allies such as Germany.

If we in the UK and our US allies behave like terrorists ourselves, on what moral ground do we oppose terrorism by others?

20 comments for “Murderous strategies

  1. 02/05/2011 at 11:31 am

    Ideally, a court trial would have been the best way to deal with terrorists, and although I am uncomfortable with the seeming “shoot first” policy that the USA has seemed to prefer to deploy when dealing with terrorism, I doubt there is any way that Osama Bin Laden could have been taken alive.

    Ultimately though there is a considerable difference between the government of a sovereign nation choosing to execute people and the terrorism that is perpetrated by individuals against the law of the countries they live in.

    I don’t think we can compare the two.

  2. Carl.H
    02/05/2011 at 12:01 pm

    No death such as Bin Laden should be celebrated the way this has, with Government heads madly rejoicing. Osama’s death has not solved the problem, infact as her Ladyship states it’s likely to exasperate it. Of course there was in this instance no other way and Bin Laden himself would have wanted it this way rather than years of incarceration after a media led trial causing all sorts of diplomatic problems.

    The deed is done, or is it ? Buried at sea ? The conspiratorial pundits will be out in full force over this one.

    Revenge for what exactly, was he found guilty of anything ? He stated he was behind many attacks or acts of terrorism but do we know for sure now he will not be tried in Court ? Most likely he was but I have to accept the word of others on this and I do. Still we’ve not solved why these people are so against what they are and another leader will take his place.

    The military strike that killed Saif Gaddafi was justified by law,I’m not about to feel sorry for people who promise ceasefire after ceasefire and all the time are shelling women and children. Where Ma’am is your compassion for those ? So he was the leaders son…AND…all those killed in Misrata and other towns were someones families. War is a dirty business and if you choose to side with those killing and maiming indiscriminately you are a fool. Gadaffi has been using propaganda from the beginning, lots in Tripoli believe the freedom fighters to Al Qaida, upto their eyeballs in drugs ready to rape, maim and kill all the while his troops commit those very atrocities.

    A military mistake ? No not at all, sooner or later his family were going to become statistics just like the many he created. As for the furore of the World against this relatively minor incident in comparison to what Gadaffi’s forces have perpetrated, I’ve yet to hear of much.

    Does the noble Lady suggest we sit on our hands ? That we let the Gadaffi regime commit untold atrocities as long as we don’t have to hear it. Many sons and daughters have died in Libya, for Gadaffi to feel some grief is only right. He has the solution in his hands but chooses instead to create widows of many, he took the guns to peaceful democratic protests in February. What you sow……..

  3. MilesJSD
    02/05/2011 at 1:58 pm

    Baroness Murphy speaks quite a cool tactical sort of contribution, componently towards the sort of Overall-Strategic-Appreciation of the Middle-East World-Peace-threatening Situation that the World needs.

    There’s a small ‘chink’ question, however, as to “grief can only be assuaged by time”;
    surely there are other provisions necessary for the holistic resolution of grief, like recognition and redress for the good-things the victim stood for in life ?

    And then isn’t the lady’s misrepresentation of the ‘military elimination of an enemy-commander-in-chief’ incident as being an unqualified civil ‘murder’, only going to ignite new fire among the existing multiple protestation and rebellion blazes, and on many if not all sides ?
    Aside from this particular topic, Baroness Murphy also leaves our, and her, defences wide-open by
    “If we behave like terrorists, on what moral ground do we oppose terrorism by others ?”
    because to begin with there is the factor of degree, or quantity and quality of the ‘terrorism’;
    and then there is the politico-military-geographico ground for opposing a greater-terrorism without need for resort to moral grounds;
    and there will similarly be a variety of philosophical-grounds of the formal-argumentation sort, that do not depend upon additional moral-reasoning.

    And in moral-reasoning itself, consider the ‘utilitarian’ challenge for ‘the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of People’;

    (( and try discussing the following moral-problem for beginner-thinkers, that you are standing alone close to a points-lever on a remote stretch of railway line when your portable transistor radio News says there is a runaway express train fast approaching but it is too late to stop it, it will rush through one or other of two very tight long tunnels, in the middle of the left hand one there being the only fully-skilled worker in the world, performing work of highest-international-importance and urgency;
    whilst in the middle of the right-hand other tunnel, equally unable to escape in time even if they had already heard the bad-news, is a group of young children playing, maybe as many as nine but certainly at least four local children, who would be trapped and certain to be killed by this runaway train.
    The lever is a simple forward or back one, pull towards and the train crushes the only skilled worker in the world;
    push the other way and all of the children get crushed.
    What would you do, chum ?
    (And in philosophical-thinking remember the ever-present riders: ‘if anything’, ‘it’s really not my problem’, ‘I didn’t cause this problem’, ‘whatever I choose to do or not do I shall be attacked for being wrong’, or ‘I could throw my radio into the nearby river and pretend I didn’t hear the distress-announcement’ (but just then a helicopter arrives overhead with two cameramen already filming the whole disastrous scene) )).

    (((With apologies to Monash University International Philosophy Department))).

  4. Baroness Murphy
    Baroness Murphy
    02/05/2011 at 3:20 pm

    IanVisits, I accept there are moral differences between the government of a sovereign nation choosing to execute people they believe to be terrorists and terrorists executing innocent civilians, but neither does the first circumstance seem morally wholesome. I don’t want to say that the two events are comparable, rather that both are objectionable in their own way if different in degree.

    Carl H. War is a dirty business but we aren’t formally at war. Our strategic aim, misguided though I think it was, was to cripple Gaddafi’s army machine to protect the rebels. Now we realise how difficult this will be we have upped the game a bit. I do not ‘side’ with anyone in this conflict; it’s not clear what the rebels are after except to get rid of Gaddafi (that may be enough for them of course).

    But there is no shame in sitting on our hands; it’s what we do in conflicts where we have no obvious solution; it’s what we did in Eritrea; it’s what we do in Sudan/Darfur, it’s what we do in Angola; it’s what we do in situations where we have no quick and easy answer to resolving conflicts. We so often cause more difficulty and damage by intervening. How soon we became the enemy instead of the liberator.

    • MilesJSD
      03/05/2011 at 12:56 am

      Another little chink, in your otherwise quite big ‘think’-tank’s armour, baroness:
      “But there is no shame in sitting on our hands …”
      I’m afraid there is, and great shame, at that.

      You especially don’t get away with such pseudo-detached ‘ostrich-head-in-sand’ escapism, because especially in your high-governance position where you and your overarching Individual-Capitalist Upper-Class and underpinning-wealthy middle-class & civil-service, blindly ‘career’ along stuporosely excluding prior Prevention-Budgeting, for instance prevention by generic education in Friendly Voluntary Method III Needs & Affordable Hows Public-Listing and Win-Win-Win Cooperative Problem Solving,
      instead waiting until the friendly early stages have all disappeared down the increasingly slippery-professional-competition slope at the very foot of which also sit-on-their-hands the Expert Crisis Management Teams, like fire-brigades snoozing
      – ever waiting until the really ‘cost-effective’ and qualifying Big-one comes crashing down that slope.

      Your ‘intervention-to-resolve’ has the same long-interim effect upon we People on the ground as the old ‘how to end unemployment’ joke:
      “A house in your street catches fire – quick! what do you do ?”
      “Keep it going until the fire-brigade arrives – sir”.


  5. Carl.H
    02/05/2011 at 4:09 pm

    “We aren’t formally at war”

    Ok so we’re only attacking another nation (part of), I’m not sure Gadaffi would agree we haven’t committed an act of war.

    “No shame in sitting on our hands.”

    Personally I think there is and yes I believe we should intervene elsewhere to save lives from atrocious acts. We appear to be able to do it when they maybe a terrorist threat.

    As a doctor would you say to someone you are going to die of cancer so we will do nothing ? We may not resolve the situation but that doesn’t mean we cannot help. Is it not our human duty to help stop suffering ?

    If a man was beating his wife in the road would you not intervene ? Knowing the wife could turn against you too ? I’ve had that happen. I do not need to paint you of all people pictures of the suffering Gadaffi has caused, this is not lawful intervention by Gadaffi forces. You appear to have a very political picture, Rebels V Gadaffi Regime and what occurs politically. I on the otherhand, perhaps naively, am thinking on a human scale.

  6. Matt
    02/05/2011 at 4:45 pm

    For once, I am in complete agreement with Baroness Murphy.

    I am even prepared to overlook her misuse of the word, ‘we’ (i was not consulted about any of this, so don’t include me) – because, hey, that’s a commonplace misdemeanour…

  7. maude elwes
    02/05/2011 at 5:10 pm

    With this we only know what the US wants us to know.

    How old was this man? Was it ever proven without doubt that he was indeed behind the destruction of the Twin Towers? I don’t think it was.

    And don’t try to tell me the USA didn’t know where he was in the ten year period since the event. That is just a fallacy.

    This act was as a result of Obama looking for re-election and his sloping off in the poles, even with the only other candidate being Trump, The Donald and the crazy out of it, Sarah Palin.

    And what is Pakistan’s role in this? Bin Laden lived in a gated community built for him not that long ago. The entire story smells as stinking as a corpse after two weeks in the open.

  8. Gareth Howell
    02/05/2011 at 9:19 pm

    not only a tragic strategic error militarily but provides yet further reason for the Arab world to resent interventions ostensibly made to help them

    What the state of the resolutions are from the UN I have not heard or read, but Lord Anderson’s (HofC FAC up to 2005) comments on
    the importance of sticking to the UN resolutions after the experience of Iraq, bear a rereading. (Lords Debate on Libya).
    Lord Howell of Guildford, had no such qualms.

    The statement from the US president re Bin Laden is a closure at a crucial time, a time when the same fate is sought for the leader of Libya.

    King Feisal of Iraq’s family was entirely eradicated when that leader became superfluous to US interests.(1953?)

    The US president does not seek to justify
    the deaths of such people, merely to give closure to another such, in the case, of Bin Laden, individual.

    If the Libyan family do not like the prospect, leave now!

    I do not know how the Shia/Sunni divide,is effecting, or is in part the cause of violence and demonstrations in one state after the other. There may be previous examples of such Arab world, wide, insurrection/revolution which has little to do with democracy or the lack of it.

    Such movements, in the affairs of men, are difficult to explain, but paraphrasing Shakespeare,

    “There is a tide in the Affairs of men….”

    which is fortunately encapsulated quite well by modern multi party democracy, we do believe!

  9. lisa
    03/05/2011 at 6:10 am

    I probably have no business posting here as I came in search of historical information on a totally different subject. However I am an American citizen I lived through 9/11 in the states, not far from all 3 of the strike zones on that day. I agree with Baroness Murphy in many of her statements. I am embarrassed by the acts of my countryman in the gross celebratory displays for the death of any HUMAN. Being here watching this is deplorable. Should Bin Laden have died? I am not his Judge nor Juror I can’t say. That is what a fair trial is for “Justice”. He didn’t have that “rite” You know the ones the United States claims to fight for all over the World. Fighting “wars” or “flexing our muscles” ask yourself. I wonder if Bin Laden would have been given a trial would the world have to face the fact that there are two sides to every story? HMMM didn’t the United States teach Bin Laden warfare arm him? All this while our own country is quite frankly a mess. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is not rebuilt from Hurricane Katrina. Our housing market is a complete disaster. Our unemployment rate is rising yet we continue to allow illegal immigrants or “undocumented workers” to work for much less than legal wages. By definition I always thought that was slavery. Our president proposes to create a bill that allows all illegal immigrants going to college automatic citizenship and pay for their college. While American families can’t afford groceries and the dream of putting our children through college is gone. Our entire government closes their eyes like none of this matters. Seriously look at it for what it is. The United States Government almost shut down completely because they could not agree to fund women’s clinic because they may use some of the money for abortion. So let shut the entire government down because or let woman die of breast cancer or V/D. Yet stick their noses in every foreign issue they can. Then ask why are we being attacked by terrorist? Really doesn’t take a rocket scientist here. When we in the united states sought independence we did so with pitch forks and determination. What is wrong with letting other countries handle their own issues. I am sorry that people around the world are dieing at the hands of their government. It has been happening long before any of us walked this earth we are not going to stop it. It will happen long after we are all gone. We are not world police. As long as other countries continue to support the United States in their Muscle Flexing it will continue to happen. The United States Government is a Joke here in the states and what do we have to look forward to DONALD TRUMP or SARA PALIN. Lord help us. If any country needs help its the United States. I hope that in the future we all in this world would look at the real issues like the fact that Japan is facing a major crisis that does and will effect the world. Where are the worlds scientist converged to help that? Or world hunger,diseases,pollution,energy crisis for that matter. Lets do what we can to really make the world a better place for our children. Use the money and resources where they will truly make a difference in the world. Fighting wars to make other people live by our beliefs is not beneficial to anyone. Its world dictatorship.

    • maude elwes
      04/05/2011 at 2:52 pm


      And Britain follows with every step it takes.

      What do we do? How can we change that? Like you, we have no real vote. It is all negated once the power is taken.

      • lisa
        04/05/2011 at 7:52 pm

        This one is easier said than done “just say no” Don’t we have that option anymore?

  10. Gareth Howell
    03/05/2011 at 6:33 pm

    We are not world police

    There are three million people in the US armed forces, one in a hundred or so.

    And the historical research material Lisa?

    • lisa
      04/05/2011 at 7:46 pm

      actually looking for historical information on the Duke of Chandon and a connection to John Burrow in 1765 September 1 I have an indentured servants agreement I am trying to find out about.

    • lisa
      04/05/2011 at 8:01 pm

      Ok, I get the numbers however I am going to ad that those numbers are needed here at home in the USA. Our borders need help. There are south American states asking for help as their murder rates rise because their state is being used as a traffic zone for drugs being moved into the united states. Our police departments are under funded and under manned. The gulf Coast needs to be rebuilt, Levies, bridges and infrastructure are failing here all of this needs to be addressed and our armed forces could do this easier than any civilian agency. In short we in the us need our husbands wives children brothers sisters home. Not Playing World Police. I am sorry but when our “house” is not in order we can’t clean another countries closets.

  11. 03/05/2011 at 6:36 pm

    It has now emerged that Osama Bin Laden was unarmed at the time of being executed by a US death squad. This is definitely murder.

    • lisa
      04/05/2011 at 8:11 pm

      I have to ad to this please understand that the treatment of Bin Laden is not hypocritical by the united states. Our own citizens are treated much the same way. I am attaching a link that if you have time you can read about. I reference this because I lived in this area at the time. Keep in mind what they leave out of this article is that Joseph Palsinski was jailed prior to this terrorism. He was court ordered to be given his medication to treat his bipolar disorder. The prison did not do so and released him after being purged of medication for an extended period of time. When the police department stormed the home they filled him with I believe 45 or 50 bullets. He was totally passed out if you reference the amount of medication slipped to him by one of his hostages. So please understand that this is not unheard of practice and isolated to Bin Laden or Hippocratic when this type of Justice is enacted on Citizens of the USA.

      • maude elwes
        05/05/2011 at 4:48 pm

        You don’t have to be a killer to be treated that way in the US. All you need be is a student who protests at government behaviour and you get it just the same way.

        Which is why I wonder if the UK is really playing with a full deck when it glues itself to such a regime?

        And T. Blair told news reporters today he thought this assassination of Bin Laden was a wonderful move by the US government. No one could have done it better. Now does that mean he has entirely lost his mind, or, that he is looking for another nice directorship with an additional £1m per annum?

  12. 07/05/2011 at 8:57 am

    Having just returned to Dubai after a week back home visiting the family,this is the first time I have been able to discuss the death of Bin Laden with my Muslim colleagues (I work as a Lawyer within a local,Arabic/Sharia practice).
    The response is universal condemnation of an act of extra-judicial Murder.
    His killing in front of his family is seen as an act of state sponsored terrorism, and just as importantly,a missed opportunity to bring a fugitive to justice.
    Comparisons are being made with the trial of Saddam and his henchmen, and the very public display of the bodies of Saddams sons after they too were killed.
    The fact that these precedents have not been followed in the case of Bin Laden have only added weight to the belief that this was a simple “shoot to kill” revenge mission by the US.
    My colleagues tell me that Bin laden was known to be in the Compound ( and cancer ridden) for many months prior to his killing- a fact accepted by the US who appear to have had the compound under surveillance for some time and who wanted the body disposed of.They also assure me that his influence had waned under the weight of the Arab spring.
    Its my belief that Bin Laden had few friends within the Muslim world.The manner of his death virtually guarantees that whatever atrocities he committed during his lifetime, his position as a Martyr is now assured.It also serves to reinforce the belief that the struggle towards “liberal Democracy” in the Arab World must be based on the primacy of Islam if it is to have any lasting legitimacy.This is more than a missed opportunity its a disaster,and Bin Laden and his followers will be smiling at the gift granted to them by President Obama

    • maude elwes
      08/05/2011 at 10:27 am

      I suspect this killing may have been carried out to cover a multitude of sins perpetuated by unknown and unseen individuals or organizations. The Pakistani government have revealed that they advised the US of Bin Ladens whereabouts in 2006. That was five years ago. Only now they decided to assassinate this person rather than take him for trial. Why is that?

      That trial could have told the world a great deal about this man and his following. It could also have told the world a great deal about how the US funded him when they used him in their war against Russia.

      Now we will never know the truth or even a semblance of the truth.

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