I would be lying if I said that I wasn't glad to see Osama bin Laden dead, and I am glad that it was our military members who did it. But in the midst of my cheering, and wishing that I had been in DC last Sunday night, I felt uncomfortable. I couldn't really put my finger on it, and I wasn't ready to try writing it out for this blog. However, after reading an article about John Yoo claiming that President Obama was afraid to have bin Laden taken to Guantanamo, and after having read a post from Glenn Greenwald about what all of this may mean, particularly with regard to civil liberties, I've sorted some of my thoughts.
In his post, Greenwald cited the opening statement of the Nuremberg Trials, and I was reminded of something that I've long wondered: Have we,as Americans, lost the ability to stand by our professed principles, even in the face of real challenges? I think that Justice Jackson's comment at the Nuremberg Trials is instructive, because I am not sure if we are now able to "...stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit [our] captive enemies to the judgment of the law...." And I say this because I still believe that we allowed torture to be done in our name, and all for the hope of greater security.
I know that we will never see anything like war crimes charges against people like Yoo and others who sought ways around the Geneva Conventions, and our own international treaties. But, can we ever get to a point where we can return to a pre-Bush administration understanding of the rule of law and civil liberties? The joy that I felt upon hearing that bin Laden was dead suggests to me that we probably will not. To do so, I am sure people would speak derisively about a "pre-9-11" mind set, or some such. I doubt that something like the Nuremberg Trials would have been held had the previous administration's folks been in charge.
We used to be a country that did not torture, and we were once proud of that. We were a country that tried to keep vengeance in check. So now, bin Laden is no longer a threat. I wonder what type of country we will become now? Maybe the better question is what other long standing principles will our country abandon in the name of greater security?