Yesterday I was merely unimpressed with the summary justice dispensed by the Navy Seals in killing Osama Bin Laden. I think that this was mostly propelled by my memories of all those home video broadcasts where Bin Laden is reclining next to his Kalashnikov. I thought, when I heard the news, that he had probably grabbed his weapon and been shot during a struggle against the Navy Seals assigned to capture him.
Today it has been revealed that this was not the case. He was unarmed. He was not shooting at the Navy Seals. Is there a distinction between execution and killed resisting arrest? Growing up in the grand era of black deaths in custody I was pretty sure that there was very little difference. Execution simply involved prior authorisation and killed resisting arrest involved ex post facto authorisation: a very slim line.
I can’t help but think that killed while resisting unarmed is somehow an attempt to cover all the bases. Firstly he was resisting successfully enough to require shooting, check. Secondly they didn’t lynch him or put him up against a wall, check. Thirdly he wasn’t resisting in a way that makes him heroic (AK-47 in hand, dead Americans on the ground), check. And finally he’s dead, check. With all that put into circulation just about any explanation will have some legs and a few checkable facts.
This swampland of circumstance and authority is ripe for conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are a kind of reverse risk management, locating those with something to lose, imagining how that something might be protected, and aligning those imaginings with verifiable data.
I’m sure the death of Osama Bin Laden will offer plenty of opportunity for conspiracy theorists to have a ball. But I don’t think that this is a real conspiracy for the theorists to mess about with. This time, I’m inclined to believe, the suggestion of a conspiracy is a cover, a proxy collusion.
No-one can make a good argument for revenge, and when the White House doesn’t have a good argument there isn’t one. And if there isn’t an argument to assert the righteousness and necessity of an act then it is rhetorically necessary to deploy something else in its place, to cover that absence.
And so, we have Osama Bin Laden’s failed resistance as the very reason for his death because it can’t be said that the US pursued revenge as a foreign policy objective.