When Mass Murder is Political

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

As people here no doubt know I am quite opinionated and rather definite in my views, perhaps to a fault some might say. In this piece though I must admit that I have mixed feelings as to what is right and what is wrong, in the issue I write about. The recent thread on this blog: Trophy Terrorist: Obama Suggests Romney Would Not Have Ordered the Killing of Osama Bin Laden: http://jonathanturley.org/2012/04/30/obama-suggests-romney-would-not-have-killed-osama/  engendered a lively debate on the propriety of summarily executing a purported mass murderer. In my mind as I viewed the back and forth of the thread, including my own comments, I began to think of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik in Norway for killing 77 people, the fact that he was using his trial for publicity to advance his racist cause in Norway and that at worst he was facing only twenty-one years, though it “might” be extended for life.

Had Osama Bin Laden been captured and stood trial it would have created a worldwide sensation. It would have had to have been televised, since the clamor for an “open” trial would have been deafening and I would have added my small voice to the clamor. The necessity of fairness to the defense would have followed the same dictum, since a publicly perceived unfairness would result in a U.S. public relations disaster, for obvious reasons. Therefore, this trial could have been used as a stage for stirring up the “terrorist” pot and perhaps as a great recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. My question is: faced with such potentially explosive results from a trial, is the government justified in simply killing to preclude a greater evil? To be honest I’m not completely certain where the equities of these situations lie as I’ll explain. 

Let us first look at a bit of history whose horror and ending we all know: In late 1923 Adolph Hitler initiated the “Beer Hall Putsch” an attempt at coup d’etat that resulted in the death of four police officers. He was arrested for treason a month later. His trial in February 1924 was a German press sensation and provided him a perfect forum for spreading his hateful views. Convicted, by his own admission, he was released in December 2004 by order of the Bavarian Supreme Court, over the prosecutor’s objections. The affair made Hitler into a national celebrity and gave legitimacy to his NDSAP (soon to be NAZI) party, which garnered 6% of the vote in the May 1924 elections. In prison Hitler completed the first volume of “Mein Kampf”, only adding to his mystique. Would history have been different if Hitler was truly punished for being the man behind for murders and treason? Did Hitler’s trial and subsequent release set him on the path of  destruction of millions, himself and the German people, serve the cause of justice?  To familiarize yourself with the facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolph_Hitler

In the Norwegian case of Mr. Breivik, we have a believer in racial purity and Fascism. He readily admits to the murder of seventy-seven people, mostly teens and believes he was justified in doing so. He purports to be a “writer”. The parallels with Hitler are so close as to convince me that Breivik is trying to emulate Da Feuhrer in word and deed.

“At the end of the indictment, he told the court: “I acknowledge the acts, but not criminal guilt – I claim I was doing it in self-defence.”

Breivik has already confessed to the attacks on 22 July. In the car bombing outside government buildings in Oslo, eight people were killed and 209 wounded.

 He killed 67 people and wounded 33 – most of them teenagers – in his shooting spree at the youth camp on Utoeya. A further two people died by falling or drowning.

At a court hearing in February, Breivik said his killing spree was “a preventative attack  against state traitors”, who were guilty of “ethnic cleansing” because they supported a multicultural society. His lawyer has said his only regret is that “he did not go further”.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17724535

The similarities of intent and action are strikingly familiar, however, Breivik far surpassed Hitler’s initial act. What effect will Breivik have on the future of Norway? Is any state in Europe, or indeed the entire world immune from racial/religious xenophobia? I think the sad truth of human history, in many more instances than I have space to cite, is that hatred for the other is a common rallying point for many human beings and a common tactic used by sociopaths on their road to power.

So now we come to the case of Osama Bin Laden, purportedly the person responsible for the mass murder of 9/11 and the head of the purportedly “most dangerous” terrorist organization in the world. I have to admit that there are questions as to whether Bin Laden was the 9/11 mastermind he was purported to be. There are suspicions that 9/11 was an inside job, that it was the work of Saudi intelligence, that Israel was behind it and/or that some other entity did it, but it was pinned on Bin Laden. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_for_the_September_11_attacks and http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13664.htm

When I originally started to do this piece I was of a mind to believe that the evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt, or at least his self-servingly taking credit for it, was overwhelming. This belief held despite the fact that I can also believe from other readings that 9/11 was the result of the fulfillment of the PNAC’s plan of needing a large scale American tragedy, to implement their plan of re-making America an Empire in the mold of Rome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century  My thoughts and feelings about 9/11 are both confused and skeptical, have been since it occurred and in its horrid aftermath. Nevertheless, I continued to view Bin Laden as a bad guy and still do now. Yet should he have been killed, as he was, or should he have brought to trial?

That confusion leads me back to where I began. We see in the case of Hitler that his trial ultimately became his triumph. Only the future will tell us if Breivik’s trial and the maximum sentence he faces, will elevate him to the fame and power he obviously craves, or a martyrdom that will also ultimately serve his cause. The question than devolves to what does a country do when political radicals attempt to use its own laws against it by turning a judicial system into a platform for publicity and recruitment? Also what does a country do when outside forces can pose it a security threat of broad magnitude?

One position on that question has seemed to be a tenet of American foreign policy for many years, stemming from World War II and the “Cold War”. History, however, shows that this strain of thinking goes much further back, perhaps to “The Shores of Tripoli”. That position is that America leadership should act unilaterally to stem any threat to the country, even if the threat is only to the business of a large corporation, such as United Fruit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Fruit_Company . From that thinking assassination and fomenting revolutions in foreign countries is acceptable and preferred. A Bin Laden trial would be fraught with danger in its aftermath and its preclusion would therefore be justifiable. We must remember that after 9/11 and it shocking affect on all of us, outright murder and/or torture of terrorists became an open topic of discussion, with our mass media leading the clamor and bestowing respectability on acts that used to require “plausible deniability”.

This way of thinking had led to a bi-partisan consensus during the “Cold War” and now remains as a belief of the majority of “serious” foreign policy/military experts, from all ends of the political spectrum. President Obama no doubt believes in this foreign policy/military dicta. That belief is no doubt reinforced by all the “experts” that surround him, with a possible few exceptions. To the “experts” the world of “24”, Jack Bauer and nuclear bombs exploding in Los Angeles are all too real. Truthfully though, when you see someone like Breivik, who can blame leaders for not wanting to take the risk of having so many killed on their watch? This thinking too, is arguably common wisdom accepted by a large majority of the American people, conditioned to its “truth” for many, many years. Whether we approve, or not, there are viable points to be made in favor of this strategic belief and one must exercise caution in demonizing those who honestly hold them.

My own belief is that the “pre-emptive” strike theory of dealing with situations like this diminishes legitimate government’s separation from those who would use terror to de-legitimize it. The aftermath of 9/11 has shown that whoever pulled it off succeeded in drawing America closer to becoming a “police state” and in many places (Arizona per chance?) we are emulating the decried USSR practice of limiting the mobility of its citizens. To allow our government to behave extra-legally will only diminish our own freedoms and blur the line between what is political protest and what is terrorism/revolution. I must stand inevitably then with the side of the issue that demands on lawful government action in the face of purported threat. While staking out this position I have to admit that I was an avid watcher of “24” and fan of Jack Bauer, in a fictional way given the internal logic of the series the “extra-legality” made sense. We don’t live in the internal “reality” of a TV show, no matter how surreal human life is and so I must stand by my beliefs ultimately, without the absolute certainty of their correctness.

I can never know though what it is like to be a President, with all those “experts” around you making each situation into a crisis that must be dealt with immediately, without time to really examine all possibilities. JFK faced that in “The Bay of Pigs” and the “Cuban Missile Crisis” and in both instances, to his everlasting credit, rejected the views of his “experts”. JFK also wound up murdered under circumstances that are even suspicious today. In President Obama’s case he was surrounded by “experts”, assuring him with their “intelligence information” that Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 and they had located him. I’ve no doubt the orders given to Seal Team 6 were to capture him “if possible” but that maintaining their own safety was a priority. I the sense of “plausible deniability” one could question how the team leaders interpreted that order. Had Bi Laden been captured and put on trial, what forum would have been used? What are the “national security” considerations that such a trial would have raised? How would the “experts” interpret the threat engendered by the trial?

When we compare President Obama to JFK, we must understand that JFK was a man who had been through active combat and was well aware that many times military experts are wrong. He was the son of a father who had very skeptical views of government experts and he was truly his father’s son in that respect. Barack Obama had no military service and served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is not only spoon fed self serving intelligence, but is also made to feel a part of deeply held secrets. I doubt he was, or is as skeptical of his “experts as was JFK. Then too, although a myth, Democrats are perceived as being chary of using America’s power and in a political sense are attacked for it constantly. Sadly, too often Democratic Presidents feel they have to go overboard to prove their “patriotism”, as defined by the jingoism of the Republican “Chicken-hawks”.

There are many sides to this issue and while I have my beliefs to which I’ll adhere, they are beliefs that I can’t state with the total authority of certainty. Where do you stand?

The following links were also used in putting this together and you might find them of interest:




Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger.

85 thoughts on “When Mass Murder is Political”

  1. Mike S did this post on the anniversary of Kent State.

    Some accounts indicate that a paid FBI informant fired shots from the area of the protesters prior to the National Guard Firing on the demonstrators.

    Subverting protesters is a common activity by FBI and police.

  2. Right, OS, you’re not buying the facts because you’re not as smart as you think you are retorting instead with assanine & irrelevant cultural references. If you want to look smart instead of evasive addressing your critics then ditch those white boy brothers and listen to something intelligent:

  3. KF, whatever. You are entitled to your opinion. I am not buying whatever it is you are selling.

  4. Otteray Scribe, for all his accolades by Blogger Spindell, is WRONG because he starts with a false premise:

    “First of all, [Osama] was the single most wanted fugitive on earth. He was the titular head of a major terrorist organization whose avowed purpose was to wreck governments and economies. Now for the logistics.”

    Let’s decontruct this false & pompous statement. What is the Earth comprised of in human terms first off? It’s 55% women abused by a patriarchy. It’s 70% brown people exploited by imperialism living in the 3rd World which is characterized primarily by grinding poverty. This peculiarly iniquitous social arrangement is basically a zero sum game, that is, the 30% white people who live primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, and who consume 80% of the world’s resources, live comfortably largely at the expense of the world’s vast majority, the brown toilers who have to fight over the remaining resources.

    So when some white male intellectual blogger sermonizes that somebody like Bin Laden “was the single most wanted fugitive on earth” it first begs the question” “wanted by whom?” Do the majority of the earth’s inhabitants consider him “most wanted” or is it really the white male journalists, half of whom are either in the pay of the CIA or manipulated by their ludicrous but clever propaganda who really consider him a fugitive?

    Chomsky once remarked in a lecture some 20 years ago a month before the outset of the First Gulf War that he just got back from a tour of North Africa and was amazed at how many kids in the streets wore t-shirts that said: “Long Live Saddam Hussein!” Now do these kids, who are now adults, agree with the Scribester on who the “single most wanted fugitive on earth” is? The question answers itself.

    It’s truly ironic that the more and more this forum is used for a re-election campaign platform for Barack Obama the fact remains that the main host, Professor Turley, will clearly NOT be voting for Obama for no Constitutional Lawyer who sleeps well at night would ever cast a vote of confidence for an official who has so undermined the US Constitution as this sitting President.

    Res ipsa loquitur

  5. IMO O Scribe has fallen into a jingoistic trap set by the likes of Michael Moore in his F911 movie.

    IMO it was an act of war as well as terrorism and I’ll explain why below.

    IMO the targets were all military, but it was terrorism because it was organized by frustrated intellectuals like Osama who didn’t have the skills, wherewithal or COURAGE to organize the masses around a revolution.

    The fact is the WTC had CIA offices & the Pentagon is the nerve center US Imperialism. If the 3rd plane was originally targeting the Capitol then it proves my point that the targets could reasonably be considered military.

    IMO the people in the USA are pretty arrogant & ignorant to think that their government can exploit & manipulate the toilers of the mid-east for 6 decades maintaining their inefficient & lusty crude oil addiction without those toilers someday organizing some payback — which is always a MoFo.

    IMO the 911 Truthers are are ultimately a bunch of racist imbeciles (without even realizing it) if they discount the ability of some long exploited brown people to organize some long overdue & meaningful retribution and vengeance for the crimes committed upon them by Uncle Sam and his boot licking minions.

    IMO Ward Churchill got it pretty much right when he said that except for food service employees, janitors and other hourly workers, the vast majority of the victims in the WTC were “little Eichmann’s” – that is – salaried employees & bureaucrats like cogs in the wheel of a Naziesque regime responsible for the plunder & immiseration of the world’s brown people through stock market manipulation, uneven trade & financial turpitude, that is, they were the same people that were hung at Nuremberg when they used the excuse they were “just following orders.”

    IMO Bin Laden was an “Alchemist of Revolution” equivalent to the phenom described in Richard E. Rubenstein’s masterful 1987 book “The Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in Modern Times”


    IMO people who pontificate about Bin Laden without reading books such as this are ignorant of the kind of worldview necessary to prevent the Bin Laden’s of the future, regardless of how otherwise well read, educated and progressive they seem.

  6. BB, “And as far as NPR goes, they are the ones who have declared that if the President says something is legal, then it IS legal. ”

    Is this in the context of quoting a President? Nixon?

  7. Sorry OS, but why bother with trials at all? They are inherently dangerous. In any individual trial, it is always a huge risk that “justice” will be partly or totally trounced. That the bad guy will win or the system be made to look foolish.

    Does that mean just chuck it? That when one is reasonably sure someone is guilty of crimes aginst humanity that the answer is to simply blow him or her away?

    If you follow that logic a bit, wouldn’t Bush and possibly even Obama be casting a few nervous glances over their shoulders right now?

    And as far as NPR goes, they are the ones who have declared that if the President says something is legal, then it IS legal. They couldn’t carry any more water for the administration if they were on their hands and knees.

  8. MS,

    There is no act, individual or societal, that doesn’t suffer from many conflicting motives at once, some good, some sublime, some mundane and others downright venal.

    Be that as it may, as a whole, the generation that fought and lived through that war here and in Europe firmly believed in the honor and innate “rightness” of those trials. For many, it expressed the entire reason they risked their lives time and time again. It wasn’t an isolated sentiment. It reached broadly across the country, across party lines. Those ideals were not simply shared, but literally welded to the American psyche and that fact speaks volumes when compared and contrasted to the macho sentiments being expressed in the White House today.

  9. Lottakatz: and would add to your list the unleashing of a monumental security apparatus on our own citizens and the militarization of our police and their routine abuse of our citizens.

    Absolutely. Most of what is going on now is inextricably related and consistent. You could also add our failure to prosecute a single high level bank executive in the foreclosure scandal, or our failure to go after any of the people who architected, enabled, or committed torture except for a few defenseless soldiers.

  10. “The current takeover of some law enforcement agencies by the 1% and banksters is a separate issue entirely, and one that concerns me as much as what I learned of the Brownshirts, the Gestapo and KGB.”


  11. BB,
    We had the Nuremburg trials as a showcase for Western values and as a contrast with the “Reds”. Before the war ended there were already plans to confront the Russians. The other issue was the pictures of the concentration camps were newsreeled and their horrors exposed. The Allies had done little to aid the Jews in their plight and even refused them refuge. The “Trials” were a sad attempt to make up for that and avoid the obvious conclusion that the allies had a small complicity in the extermination. Personally I ‘ m greatful for that since after the Trials the virulent anti-Jewishness in the US began to subside.

  12. The current takeover of some law enforcement agencies by the 1% and banksters is a separate issue entirely, and one that concerns me as much as what I learned of the Brownshirts, the Gestapo and KGB.

  13. Otteray Scribe 1, May 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    bettykath, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Corbett appears to be a conspiracy theorist, and I do not take single source opinion as fact unless it is incontrovertible. If Sibel Edmunds had proof, where is it? Hearsay is not proof. Frankly, if the claims you cite were true, there is a virtual 100% certainty they would have been leaked long before now. Somebody would have given it to Wikileaks, if nothing else.
    Ah, yes, anyone who disagrees with the administration story is a conspiracy theorist.

    I used the Corbett article b/c it is an excellent summary of the articles that I have read over the past several years. The fact is, this information was “leaked” long before now and published. Sorry I don’t have the time to dig thru 10 years of info to find it for you.

  14. While we are talking about atrocities. I am old enough to remember these things in real time. I could hardly wait until I was old enough to join the Army Air Corps, and if WW-II had dragged on as long as these middle east wars, I would have been flying in the big middle of it. This is the one of the reasons. See link.


  15. Brooklin Briidge: “Again, if fair play is not important to a society, that society will no longer value it and it will fall into disuse. That is happening here and now as evidenced by our use of drones, by the elimination of the right to challenge being imprisoned, by our acquiescence to Presidential authority to kill citizens without judicial review, but we still have a memory of it, and of a time it was enshrined in a system of law, and while that memory but not the underpinning desire for the ideal lasts, we will be furiously writing reasons for why it is an impossible unworkable ideal.”

    I agree completely with that assessment and would add to your list the unleashing of a monumental security apparatus on our own citizens and the militarization of our police and their routine abuse of our citizens.

  16. BB,
    you are comparing the killing of OBL who we were at war with and killing nazis at the end of the war and calling them assassinations.
    Furthermore, If the Allies could have assassinated Nazi officials during the war, they would have. If we could have captured OBL without significant loss of life on our part, I am sure the Seals would have done it. You are comparing apples and oranges.
    BB, by the way, as far as atrocities go, you forget the Dresden fire bombings which were horrific and the Atomic bombs in Japan which some claim was unnecessary and barbaric.

  17. OS: “bettykath, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Corbett appears to be a conspiracy theorist, and I do not take single source opinion as fact unless it is incontrovertible. If Sibel Edmunds had proof, where is it?”

    I have been following Sibel Edmonds story for years over at the Brad Blog. She has been gagged by the FBI for years and under threat of prosecution if she made he claims public. Exactly what she knows is still unknown to me but she has written a book that should be published very soon. After clearing up legal problems (she was/is a whistle-blower and facing prosecution for what she was going to make public) she has waited for over a year for the FBI to expurgate/redact etc. her manuscript. They have not proceeded so she is publishing it uncensored. It might have the information Bettykath mentions.

    Brad Blog has a recent article that begins:

    “The formerly-gagged FBI translator-turned-whistleblower’s new memoir is ‘a masterpiece revealing corruption and unaccountability in Washington, D.C.’ and ‘a rotten barrel of toxic waste that will sooner or later infect us all’…”
    – Guest Blogged by David Swanson

    “[Ed Note: The BRAD BLOG has been reporting on the remarkable story of Sibel Edmonds since the darkest days of 2005 and in nearly 100 articles since then. Once described by the ACLU as the “the most gagged person in the history of the United States of America”, the Iranian-born former FBI translator fought to blow the whistle on traitorous deception and cover-up inside the FBI, blackmail inside the U.S. Congress and startling allegations of espionage and nuclear secrets sold to U.S. enemies on the foreign black market by some of our nation’s highest ranking officials. …”


    Also, Maddow did a story on her in 2005 on Air America and mentions her in her new book. I also seem to recall Maddow mentioning her or some of her allegations on her TV show. I don’t know what Edmond’s has but I’ll buy her book to find out. (The story starts at about the 3 minute mark)


    I’d have to search for the info on the offer to hand over OBL but I’ve heard that a number of times over the years on MSM shows and no one seemed to make a big deal over it- like it was old news.

    I’d be interested in knowing just how long and close the US relationship with OBL was also. Richard Clark’s book gave a good explanation of its beginning.

  18. OS,

    “The buildup did not just happen one Thursday. It took time.”

    My point exactly.

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