Monday, May 02, 2011

Justice and Happy Outcome

I thought I heard President Obama say last night that Osama bin Laden had “been brought to justice,” but I reread the text of his speech, and he did not say that at all. What he said was the he authorized the mission “to capture him and bring him to justice,” and that he was killed resisting that capture. I’m glad he did not say what I thought at first he said, and I hope that he continues not to say it.

“Bringing him to justice” would have involved a judge, jury and the ability to confront his accuser, as spelled out in our constitution. When the suspect places himself beyond the reach of justice, as bin Laden did, we cannot achieve that, and that’s fine when it is not of our doing. The outcome here is not problematic in any way, since it is he who denied himself trial, not us.

But the difference is not merely one of semantics. We are either a nation of law or we are not. If we call this “justice” then we are not. That doesn’t mean that we cannot be happy with this outcome. We can be, and I am.

Update: Monday afternoon
It's not in the transcript, but on Hardball a clip was replayed of him saying "We can say to the families that justice has been done."

It's odd that a self described "constitutional scholar" and the chief executive charged by our constitution with enforcing the laws of our nation would describe this as "justice." When the accused rejects due process and all you can do is extract revenge, then extract revenge and I will applaud you. But call it what it is. I voted for you, but you do not speak for me when you call extra-judicial killing "justice."

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