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April 18, 2004


David Sucher

I thought it bizarre and a mistake for the governments to even answer it.

If a public response was required, I would have suggested having the lowest-ranking member of the foreign service -- say, one of the janitors -- brought out before the media to tear up the telegram and then to sweep it up into a can.


The bizarrest part of everything about bin Laden to me is that powers that be still insist on thinking of him as if he were something like a diplomat or warrior/soldier instead of what he is: a criminal. A very evil, very powerful criminal. His "case" should not be handled by politicians or, for that matter, armies but should rather be pursued by whatever agencies investigate international crime. Silently and without collateral damage in places like Iraq. But that's a whole other issue...

I agree with David: Europe (if there is such a thing as an entity in place of the grouping of disparate countries made up of even more disparate people that Europe is) should not have had politicians respond in any form or fashion.


did responses happen because political leaders of various countries rushed to their podiums in order to say no to this idea, or did responses happen because someone asked them about it and they made replies in the habit of democratic governments?

If we decide to think of him like a criminal it seems to me that he would call to mind the idea of the great criminal of much mid-period Western fiction, a mastermind stand-in for Satan, implacable, with the power to affect governments and alter the course of history, such as Chesterton used to write of.

I don't think that calling this figure to mind, who was generally anti-heroic but not necessarily villainous, is altogether helpful.


bryan, I do not mean anything as literary as a Chesterton character, I don't even mean anyone made palatable by popular fiction like an Agatha Christie character from the Tom and Tuppence series. I wish. They could be dealt with by lovable counter-villains like Poirot or Tuppence, with everything falling into place neatly at the end of the story like in a completed puzzle...

No such luck in real life. The kind of criminal I mean is quite sordid and prosaic - leaders of drug cartels, weapon smuggling organizations and the like, individuals whose actions break the laws of so many countries that international police action is taken against them. They are also not disconnected from terrorism by any stretch of the imagination. And also in the habit of posing as political leaders - if nothing else, self-appointed "saviors" of small countries (then again, political leaders often behave like criminals - so the difference may be a matter of perspective...) For that matter, the fallen dictators of former parts of Yugoslavia also fall into this category, and they were denounced as criminals.

Tillie Lapia

Your speculation about the Medeast's being thought badly-defended, is, I think, very close to the truth: supposedly, if someone hits you in a prison yard, you'd best hit _someone_, and it helps you even if the one you hit's the weakest-seeming person around (and it's safer that way).

The neoconservatives and other militarists believe that this is Prison Yard Earth. They are largely right, but they and those like them are responsible for this being so, because they deride all authority save that derived from physical force in the international sphere, ensuring that it will continue to be the sole determinant there.

They would point out that all authority must be backed with force, but they deride and deny that any type of force beside the military could be part of this, again ensuring that things will stay that way. (And this is by contrast with their general opinion of domestic affairs, where they seem to want some combination of economic and religious forces to rule absolutely.)

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