George W. Bush popped up on my TV this morning, and declared twice in as many minutes, that Abu Musab Al Zarqawi had been brought to justice.
Now, I would never want to contradict someone whose every utterance comes with a stamped and signed guarantee of truthfullness (Mission Accomplished!) but I think he misunderstands something about the nature of justice.
First, Zarqawi was killed. By two 500 pound bombs. Before he was arrested, tried or convicted of anything.
When I think of people being brought to justice, it involves courtrooms, impartial judges, juries and the introduction of evidence. There are a wide variety of justice systems in the world, each flawed in its own way, but by and large they do not begin their processes with the launching of weapons from F-16 jet fighters.
Do I have any doubt that Zarqawi was guilty of horrible crimes? Very little. I’m even pretty certain that he deserved to die, although I would add that I don’t believe anyone had the right to kill him, if there was another alternative available.
So when Bush claims that Zarqawi was “brought to justice,” he is misusing the very meaning of the word justice. What happened to Zarqawi was a military assasination. Men in uniforms and suits decided he would die, and killed him. The fact that no one cares very much that he is dead does not mean that it was justice.
If the warhawks want to justify extra-judicial killings, there are arguments to be made on that score. Just don’t take the word justice and try to tack it onto a military assault.