NOTE: This post has jumped 6 years - it was originally posted May 14, 2011 hence the comments about bin Laden etc. Very old news. Not sure how or why this came to be "re-dated"!!
No matter which way you look at it revenge is not a form of justice. Revenge is always personal – normally to seek retribution for some imagined wrong or perceived damage to someone’s ego (“loss of face”). Justice, to be true justice must be provided according to the law and be seen to be done – in other words justice must be a public affair. All trials and judgements must be made in public. No secret trials, no ‘kangaroo courts’, no ‘renditions’ to secret locations, no private ‘extra-judicial’ killings or assassinations.
Take the recent Osama bin Laden event in Pakistan. Whatever his crimes (and they were many), as a human being, he rightfully deserved his day in court. No matter the feelings of anger, hatred or fear and loathing engendered by his name and activities, he was entitled to a fair trial. To believe otherwise is to sink to his level, to a level of barbarism that does not sit well with any professed civilised society.
The law is based on trust and ethics. The great Confucius said some 2500 years ago, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others” - (the Bible says this and the Koran also expresses this guiding principle). This common sense principle is the foundation of all laws, of ethics, of compassion and of the general process of living. This is where the trust element resides – in the sure knowledge that you will be treated the same way that you would treat others. Any country that professes to abide by the law but, when convenient, flouts this principle loses all moral authority - read the USA, Sweden, Israel, China, Iran, Australia (and unfortunately many others).
When trust falters and people are unsure about how they will be treated, problems arise. Citizens will either live in fear, or will flout the law with a ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ attitude. Neither bodes well for peace and prosperity in any country.
No matter how much "spin" the Americans use to dress up the killing of bin Laden; no matter how much the Swedes approve their closed trials for sexual crimes; no matter what the Chinese say about their secret trials, imprisonment and execution of people for spurious violations of their laws; no matter what the Israeli’s call their killing of Palestinians; no matter how the USA describes their treatment of prisoners in Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay; no matter how Australian police justify their treatment of the original inhabitants of Australia, such activities cannot be justified and are wrong – plain and simply wrong.
Think of it like this – if the positions were reversed, the people imposing these penalties would not like to be treated this way, would they? Remember that violence - in any form - is the last resort of the morally bankrupt.