Moshe Landau, presiding judge at the 1962 trial of Adolf Eichmann, died on Sunday May 1, just in time to roll over in his grave. Judge Landau sentenced Eichmann to death for crimes against humanity after a 14 week televised trial. Mountains of evidence showed the world that the Austrian-born bureaucrat bore direct responsibility for the murder of 6 million Jews.
As Judge Landau’s body was interred on May 2, in compliance with Jewish burial law, Osama bin Laden’s corpse -- only a few hours cold -- was dumped in the drink. bin Laden, as we know, was linked by hearsay to the murder of 3 thousand Americans on 9/11. The FBI never felt it had sufficient evidence to put him on its “most wanted” list. So Navy SEALs just shot him in cold blood.
When Adolf Eichmann, proven killer of 6 million innocent victims, was executed 49 years ago, it was a somber moment. The state of Israel had never executed anybody convicted in a civilian courtroom, nor has it done so since. The day of Eichmann’s hanging was a one of quiet reflection for Jews and non-Jews alike, the world over bin Laden’s murder, on the other hand, was met with the kind of rejoicing one associates with Olympic gold medal victories. And, shockingly, celebrants included many considered by their friends and colleagues to be intelligent and kind.
What’s more, the revelers seem to think that questioning the veracity of the bin Laden narrative, whose details change daily, makes one a “conspiracy nut.” But somehow, the official story of 9/11 -- that 19 ragtag Islamic militants, none of whom were thought by their instructors to be competent pilots, were led by a guy in a cave on dialysis to thwart a multi-trillion dollar defense and security apparatus -- doesn’t strike these folks as, itself, a whacky “conspiracy theory.”
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Public trials of alleged criminals, of course, are the antidote to speculation about cabals and cover-ups. Our nation was able to move past the plot known as Watergate only after high ranking government officials were convicted in open court, and sentences were meted out. Absent a posthumous trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, on the other hand, we’ve had to live with the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations’ finding that there was “likely a conspiracy” in the murder of JFK.
So, too, doubts about bin Laden’s life and death will linger. Some surmise he was killed in cold blood because a trial would have exposed his ties to the CIA. Others believe -- because of information reported by mainstream news outlets such as CNN and CBS, along with “alternative” internet sources -- that bin Laden died of kidney failure years ago and that the May 1, 2011 operation was a public relations ploy. Since our history over the last half century is littered with presidential lies, from Tonkin Gulf in 1964 to “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” in 2002, such speculation hardly seems idle.
What we do know for sure is that jubilation over the killing of a suspect who’s never been tried degrades us all. A zealous advocate of truth and justice such as Moshe Landau would have been appalled at Obama’s handling of the Osama bin Laden matter. And he would have been sickened by the ease with which so many good people got swept up in the hysteria.