Was Capturing Bin Laden Ever a Serious Option?


National Journal's Yochi J. Dreazen, Aamer Madhani, and Marc Ambinder report that the Obama administration "never seriously considered" capturing Osama bin Laden alive:

The White House disclosed on Tuesday that bin Laden was unarmed when the SEALs shot him in the head and chest, killing him instantly. The administration said that bin Laden resisted capture, but hasn't suggested in any of its public comments that the SEALs were in any immediate danger when they opened fire on him….

The SEALs' decision to fatally shoot bin Laden—even though he didn't have a weapon—wasn't an accident.  The administration had made clear to the military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions.  A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.

The White House continues to maintain that Bin Laden was killed because he "resisted" capture, although the nature of that resistance is unclear. As I note in my column today, even if you accept President Obama's position that terrorists are properly treated as enemy combatants, killing Bin Laden while he was trying to surrender or after he was captured would violate the rules of war. In an online commentary on Monday, John B. Bellinger, legal counsel at the State Department and the National Security Council in the Bush administration, argued that "the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was lawful under both U.S. domestic law and international law." But in today's New York Times, he qualifies that judgment:

If he were surrendering, or knocked out and unconscious on the ground, that would raise serious questions. But this is a guy who's extremely dangerous. If he's nodding at someone in the hall, or rushing to the bookcase or you think he's wearing a suicide vest, you're on solid ground to kill him.

Bellinger seems to be saying that even if it was possible to take Bin Laden alive,  even if he was unarmed and did not offer any overt resistance, the fear that he or someone else might was enough to justify killing him. If that is the standard, the question of whether killing Bin Laden was legal may never be definitively resolved. But as Dreazen, Madhani, and Ambinder note, the result is awfully convenient for Obama, who otherwise would have had to deal with the politically perilous question of whether and how to try Bin Laden for his crimes. They suggest that the increase in targeted missile attacks by drone aircraft in Pakistan, which rose from 35 in 2008 to 117 last year, reflects Obama's desire to avoid such issues, despite his professed commitment to trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts. Obama's schizophrenic policy regarding members and supporters of Al Qaeda treats them as enemy combatants who can be killed at will until they are in custody, at which point they become criminal suspects with due process rights. Given those options, it's not surprising that Obama prefers to shoot first and ask questions never.

Ann Althouse notes that Attorney General Eric Holder dodged the question of how the administration would treat a captured Bin Laden in congressional testimony last year, saying, "The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama Bin Laden—he will never appear in an American courtroom….The possibility of capturing him alive is infinitesimal—he will be killed by us or he will be killed by his own people."

Addendum: Politico's Ben Smith notes that President Obama himself has described Bin Laden's death in a way that not only leaves open the possibility that he was killed at a point where he posed no threat but suggests that he was summarily executed after he was captured. On Sunday night, Obama said:

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

Not "during a firefight," as other accounts from administration officials have suggested, but "after a firefight." Similarly, on Monday night Obama described the helicopter raid as "an operation that resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden." First capture, then death.

I'm not sure there's an important moral distinction between dropping a bomb on Bin Laden's house, which Obama considered, and summarily executing him with a gun. In fact, the first option may be harder to justify, since it poses more danger to innocent bystanders. But assuming that Obama is right to treat Al Qaeda members as combatants and their homes (wherever they may be) as legitimate military targets, the first option is arguably legal, while the latter is not.

Addendum II: NBC News reports that the CIA "categorically denies" that "Osama bin Laden was captured at the scene and then killed minutes afterward," as claimed by his daughter.

[Thanks to John Thacker for the Althouse link.]

NEXT: The Cost of Getting Bin Laden

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  1. hasn't suggested in any of its public comments that the SEALs were in any immediate danger when they opened fire

    Allah have mercy, if you knew his breath!

    And thanks for sparing me!

  2. or the seals were genuinely concerned for the team's safety in which case this is all hot air

    1. Yeah

      The Navy Seals probably were not in any danger...but that fact could not have been determined by anyone until after they had left and safe at some base or transport ship.

      I am pretty sure any special forces mission assumes ground assets are in danger when on foreign soil uninvited. If not then we need to reform our special forces.

      1. dunno - bullets tend to cause "mechanical failures" in choppers...and alotta things

  3. Woulda been nice in a way to capture the sonofabitch, but the thought of putting him through a civilian show trial just to appease Team Blue makes the bile rise.

    1. The only tragedy is that a bullet in the head and chest seem relatively quick and painless for a guy that was such a fuck. If ever there was a guy that I'd be ok with a little "enhanced interrogation" on, he'd be the one. Hopefully they made him listen to Rebecca Black during the raid.

    2. The civilian trial would be necessary to appease the Constitution, not Team Blue. None of the actions bin Laden is accused of took place while the US was at war.

      1. Oh bullshit. This retarded meme that foreigners engaged in armed combat with American troops but refuse to abide by the Geneva Conventions in said combat are civilians entitled to due process is foolish.

        The Constitution applies to American citizens and legal residents. The Geneva Conventions apply to armies and organized resistance groups. The protection of the Conventions applies to groups:

        * that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
        * that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance
        * that of carrying arms openly;
        * that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

        AQ meets none of these requirements. They are beyond the jurisdiction of American law, and are not protected by international convention due to their own decision to fight not as an organized resistance group obeying the laws of war, but as terrorists. They should be treated as pirates and terrorists have always been treated by civilized nations.

        1. ^THIS

        2. The constitution does not say "all citizens". It says "all persons"

        3. The Geneva Convention also grants protection to "armed resistance" to invasion by foreign powers. That is why the clause was included to mandate "competent tribunals" to determine the actual status of prisoners.

          All prisoners are to be given an opportunity to challenge their detention and designation as POW's. A competent tribunal could be a military court, be it should bve designated as such, with the authority to release prisoners improperly held.

          1. There is no language in the constitution which authorizes the state to murder an individual who is residing in another sovereign nation with whom amerika is not at war.


            1. Tell that to the Marines and the Navy who routinely hung pirates in the 18th and the 19th centuries. And the Army who hung partisans during the Mexican and civil wars. Stateless actors hiding among civilian populations were never given any kind of legal status until the 1970s.

              Peacenik libertarians really do live in this ahistorical fantasy world.

              1. They think there's something heroic about crippling your own war efforts. Whether the constitution has anything to do with that is secondary, sort of a bonus.

                1. So the war effort trumps the Constitution? Woodrow Wilson would love you, man.

                  It's not even clear how killing bin Laden as opposed to capturing him even helps the effort for our undeclared "wars".

                  1. The Geneva Convention also grants protection to "armed resistance" to invasion by foreign powers.

                    # 4.1.6 Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

                    AQ is not carrying arms openly and is not respecting the laws and customs of war.

                    Look, terrorists have no protection under national or international law. They are hostilis humanis generis.

                    Pedant said "No, the Constitution applies to the US government. So long as government agents operate under authority of the Constitution, the location they operate in is entirely irrelevant."

                    War is not domestic policing. To conflate the two is asinine.

        4. >The Constitution applies to American citizens and legal residents.

          No, the Constitution applies to the US government. So long as government agents operate under authority of the Constitution, the location they operate in is entirely irrelevant.

  4. Bring me Bin Laden; alive if possible; dead, just as good.

  5. I still think he was captured alive. You just wait. Some time in the next few months Obama will appoint a new, 6'6" tall and freshly shaved czar who delivers all his policy announcements via crudely videotaped fatwas.

    1. Van Jonsama?

    2. Great! I've had enough of cars--bring on the caliphs!

  6. The reality is that we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama Bin Laden

    ... in proper accordance with Islamic tradition and maritime law.

  7. Slightly off topic, but I am getting sick of the stories of how Obama showed "courage" and "guts" by approving this mission. This was the spin the White House put out on Monday and is being seized upon by Team Blue's supporters in the mainstream media.

    A president with falling approval ratings, a bad economy that seems to be worsening, skyrocketing oil prices, nearly 10% unemployment, record deficits, fighting a rear-guard action to defend his unconstitutional healthcare legislation, who's party just lost control of Congress and who is only 18 months from a re-election campaign, is handed a possible foreign policy coup on a silver platter. How many nanoseconds do you really think it took him to make the "gutsy" decision to approve it?

    1. Jim Geraghty of National Review wrote this, which I think is spot-on:

      A million and one things could have gone wrong with this mission. If Obama were the indecisive caricature we've feared, he never would have authorized sending four helicopters full of SEALs flying at low altitude deep into Pakistan to raid a house right next to the Pakistani military academy. It is very, very easy to imagine this mission going terribly wrong -- imagine the Pakistani military attacking the "unidentified" helicopters and Osama making a getaway during the firefight. Had the Pakistani military prevented us from capturing the terrorist who killed more Americans than any other on earth, the American people would be screaming with fury at a nuclear power.

      1. Yep, but on the upside, I'm sure there's a document out there denouncing these "rogue" SEALs for their reckless violation of Pakistan's terrirotial integrity and Obama had his "plausible deniability" all ready to go.

      2. Mr Geraghty is assuming Pakistan didn't know about the raid at some level. All it would have taken is a phone call to the Pakistani govt telling them we were going to be flying helicopters into Abottabad and they better leave them alone if they ever want to see another red cent of aid. And do military academies generally have anti-aircraft batteries mounted on their rooves or something? I don't recall seeing any at West Point.

        1. Umm, I suspect that if very many government officials in Pakistan had been tipped off about the raid, the SEALS would have found an empty compound.

        2. They probably do have SAMs nearby if they're 15 miles from India (O.K. Kashmir), much of the Pakistani high command has homes in the area, and you're technically still at war with India. I've already said that someone in the Pakistani military got a phone call to let the helicopters come through, and not go batshit thinking that India was trying some weird payback for the Mumbai tragedy. You could always have a B-2 or two, orbiting the area, with orders to turn UBL's house into a smoking hole if anyone tries to leave after you place the call.

          I think someone in the ISI finally decided to cash in UBL. In exchange for what, I don't know. Maybe the U.S. agreeing to leave w/in 12 months? A new batch of whatever weaponry the Pakistanis felt they were missing? The right to be the wealthiest 7-11 owner in Dearborn, MI?

          The raid had to be plausible, hence the helicopters, and not just driving up to the gates with a half dozen 2.5 ton trucks full of troops and kicking in the door. Although if it really took the SEALs 30-40 minutes to clear a small residential compound, they might as well have just gone the truck route.

          I mean, you have loads of gunfire, circling helicopters, explosions from scuttled helicopters: all within a well-to-do area only 15 miles from a disputed area and 30 miles from your capital, and nobody shows up to see what's going on in a half hour? No cops? No regular Army? The nearby residents get told to stay indoors and we're supposed to believe that someone in Pakistan wasn't in on this ahead of time?

          More than a few inconsistencies in the timeline, where the helicopters were supposed to have come from, and who supposedly knew what, when.

    2. What would have taken "guts" was to just let OBL sit there and fester. He was basically out of it anyway. I'm happy he's dead, but a case for just letting rot could be made and the maggot wasn't worth the life a single American. No way Obama would have the courage to stand up to that decision.

    3. It's ridiculous. Presidents ordering other people to go into danger to kill someone else aren't brave. The political repercussions, if that's the type of bravery we're talking about, were far, far greater if he knew Osama's location and didn't take decisive action. So where's the courage?

      1. bush knew bin laden was in tora bora & took no "decisive action" yet was re-elected.

      2. Yeah, bravery generally involves some sort of personal risk. He just did what I would have expected any president to do under the circumstances.

  8. Osamas family should brings bivens action against Obama and holder. I'm sure the seals didn't have a warrant, failed to knock and announce, and used unnecessarily deadly force. Holders comments would be great for cross examination.

  9. This is a tacit admission by the Obama administration that you can't fight a war (on terror, or otherwise) using the criminal justice system.

    Game, Obama. Set and Match, W.

    1. Really? That admission came years ago under W when we started doing "targeted killings" with predator drones in Pakistan. The admission was further pushed when we killed the first American citizen via hellfire in Pakistan. No we can't use the justice system to fight terrorists on foreign soil - it is stupid to think that you can. Foreign people are not bound by our laws, therefore we cannot try them in American courts.

      1. Obama campaigned on closing down Gitmo and trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts. Bush had never made any promises to do anything of the kind.

    2. the federal courts have convicted over 200+ terrorists

    3. I think that the argument could be made that you can't fight a war on terror (whatever the fuck that is supposed to even mean) with the military either. THe US may be safer, it is hard to say, but there is certainly no less terror in the world than there was in 2001.

    4. In what universe does Obama agreeing with you constitute a win?

      1. Good question! But the point is, the guy who implied he would never stoop to extra-legal measures... in fact stooped to extra-legal measures when he had an opportunity to score a political win and/or score a victory for America.

        Does this really "vindicate" Bush/Cheney in terms of proving them morally right? No. It merely proves that Obama either changed his mind to agree with Bush/Cheney, or is a hypocrite.

        And that was my point.

    5. You really screwed up the tennis metaphor. The winner of a match (and a set) is always the winner of the final game.

      1. OK then:

        "Obama won the battle, W won the war."

        I think people got the point. Smart aleck.

        1. better - w started wars, obama ended them

          1. Which wars has he ended? I must have missed the announcement of the last planeload of troops leaving the Middle East.

  10. Slightly off topic, but I am getting sick of the stories of how Obama showed "courage" and "guts" by approving this mission.

    C'mon when you play for Team Blue you can get a "Profiles in Courage" award just for voting to raise taxes.

    Remember it's the political risk or courage that is what they are really concerned about

    1. Should Obama get a medal of honor for his "courage"?

      1. no but obama will get re-elected

        1. that's still a year and a half away. This is milkable by 6 months at most.

        2. political risk or courage that is what they are really concerned about

          And that's all that really matters.

  11. Obama took the easy way out? Color me shocked...simply shocked. This is a man of great intelligence and consideration...

  12. Politico's Ben Smith notes that President Obama himself has described Bin Laden's death in a way that not only leaves open the possibility that he was killed at a point where he posed no threat but suggests that he was summarily executed after he was captured.

    That would be nice since it would guarantee that he knew what was going on and who killed him.

    I guess cutting off his head with a sword on video would have been too much.

  13. I was not aware of Holder's comment about Osama being killed by his own people. That would indicate Holder believed that Osama's people would have a major interest in seeing Osama not captured alive...which leads one to conclude there would have been huge value in the U.S. capturing him alive!
    The trials of Eichmann and Hussein showed just what pathetic little shits they were. OBL would have been similarly humbled, may have been of value in revealing AQ operations and leadership, or even ranting about why the U.S. is so hated and letting a debate begin ala Ron Paul's assertions.

  14. Summary execution of hostile irregulars leader illegal? I'm pretty sure the Geneva conventions and US law allow it.

    1. Yeah, I don't think I'd call this illegal. Otherwise the CIA would pretty much just have to close shop.

      1. Isn't the CIA's job to do things that are illegal?

    2. Yes, although that's the same argument made about indefinite detention and various "enhanced interrogation techniques."

      I think it's difficult to explain exactly why killing when capture is possible is okay, but indefinite detention isn't. Even though that does seem to be what the American people prefer.

      1. Not for me. Less risk of counterstrike works just fine. If he wanted justice, he should have turned himself in.

    3. al-Qaeda are not hostile irregulars. They don't have a uniform to be out of.

      1. Call them brigands then. They certainly aren't regular armed forces of a state.

        1. Neither are bank robbers, but we don't summarily execute them.

          1. Depends on the cost of holding them for trial. If its excessive enough (armed banditry to come tear up town to retrieve compatriot), then there can be some justification for quick dispatchment, but bank robbers don't tend to be a threat once captured. That's not saying that Osama was a threat, but thats a process of logic that could be used.

          2. Bank robber = criminal matter

            Foreign terrorists = military matter

            terrorist = no Geneva protections

            This really isn't that hard.

            1. What about the Canadian guy who was accused of shipping MJ seeds to the US. Could we have droned him too, since any crime committed against the US outside the US is a military matter?

              1. Does he have a large armed force preventing his apprehension and arrest, Tulpa? If so, then yes.

                And as a real-world example of your hypo, I wouldn't be surprised to see drone strikes against Mexican drug lords if the violence there gets any worse/starts killing "important" Americans.

                1. The SEALs could easily have arrested bin Laden, as they took several other people in the compound away as prisoners. It's not like he's Count Dooku and can make objects fly around the room if you don't kill him.

          3. Tell that to Bonnie and Clyde

  15. CNN is now reporting that bid Laden's 12-13 year old daughter witnessed her father's shooting.

    The story, after being filtered by Pakistani intelligence, should prove to be entertaining.

    1. wait, are you sure they're getting that right, or are they just assuming a 12-13 yr old girl was his "daughter"

      1. CNN is reporting that many other adults and children were left in the compound. So there will be many witness account rolling out over the next few days and weeks.

  16. If he was caught alive then given battlefield justice, the SEALS would not have shot him in the head--harder to confirm identity. They aren't stupid.

    Duh. He was reaching for something or doing something similarly threatening, and they did exactly what their training tells them to do.

    And like he really would have surrendered. c'mon

    1. It would be in his interest to surrender at that point. He would see his trial as an opportunity to rally the cause, etc.

      Of course, he'd be wrong, as he has been about a great many things. A trial would show that the United States of America doesn't abandon its principles over a mosquito bite like 9/11.

    2. "The SEALS would not have shot him in the head--harder to confirm identity."

      DNA. Probably already had samples from his non-outlaw kin ready to go.

      1. I'm thinking the bulk of bin Laden's fans in the Muslim world don't even know what DNA is, let alone what it proves. A photo they understand.

      2. Not necessarily. A .22 in the brain stem will kill just as thoroughly as a .45.

  17. John Bellinger: But this is a guy who's extremely dangerous.

    Really? I know he had his picture taken a couple times while holding an AK47, but I don't remember anyone saying he was a suicidal super-ninja.

    1. You don't think a guy who's totally convinced he's deserving of not only a half-gross of dewy maidens but also a seat next to Allah is not willing to wear a suicide vest and push a button when the soldiers come for him, as he, a smart man, knew they would?

      1. I seriously doubt he was wearing a suicide vest 24/7, and if he was I'd imagine it has a dead man's switch.

        1. Got it. Is that what you and your fellow analysts at the CIA have figured out?

          Jeez, all he had to do was have a block of C4 with a detonator attached to it next to his bed. The soldiers show up, grab it, push the button, boom. If I could think of it, he could have too.

          1. Anyone in the compound could have had a bomb vest on or access to enough explosive to kill everyone in the building, yet the SEALs didn't kill everyone, did they?

            There's no evidence Osama was a suicide bomber type; his MO was to convince other people to blow themselves up.

            And it's interesting that the people taunting me as a "CIA analyst" are repeating the pablum spoon fed to them by the administration. You don't know what went on any better than I did, the difference is that you're trusting manifestly untrustworthy people.

        2. Ya, but didn't this raid happen at night, and wouldn't you think it is probable that someone like Osama would keep some type of explosive or other weapon next to his bed to grab or slip on the moment he heard gunshots?

          1. Even a simple 9mm on the nightstand.

            Heck, I got one there in case my daughter brings home a boyfriend I don't like.

          2. Osama never gave any indication of being a suicide bomber or even a fighter himself. His specialty was convincing other people to do the dirty work for him (which is why it was more risky to allow the other people around him to live if we were concerned about suicide bombs and such).

      2. He apparently was not willing to do so.

    2. You never know they are super-ninjas until they are showing you your own beating in their hand.

    3. "Really? I know he had his picture taken a couple times while holding an AK47, but I don't remember anyone saying he was a suicidal super-ninja."

      Uhh, ever hear of a final boss? They probably had to shoot him a bunch in his weak spot, only to have a smaller Bin Laden come out of his body and fly around.

    4. Exactly, he wasn't Jason Bourne

  18. Dumping his body in the ocean so they couldn't turn his grave into a shrine probably wasn't just a spur of the moment idea either.

    It's hard to imagine turning him over to a war-crimes tribunal at the Hague or giving him a jury trial here in the U.S. He was waging war against the U.S., and he was a legitimate military target.

    War means ordering the military to kill military targets.

    If he refused to surrender, then I'm not so sure shooting him was wrong even if he was unarmed. And if somebody who was there wants to accuse someone else or their superiors of a war crime, then there's a way to do that.

    Unless that happens, I think this is a non-issue.

    1. There's no evidence he was waging war against the US.

      1. Besides, of course, his declaration of war against the US in his 1996 fatwa, "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places."

        1. By that standard, Ron Paul can be summarily executed for insurrection, publishing a book called "The Revolution".

          1. Sure, if Ron Paul followed up on his book by, you know, actually revolting and blowing up US warships, embassys, and civilian targets.

            1. That's not what you said; you cited a document he wrote.

              And blowing stuff up is a matter for a court to decide.

          2. If you ever write anything worth responding to? I'll be sure to let you know.

            1. It doesn't matter what I think of you, Ken; the Arab street loves you because you don't shrink from slaughtering women and children.

          3. Can someone please save this comment or all time please? We have definitive proof that Tulpa is insane or retarded. That meets and exceeds Max Chony standards of asininity.

            1. I noticed you haven't bothered pointing out what was wrong with his comment.

    2. And dumping his body into the ocean was a supremely stupid idea. It means that there will forever be reasonable doubts about whether he's actually dead.

      All the talking heads on TV Sunday night seemed to think having possession of his body was crucial while it was thought that we did have possession of it. Of course they changed their tune once the WH admitted we didn't anymore.

      1. Doesn't matter. Conspiracy theories are inevitable regardless of what we do.

        We could have paraded every Muslim in the world past bin Laden's body and millions of them would still think he's alive.

        Many people prefer fantasy and conspiracy to reality whenever that reality offends their ideology or worldview.

      2. Nah

        His wife is saying he is dead.

        In fact it might be to everyone's advantage that the body was dumped into the ocean if only so it makes it easier to identify the lunatics from the rational.

        1. Exactly. Rational people know that Biggie is really dead. Nutbars think Tupac is still alive.

      3. It means that there will forever be reasonable doubts about whether he's actually dead.

        If he weren't dead, he could really fuck the Great Satan with a video containing information clearly from after the time of supposed death.

        Want to place a bet on whether a legitimate version of something like that turns up?

        1. There will be unreasonable doubts about him being dead. No reasonable person would believe that if Osama were still alive, he'd be keeping quiet about it. He'd be releasing a video of him holding up a current newspaper or something proving the video was made after his alleged death.

          1. He's either dead now, has been dead for awhile, or is currently wishing he was dead.

            I'd put most of my money on #1, but the Administration's stupid handling of his body and evidence from same is forcing me to look at #3. I mean, just fucking release the pictures already. Clean up the helmet cam stuff and upload it. Again, they could have done this neatly on the Vinson's hangar deck with a Who's Who of international media, letting the newsies poke him, fingerprint him and photograph him like first prize in the Big Buck Derby, but nooo, they had to get clever with burying him at sea.

            It's like they wanted to start a deather movement or something.

        2. Simple: Make a video decrying the US love of violence and territorial invasion, as exemplified in their love of football. Make reference to [NFL Team] having just won the Superbowl. Repeat, making a similar video for every team in the NFL. Have followers release the appropriate video a day or two after the next Superbowl, post-mortem.

          1. As I said, "...containing information clearly from after the time of supposed death."

            Quotes from Obama's speech about his death, a current newspaper, something that couldn't be faked from iterating a very small pool of possible outcomes.

  19. In fact, the first option may be harder to justify, since it poses more danger to innocent bystanders.

    This is my position.


  21. the CIA "categorically denies" that "Osama bin Laden was captured at the scene and then killed minutes afterward," as claimed by his daughter.


    The mission was an assassination. Does it matter if they shot him on sight or pulled him aside and shot him?

    1. The SEALs left witnesses, people that have grievances. Unless the US government releases videotapes of the actual shooting, we will never know what happened at the compound.

      1. Again, facts and reality won't make "people that have grievances" change their mind. You can't fight insanity with truth, and you shouldn't even try.

        We have miles of video of the 9/11 terrorists going through security and the planes hitting the WTC, but there are still millions of truthers.

        1. My point was that the US administration is no longer the only "source" of information regarding the assault on the compound.

        2. They dumped the body in the sea to prevent bin Laden's burial site from becomming a shrine. Apparently our administration is unaware of the history of agrieved daughters pursuing politics.

          1. the history of agrieved daughters pursuing politics.

            The Kardashians will have their vengeance on OJ!

          2. Apparently our administration is unaware of the history of aggrieved daughters pursuing politics.

            Especially in that part of the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benazir_Bhutto

          3. I keep hearing the "shrine" justification and still don't see it making any sense. Osama's followers can just establish a shrine at the site of his death, no?

            As us in post-Christendom should know, lack of a well-defined tomb is no impedement to adoration.

            1. I am now taking donations to build a new cathedral on the site of bin Laden's Abbottabad compound.

      2. Why should we care?

        It was a fucking successful assassination intended as an assassination.

        What, is the wife going to say we assassinated him the wrong way?

        Is the white house going to make up some horse shit that the mission was not an assassination?

        Does any rational person think it was not an assassination?

        1. A daughter shedding tears on camera will have roughly the same effect on our opponents as parading bin Laden's body around.

          Merely an observation.

        2. Is the white house going to make up some horse shit that the mission was not an assassination?

          They've already been trying.

          1. I'm amazed that such a PR-savvy WH didn't seem to have any talking points prepared beforehand to answer all the questions.

            They should have had explanations ready for all contingencies--failure, OBL not there, OBL shot and wounded, OBL shot and killed, OBL blows himself up, etc.

            Instead, it's been "Explanation of the Day."

            1. Some people just need killin

            2. I don't know that I think they've ever been particularly PR savvy. It just seems that was because of the favorable treatment that get from the press. Same thing goes for his supposedly badass speech writers. Many of his biggest moments (including Sunday night) have been objectively bad speeches, but they've been fawned over to the point that it seems like they must have been awesome.

            3. You know, I wonder if John's explanation from a few days' ago isn't the best explanation for this? Briefly, it's that this Administration is a strange combination of monumentally arrogant and incompetent, so much so that they couldn't conceive of someone doubting them when they said UBL's dead. So they thought of a "clever" solution to the whole martyrdom, shrine to Islam thing, and never thought that anyone would actually want to see the fucking body.

        3. Is the white house going to make up some horse shit that the mission was not an assassination?

          The White House will NEVER admit this was an assassination. Never never never. Because, if they admitted it, then they would legitimize people shooting at Obama.

          1. Not to mention, isn't the Ford Executive Order prohibiting assassinations still in effect? Which is why we went through all of those bullshit circumlocutions during Gulf War I and II trying to kill Saddam, but not admitting that we were trying to, and also with ol' Muammar?

  22. "Addendum II: NBC News reports that the CIA "categorically denies" that "Osama bin Laden was captured at the scene and then killed minutes afterward," as claimed by his daughter."

    How sad is it that I believe the terrorist scumbag's daughter over the CIA? This was an assassination run. Hell, I wouldn't be shocked if he surrendered and assumed he would be taken alive to Gitmo or something - his allies might have fought back, but the guy himself wasn't in the greatest of health.

  23. This is one case where I find the obsession with legality mystifying.

    We're talking about whether it's legally OK to blow someone's head into a fine red mist. That's a pretty serious action. Do we really think a flimsy law is what makes it justifiable or not?

    I suppose you'll be defending the police for tossing pot-smokers in jail next, Mr. Sullum. After all, it's illegal!

  24. I'm sure this was a kill mission from the get-go.

    I wonder if any of the SEALs were worried about getting immunity from prosecution before they left? After all, a SEAL got court-martialed for punching a Taliban in the face.

    1. I read the rational for sending in the SEALs was to produce a body to verify the target was dead. Wiping out the compound from the air would not have had the same certainty.

      There was never any intent to capture bin Laden.

      1. And even better than OBL is the intel he would have had (and apparently did).

        Conbine that with the intel we have now, and I'm sure they're connecting a whole lot of dots.

      2. I read the rational for sending in the SEALs was to produce a body to verify the target was dead.

        ...and then immediately get rid of the body? I don't get it.

    2. I wonder how that works in practice? Do the operators' supervising officers get a memo from the White House authorizing their actions? I gotta' admit, I'd want a piece of paper with the President's signature on it, covering my ass if it all went pear-shaped. I wouldn't rely on safety through obscurity.

      Particularly in a legalistic environment where, as you noted, you could be court-martialed for striking a detainee. Or for baiting people with ordnance.

  25. The top story at Google News is that Obama won't release photos. How are these photos immune from the Freedom of Information Act? What state secrets could they possibly hold to prevent their release? How does the administration argue that there are state secrets after contemplating in public that the photos might be released?

    1. Because of executive order "I do what ever the f*** I want".

    2. The release would endanger national security by provoking attacks by Osama sympathizers.

      (I think this is bullshit, but it will certainly hold up in court)

  26. While the image of SEALs shooting a captured Bin Laden point blank brings me some dark satisfaction, I can't say I'm completely cool with it.

    Executing an unarmed man in front of his family? Eh....

  27. A possible reason they wouldn't want him alive would be, in the ensuing media fest, the REAL reasons for his war against us could have come out. He would have a platform to speak directly to the American people.

    Now, I'm getting tired of the fist-pumping "let's feed him to pigs!!!" reactions. Am I glad we scored this victory? Yes. Am I glad he's dead? Yes.

    But he was a worthy enemy, it has to be said. He wasn't some deviant like Bernie Madoff or John Wayne Gacy, worthy of no respect. And he wasn't a power-hungry monster like Hitler or Stalin. He was an insurgent who truly believed in his cause, and who only took on enemies more powerful than him.

    1. He was an insurgent who truly believed in his cause, and who only took on enemies more powerful than him.

      Powerful enemies like the non-combatants in the Twin Towers? I'm guessing there were a few children in that building.

      1. There were a few children killed by American bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by our earlier sanctions against Iraq.

        Killing Muslim children is generally a lot less risky than killing American children, as Bin Laden himself pointed out.

        1. Ah, your asseveration that "there were a few children killed by American bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by our earlier sanctions against Iraq" is just so much bullshit.

          We have murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraquis and thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis. The sanctions against Iraq coupled with our recurring bombing missions over the country resulted in half a million dead Iraquis. We have the notorious statist, Maddy Albright, on record, with that number.

          Even if it was just one Pakistani who had been killed as a result of one murcan drone, it would still be murder.

          Furthermore, there is no proof that OBL was behind 9/11.

          1. Jesus Mike, you are bringing the crazy today.

          2. And killing as a result of lawfully targeting someone in a war is not murder. You just fucking cracked Mike.

            1. John, as I say to committed christians on tax issues, there is no exception to the commandment that "thou shalt not steal" for the united states government.

              The same reasoning applies to the conduct of war. For example, are you familiar with the Sand Creek massacre of November 30, 1864? The US cavalry, led by Colonel John Chivington, attacked a villiage of southern cheyenne and arapaho, before dawn. The chief of the southern Cheyenne was Black Kettle.

              There were over 100 indians murdered. ALmost all of them were women and children. The indians were not, and had not, engaged in warfare against the invaders of their territory.

              IN fact, it is well known that Black Kettle was a man of peace who constantly urged peaceful coexistence with the whites.

              The soldiers who killed the cheyenne women and children were murderers. Their actions can not be described any other way.

            2. Ok, I'll bite, what war was Osama a combatant in?

              1. The war he declared on us....?

            3. There were US government offices in the WTC. It was as much a military target as Daffy's son's residence.

              (imo neither was a legit military target -- neither had a plausible connection to warmaking)

          3. Libertymike pretty much stuck to established facts, other than that last sentence. No proof? Really?

            1. OBL is on record as denying that he had any involvement with 9/11.

              1. My bad, then. I remember the video of him celebrating the destruction of the towers. But I guess that's not a confession of involvement. I thought he had made one at the time, but I'm obviously misremembering.

              2. He is also on record explaining why he carried out the attacks. He denied it immediately after to buy time for himself and the Taliban.

                Fucking tinfoilers love to cherry-pick quotes

                1. Ah, he did claim responsibility. Libertymike loses 1 point in the debate. Hardly makes him a "tinfoiler".

                2. What, you mean the fake OBL in the 2004 video where his nose was narrower and he was right-handed, where the real OBL has a wide nose and is a lefty?

                  Try again.

              3. And the FBI also said it had no evidence linking OBL to 9/11, which is why he wasn't indicted nor wanted for it.

                State-sanctioned murder is still murder.

    2. I find it pretty hard to respect a guy whose idea of fighting is flying planes full of innocent people into buildings. Hell, I have more respect for Muhammad Atta than I do for Bin Ladin. At least that crazy bastard was willing to actually die for his cause as opposed to sending others to do so. And he spent the last 10 years of his life on the run. He was never able to hit the US again after we decided to go after him. There is nothing to respect about Bin Ladin. And yeah, we should have fed him to the pigs.

      1. Bin Laden was willing to die for his cause, or else he never would have declared war on America. He knew this day was coming.

        But his cause wouldn't have gone very far if he had taken on a suicide mission in the very beginning, would it? Military orgs need leadership.

        Bin Laden stuck to the idea of "total war" - much like Patton, MacArthur, Truman, Sherman, etc. Do I agree with the tactics used by these men? No. Would I have pulled the trigger on OBL? Yes.

        But these attempts to paint him as a hypocrite/coward are shallow and stupid.

        1. And I love how people say "he never hit us after 9/11".

          well, no, not domestically at least. But he did hit us ON 9/11, and several times before, so.....

          1. Agree with you that OBL wasn't a hypocrite, but I just can't see the "worthy adversary" angle. By all appearances he was a two-bit early-stage fascist, one of Hoffer's "True Believers": an angry narcissist loser, and a privledged one at that. Furthermore, there's not a lot of evidence of personal courage. The man was the socio-political equivalent of a cockroach, and he just got stepped-on. No reason to celebrate, but also no reason for respect.

            I'm skirting Godwin's Law, but you wouldn't have called Goebbels a worthy adversary if someone had taken him out in 1930.

            1. Did Goebbels travel to the Eastern Front to fight the Soviets? No, but OBL did, even though he could have lived a nice trust-fund life in Saudi Arabia.

              And actually, there are Mujahedeen accounts of him fighting bravely against the Russian at Jalalabad

    3. Yup, I think that's the reason nobody in power wanted to see bin Laden on trial. In his videotapes, he made some criticisms of American foreign policy that were pretty spot on. Some of them criticisms not that far off from things, say, Ron Paul has said.

      1. I am sure Bin Ladin agreeing with him would have helped Ron Paul so much. First, nothing he said was spot on. And second, even if it was, the last thing you would want is your case being made by a mass murderer. If Charlie Manson agreed with you on forgeign policy would you think his making your case would be a good thing? Trying him was the last thing the Get the US Out Of North America types would have wanted.

        1. OK, sentence by sentence:

          * Ron Paul obviously isn't one of the people who has ever had any influence over whether bin Laden would be taken alive or would be put on trial. The English word, "say", in the phrase, "...say, Ron Paul..." indicates I was just giving one example of someone who has voiced criticisms similar to a few of those voiced by bin Laden. Obama himself made similar criticisms, when he was a candidate.

          * Nothing he said was spot-on: What about, for example, bin Laden's claim that Western powers want to control the Middle Eastern region because of its vast oil supply? I mean bin Laden said lots of crazy stuff, but once in a while he said things that made sense, and were pretty obvious.

          * Charles Manson: Seems to be a rehashing of your misunderstanding that I was saying that Ron Paul wouldn't want bin Laden on trial.

          * Not sure what a "Get the US Out of North America" type is. Is that your way of saying that anybody who wants the U.S. out of foreign entanglements is an isolationist extremist?

          1. Heh, "Get the U.S. out of North America" is slogan used by some more extreme Libertarians (I personally like it).

            Lew Rockwell has it as a bumper sticker

            1. I used to go around saying, "U.S. out of California!" -- I need to update it to, "California out of California!"

            2. I actually think, "Get the U.S. Out of North America", is slightly clever. I just like giving John a hard time lately because he's a really smart dude but he can't seem to let go of his gooey Republican center.

  28. I still think that it would have been fascinating to see his ugly mug on a quality feed, trying to defend his baseless actions. Make him speak for his defense. No more of this "You get to see me when I'm making another threat" crap.

  29. 7 Minutes Vs. 16 Hours: How The Media Reports Delay
    ...On the other hand, after Obama was told (most likely for the fifteenth time) that the CIA was really, really, really quite confident that Osama bin Ladin was at that compound in Abbottabad, he decided he needed to sleep on it.

    Sixteen hours later (hours during which Osama might have fled-- bear in mind, his courier's name had just been outed by WikiLeaks), he made up his mind....

  30. "Not "during a firefight," as other accounts from administration officials have suggested, but "after a firefight."

    Jacob, in tactical terms, you're picturing an assault, in which an area is secured and held, and there may be time for all the niceties you've considered.

    This was a raid. There's an old military saying that "speed is life". The longer we had boots on the ground, the greater the risk. By limiting the task to identifying and killing one man, that risk is minimized. Even securing an apparently unarmed man takes time and entails risk. Suppose he were wearing explosives?

    I imagine that someone, probably Obama, simply made the call that a live OBL was not worth the risk of a Mogadishu-like situation. That's far more plausible to me than the idea that one of our servicemen knowingly murdered a man for the political convenience of the current administration.

    There's a danger in viewing everything through the lens of politics.

    1. They took prisoners from the compound, so it's not like one more would have been much hassle. Hell, they even grabbed hard drives and shit! It's not like they didn't have room inside the chopper.

      That's far more plausible to me than the idea that one of our servicemen knowingly murdered a man for the political convenience of the current administration.

      Pretty sure most Americans would relish the thought of killing OBL, whether it was convenient for the administration or not...so this isn't implausible at all.

      1. I missed the part about the prisoners. I'm guessing that was a secondary objective, left to the discretion of the team commander.

        "Go in. Kill this man. Collect prisoners and intel if it's safe to do so. Get out."

        Pretty sure most Americans would relish the thought of killing OBL, whether it was convenient for the administration or not...so this isn't implausible at all.

        Then the rationale for the mission would have been personal vengeance, which is worse. That's not the way these guys think. It's unprofessional. I'll bet OBL was still a high value asset, and someone in the chain of command argued vociferously for taking him alive, but the political masters didn't want to take any chances.

        Anyway, it'll all come out in someone's memoirs in a decade or so.

        1. It's nice to believe that these guys acted responsibly. But evidence would be preferable.

  31. Ah remember when Clinton fired a missile at OBL, and got crap for not killing him.

  32. Just remember something that y'all keep overlooking: ALL of the evidence that OBL was a terrorist, made those audio and video tapes, was killed, or even was alive after the end of 2001 ALL comes from the one organization that has the most to gain by having him alive as a boogeyman and the most to lose by having him dead: the federal government.

    So where's the independent verification? Haven't seen it, and the evidence has been conveniently either destroyed or labeled classified.

    In simple terms, a terrorist is a criminal, and OBL was indicted and wanted as a criminal. He was found and unilaterally executed without a trial--on the alleged constitutional scholar's direct orders, rule of law be damned. Ramzi Youseif is rotting in Florence, CO, in Supermax for life for WTC '93. That terrorist was caught, tried, and convicted under rule of law for his actions. But not OBL. No Justice for him, or us.

    Why celebrate the undermining of our system of Justice? Sure, bringing in OBL alive would have created a circus, but it would have been one this nation needed to have to properly get closure and the real facts out about the past decade. Now that isn't going to happen, and you see that the results are that...

    ...Nothing has changed. The economy is still in the crapper, unemployment continues to rise and prices with it, the wars continue, the legalized robbery of Main Street by Wall Street continues unabated, and the idiots are still in charge.

  33. "So where's the independent verification? Haven't seen it, and the evidence has been conveniently either destroyed or labeled classified."

    Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. How's that for independent verification?



    "But not OBL. No Justice for him, or us.

    Why celebrate the undermining of our system of Justice?"

    The AUMF reads in part:

    "IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.


    If a abiding by a congressional authorization is undermining our system of justice? Then is it okay to kill anyone in wartime ever?

    ...or do we have to read the combatants their Miranda rights on the battlefield?

    1. "...the legalized robbery of Main Street by Wall Street continues unabated, and the idiots are still in charge."

      Oh, and just for the record, it wasn't Wall Street that helped themselves to my future paychecks.

      Who gave our future paychecks to Wall Street?

      That was Pennsylvania Avenue.

  34. I guess my main problem with this is the expansion of the domain of military justice, which is merely a compromise with the exigencies of war. It would be ideal to have a full Article 3 trial for pirates at sea or enemy soldiers caught on the battlefield, but this is simply not practical in the circumstances these events happen in, so their treatment is prescribed by military law and the Geneva conventions rather than the Constitution. Likewise, the enhanced punishment for "irregular combatants" is clearly meant to prevent traditional armies from having their members fight out of uniform, not as a catch-all to remove any legal redress from someone accused of committing violent acts overseas while not part of, and not on the behalf of, any military organization.

    Since the US purportedly is one of the lights of the world that agrees with the principles embodied in the Geneva conventions, it's more than a bit untoward for us to be looking to exploit every loophole in the letter of that law. We should be setting the example by, when possible, punishing those who commit crimes against us during peacetime only after trial -- even if that's going above and beyond what the GC requires.

    1. So, you're saying we should, like, have principles and scruples and stuff like that.

    2. First, it has not been established that OBL was summarily executed. For that to be true, I believe you would have to establish custody. Merely having a weapon pointed at him, for however long, even if he appears unarmed, doesn't qualify.

      Second, that you would extend legal protections to a man who so visibly placed himself beyond the pale says that you are a highly civilized person. But irregular warfare is a highly uncivilized business. And clearly, that was the business OBL was in.

      I will grant you that we would have looked stronger had we treated him in a civilized manner despite his actions, but it took us ten years to get this close to him. I'm willing to believe that this was the best we could do.

      1. At the very least it appears that US agents killed an unarmed suspect, whether the "summary execution" term applies or not. Calling him a "highly dangerous" unarmed suspect, as the admin has attempted to do, doesn't pass the smell test. The admin's new story that he was reaching for a weapon is probably a lie concocted to make this aspect of the story go away...they would have said that at the beginning if it were true, rather than arguing that resistance does not require arms as they originally did.

        I don't know that my position on the necessity of a trial makes me any more civilized than anyone else, as neither I nor anyone close to me was a victim of terrorism, but to the extent it was sincere, thanks for the compliment. I still disagree with the contention that this was the best we could do.

  35. If he were a true believer in Islam, he wouldn't have acted like a damn pussy before what he should have been thinking was his glorious martyrdom. He makes me want to puke, the rat bastard.

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