Osama bin Laden

Dead or Alive

Did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate U.S. law?

|

Speaking before the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in August 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made no secret of his willingness to order the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden or any other key member of Al Qaeda, no matter where they might be hiding out at the time. "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorists targets and [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama declared.

As the world learned on Sunday, Obama kept his word. He ordered a team of Navy SEALs to carry out "a targeted operation" inside the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound where the infamous terrorist leader had been discovered. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body," the president said.

According to a poll conducted by Rasmussen, 86 percent of Americans think Obama made the right call. Several prominent civil libertarians, however, aren't so sure.

"We're violating our basic values and our basic principles, which is that we accord everybody due process and we don't engage in summary executions," argued libertarian Fox Business Channel host Judge Andrew Napolitano. "Justice is not a summary execution by a Navy SEAL in your bedroom."

Liberal Salon writer Glenn Greenwald seemed to reach a similar conclusion, complaining that "very few people have even a slight interest in the unexciting, party-pooping question of whether our glorious killing comported with legal principles." Amnesty International's Claudio Cordone suggested that the killing may have even violated those principles. "US forces should have attempted to capture Osama Bin Laden alive in order to bring him to trial if he was unarmed and posing no immediate threat," Cardone declared.

It's a thorny issue. According to a still-binding executive order originally issued by President Gerald Ford in 1976 and later slightly modified and reissued by both President Jimmy Carter and President Ronald Reagan, "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage in assassination."

Was bin Laden's killing an assassination? It certainly sounds like it fits the bill. According to a report published on Monday by National Journal, "a high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive." On the other hand, the president's counterterrorism adviser John Brennan did state, "If we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that."

Let's say the mission was to kill, not to attempt capture. Does the difference matter? The legal question may ultimately turn on Senate Joint Resolution 23, also known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, which empowers the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons" involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

If that authorization covers anybody, it covers Bin Laden, who repeatedly claimed credit for the 9/11 attacks and made no secret of his leadership role in Al Qaeda. So although the terrorist leader's demise may appear to fit the conventional definition of an assassination, the administration does have a plausible legal argument that the mission was a legitimate military operation carried out under the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Under that argument, the targeted killing of Bin Laden is no different than killing any other enemy commander during war—assuming Bin Laden wasn't shot while trying to surrender or while he was in custody, both of which would violate the rules of war.

But perhaps more important than the issue of legal plausibility is the question of political viability, and on that front the administration's actions appear untouchable. After all, this wasn't the targeted killing of an American citizen-turned-terrorist on U.S. soil, it was the killing of Osama bin Laden himself. As Jeffrey Toobin, legal affairs writer for The New Yorker and a frequent critic of the Bush administration's terrorism policies, reluctantly admitted on Monday, "Bin Laden didn't get a trial and didn't deserve one. But the number of people for whom that is true is small. At least it should be."

Damon W. Root is an associate editor at Reason magazine.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

191 responses to “Dead or Alive

  1. I guess we’ll have to wait for Wikileaks to disclose the actual mission orders and not Carney’s changing storyline. Come on Assange, we’re waiting.

    1. Amnesty International’s Claudio Cardone suggested…
      i don’t look for something to eat in my neighbor’s trash…

  2. Legal, Sm?agol.

    1. That’s what Bush’s OLC said. I fully expect Obama’s to agree.

      1. That Ring of Presidency sure is corrupting, isn’t it?

        1. Yeah. But who’s got the one ring that rules them all?

          1. Oprah. Of course. How can you even ask that question?

            1. Chicago is Mordor? That actually makes a lot of sense.

              1. Pretty much. Barad-d?r is in Gary.

                1. D.C. = Isengard?

                  1. You’ve read the book, I see.

                    1. Lothlorien = Somalia, clearly.

                    2. Nope, California. Middle Earth is North America, of course.

                    3. Hmm, perhaps Rivendell could be Ron Paul’s district or *shudder* Kentucky?

                    4. Somalia would be the shire, except the shire has ROADZ!!1!

                    5. Sadly, I have yet to read the books. I read the Hobbitt, but never ventured into the LOTR trilogy. I will have to remedy that. Its a bit of shame because I had quite the ravenous appetite for fantasy fiction when I was younger, but LOTR always intimidated me.

                    6. They are intimidating books, but well worth the read.

                    7. The Hobbit is better, but the LOTR trilogy is a good read.

                    8. The Hobbit is better

                      Thanks!!

                      … Hobbit

                      PS: Seriously, read LOTR. It’s well worth the effort.

                    9. By all means read LOTR. Once you get past Tom Bombadil*, it gets better.

                      *Then read Bored of the Rings, where TB becomes Tim Benzadrine.

                    10. I endorse this view–read all three books of The Lord of the Rings, then read Harvard Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings.

                    11. Agree with everyone else.

                      Then, afterwards, if you think you’re ready…

                      Try tackling The Silmarillion. If you know what you’re getting into, it can be a phenomenal read.

                    12. “”Try tackling The Silmarillion. “”

                      I tried that when I was 16. I put it down after I got a headache from trying to read the first page. I haven’t tried it since.

                    13. The Silmarillion is a tough nut to crack. I would take on “Children of Hurin”, first.

                    14. The problem I had reading the Silmarillion was that all the freakin’ names are so similar. I can’t tell you how many times I had to flip back a couple of pages to be sure who the characters were.

                      I think it might help if you say the names out loud. I never did, so I didn’t have a delineation for similarly spelled names (of which there are an absolute bushel full).

                    15. You dare slight meeee?

                    16. —“Then read Bored of the Rings, where TB becomes Tim Benzadrine.”—

                      Tom Benzadrino

                    17. Not what I recall (leave aside my inability to spell Benzedrine correctly the first time).

                      Tim Benzedrine and Lady Hashberry, IIRC.

                    18. I have that dog-eared paperback somewhere. Hella funny parody.

        2. How quickly presidents become gollumized in mind and body.

  3. No.

  4. Anyway, it’s not an assassination unless the shooter(s) was(were) high on hashish at the precise instant of the shooting. That’s the position I expect the president to take, anyway.

    1. A grassy knoll must be involved.

      1. Well, wasn’t bin Laden growing grass at his compound? It’s entirely possible that he was doing so on a knoll of some sort.

        1. Isn’t cannabis an actual weed in that area of the world?

          1. I dunno. I’m not that kind of libertarian.

            1. I said, “Read him his Miranda rights”, but the SEALs thought I said, “See him and shoot him on sight”.

          2. It’s originally from Afghanistan, same as apples.

            1. Apples come from there? I love apples.

              1. The crazier libertarians hollow out those apples and smoke cannabis in them, making Afghanistan’s natural resources the most libertarian of all the natural resources in the whole wide world. (Of course, I’m leaving out South American coca and oil and American bisexual teenage girls.)

  5. “”Was bin Laden’s killing an assassination? It certainly sounds like it fits the bill.””

    Waterboarding fits the bill for torture, but Bush’s OLC said it wasn’t. I expect Obama’s OLC to say it wasn’t an assassination. I fully expect Obama’s crew to get the same punishment as Bush’s crew.

    1. I have this vision of Obama resigning, turning himself in, and saying “It was the right thing to do, but it just wasn’t legal. Forgive me, America.”

    2. Bailiff, whack his pee pee!

    3. “Assassinations were done, but we have to move forward and not get bogged down in the past.”

  6. I was told recently, but haven’t bothered to verify, that W modified that exec order again to sort of make it legal.

    1. The modification to the executive order has been deemed “CLASSIFIED” and will not be released to the public because, Obama stated, “That’s not who we are.”

      1. Yeah. That would just be like spiking the football in the endzone.

        1. I see you still have not figured out that the touchdown was called back.

          1. You’re really going to be a fucking Truther about this too?

  7. “Did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate U.S. law?”
    About 80% of Americans agree with it so what does it matter???

    1. Bush’s approval rating has dipped below 20% at times. Does this mean he’s unpopular enough that it’s okay for Obama to have him killed next?

      1. Huh???

  8. I disagree with Mr. Toobin. There are many, many people who do not deserve trial, if by trial, he means a lawyer, and a jury, etc. Who would be the “peers” that would pass judgment on these motherfuckers? Thus, no trial could possibly be “fair”. Just a lot of time wasted. All missions in this “war” should be “kill” missions. Or just go home.

    1. There are many, many people who do not deserve trial, if by trial, he means a lawyer, and a jury, etc. Who would be the “peers” that would pass judgment on these motherfuckers?

      OBL would likely have been tried at the Hague. Not by half a dozen Jurors made up of bored county parks employees who are paid full salary for jury duty.

      1. The USA does not recognize the World Court. It is another one of those points that the “International Community” doesn’t like about us.

        If OBL had been brought back alive, the US would most certainly have insisted it had the right to try him.

      2. OBL would likely have been tried at the Hague. Not by half a dozen Jurors made up of bored county parks employees who are paid full salary for jury duty.

        Dude, I watched some of the Milosevic trial. You are attempting to draw a distinction where there is none.

  9. Back to the topic, I think it’s hard to distinguish this killing from the killing of, say, an al Qaeda second banana. Assuming that the AUMF was a legitimate declaration of war and that the attacks against al Qaeda are part of that, I suppose it’s legal enough.

    We’ve let the lines blur so much on what’s right and wrong in foreign conflicts that it’s really hard to know what the rules are. In this case, I think we were in the right, more or less, but that’s not always going to be as simple a question to answer as it was with this loser.

    1. “”Assuming that the AUMF was a legitimate declaration of war and that the attacks against al Qaeda are part of that, I suppose it’s legal enough.””

      I could be wrong, but I vaguely remember congress basically writting a blank check to kill members of AQ in the 1990s.

      1. I’m a little disappointed that bin Laden is dead, because I always figured that I’d go capture him if I ever got into dire financial straits.

    2. Assuming his daughter is lying, of course. If he surrendered and was later executed, it changes things a bit.

      1. So You’ll take the word of OBL’s daughter over that of the Seals?

    3. He declared war on us anyway so technically speaking we don’t really need an AUMF or a congressional declaration of war to engage him as an enemy combatant.

      He verbally declared war and also commanded acts of war against us. One could argue that the war was so asymmetrical that it is more of an international law enforcement issue, but why should size matter. Rapists don’t get away with rape just because their dick is really small.

      1. Today I settled all family business…

  10. As a practical matter, our “security” would have been better served by taking bin Laden alive for what we may have learned. Moreover, for all things to “disclose’, this wasn’t one of them.

  11. Can I have a side order of GZM with this tired and overwrought story about the legality of killing OBL? Maybe throw in some birtherism while we’re at it? Maybe Cathy Young can weigh in with a measured, even-handed article two weeks after the fact that ends with a false equivocation between the two camps.

    *Sigh*

  12. “Did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate U.S. law?”

    ummm…Does anyone give a fluck?

    1. I haven’t given anyone my fluck for some time.

    2. Damn, why couldn’t I have had people like Daniel during my time?

      1. Say good night, Adolph.

        1. It’s Adolf. Never forget!

    3. I went to bootcamp with a guy named Fluck. Drill instructors had a flicking flucking field day.

      1. I went to boot with a kid called “Doody”. DI’s shat all over him.

  13. I’m just glad Obama wasn’t tacky enough to put on a flightsuit and unroll a giant MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner on an aircraft carrier for a giant photo op.

    1. Good thing Obama isn’t a Christofag hick, or the whole celebrating a bad guy’s death with guns and street celebrations would look tacky.

      1. I’m going to be spiking the football from now ’til election day, shrikey-sweetheart. That parachute landing on an aircraft carrier scares me.

        1. Hold on! I am told you Bush fans don’t really exist here!

          Episiarch said so!

          1. Only Me! Only Me! I love what Georgie did for me!

        2. Can someone please lance this boil?

    2. I think Rachel Maddow was happy to take care of the requisite “Mission Accomplished” banner on her show.

      1. She actually admitted bin Laden won in the end, because his goal was to bankrupt and weaken the US. He’s certainly done that.

        1. Gentlemen, if ever there was a time for incif, a “The Truth”/shrike double team is it.

        2. Bullshit. Even with the war on terror being expensive. The only things that will eventually bankrupt the US are Social Security and Medicare. And that has been the obvious future for more than 20 years now.

          Osama deserves no credit for that…

        3. She actually admitted bin Laden won in the end

          … and you could see how deliriously ecstatic that thought made her.

    3. It’s funny you should say that, because I’ve been thinking he’s been milking this a little too much.

    4. just wait

    5. Because a victory lap is just so much more tasteful than a flight jumper.

      http://www.realclearpolitics.c…..mself.html

      God, shrike, you suck in every way possible for a human being to suck. You even find new, innovative ways that have yet to reach the masses to suck each and every day. It is like you go out of your way, clipping suck coupons, saving suck points, sucking suckitude from every inch of matter in your vicinity, just so you can suck that much more than the next guy.

      1. Shriek has actually been making more sense in the past couple of days (of course it might just be spoofs).

        He’ll have to work a lot harder to reach OhioUrine’s level of suck.

      2. What the hell cred did Beamer’s dad earn?

        Fuck him.

        The CiC issues orders in the first person and doesn’t put on a flightsuit and parade around to deprive enlisted men of their due.

        Bush = tacky. Once a draft dodger pretend soldier – always one.

        1. See, here’s what I don’t understand. Bush was a crappy president, and the whole aircraft carrier thing was dumb and tacky.

          Obama is a crappy president, for many of the same reasons as Bush, and his self-congratulatory behavior in the last few days has been dumb and tacky.

          Why this big distinction in your mind? Why not hate both of them?

        2. Well, Bush certainly confirmed the president that Dukakis set in that M1 Abrams. US political leaders should never put on military garb unless your name is Eisenhower.

          1. And even Ike didn’t wear military garb while he was president.

        3. Clinton was a draft-dodger as well, shrike.

    6. Obama chose to do his photo ops at Ground Zero instead.

  14. Bin Laden’s goal was to bankrupt the US. In his statements, even right after 9/11, he bragged about what a shock it was to the economy and how the US will now have to waste money trying to fight a guerilla war that it can’t win. Looks like he succeeded. The economy is in shambles and instead of investing it things like green energy, education, infrastructure, R&D, we’ve spent trillions of dollars on this war and this bloated defense budget. Meanwhile, in the last 10 years, who has benefitted? China. Even to the final raid as Pakistan will sell the parts of the US steal helicopter to the PLA.

    Reality is a downer, isn’t it, folks? Bin Laden won. He fucking won.

    1. We 1.5 billion, maybe 1.2 billion. America just rounding error.

    2. Yes, his dying, the destruction of Al Qaeda, and being no closer to achieving the global caliphate were all just subtle moves to… get America to invest less in wind turbines.

      Well played, Mr Bin Laden, a subtle play indeed.

      1. Oh, the bankruptcy of the US was the first part. With American power in decline he hoped a Caliphate would take its place, but instead China and to a lesser extent India did. That was his miscalculation.

        1. …meaning that he lost. Not achieving the stated objectives of your use of force = losing.

          Also, how *is* TEH CHINA doing? Is its army still struggling to occupy a country full of religious fanatics? Is it still so shitty that it loses to Vietnam in a conflict that was not a proxy war? Is its navy so shitty that it’s just now getting a crap Soviet aircraft carrier? Is its property rights protection still so bad that there is virtually no innovation in China? How *is* China doing, really?

          I anxiously await your breathless posts extolling China on the basis of shitty NYT articles.

          1. China is:

            1. The world’s top manufacturer (having eclisped the US just this year, just as the US did to Britain in 1885…scary huh?)

            2. The world’s second largest economy.

            3. Along with Germany,the world’s leader in green energy investment

            4. The world’s largest car market

            5. The world’s largest market for computerr hardware

            6. Number one in the number of space launches (again eclipsing the US this year)

            7. Has trillions of dollars in gold and foreign exchange resreves

            8. And, of course, the world’s biggest population, with their students scoring #1 in their debut on the OCED international testing (the US was near the bottom, and all those baby boomer scientists we trained in the days of generous federal aid for students and R&D are about to retire)

            1. Eh, 8/10. An arbitrary collection of unrelated and dubious points is OK, but we really need at least one shitty linked NYT OP for you to get full points. Can you do that for me? Can you get me a shitty OP? I believe in you!

              1. You don’t even try to disprove my points.

                Looks like I’ve won yet again.

                1. Heh.

                  1. He kicked your statist loving ass all over the thread.

            2. 3. Along with Germany,the world’s leader in green energy investment

              Depends on how you look at it.

              Indeed, China may soon be simultaneously the greenest and the blackest place on earth. The country is poised to be at once the world’s leader in alternative energy ? and its leading emitter of C02. Alternative energy as a percentage of the total energy mix is increasing, but it will complement growth in coal power. In fact, in a decade coal is expected to supply about 70 percent of China’s energy. Because of the sheer scale, diversity, and complexity of China, it is possible for the country to take some great green leaps forward, in particular progress toward its alternative energy and energy efficiency targets, while at the same time having its rivers remain black and its air quality a health hazard.

              1. China has a horrific environmental record. Horrific. Right now, and in the past. Amazing. Heard the same kind of nonsense during the Cold War about the Soviet Paradise.

                1. 2. the world’s second largest economy.
                  with 86% of their population at the poverty level, (their level, not ours) as the world slows it purchases of their shit, who is going to buy? Not millions that live there…

                  1. What “The Truth” fails to understand is that China doesn’t bomb the nation that buys its manufactured goods.

                2. I find it chilling the amount of parallels I see today with Soviet history.

            3. Who gives a shit about green energy. Why is spending billions on windmills and other useless “green” technologies that will never replace chemical and nuclear sources of energy a bragging point?

              How is having a huge population of people who live in abject poverty, who have almost no liberty or human dignity a bragging point?

              Their economy is growing because of their albeit slow adoption of free market principals. The Chinese people are now getting the taste of freedom, but their government continues to suppress their liberty. They are a pressure cooker ready to burst. There will be a Chinese revolution. They will lock up the wrong activist, or block the wrong web activity and the shit will hit the fan.

              If china moves closer to a free capitalist society, WE will benefit from their prosperity. We are already benefiting from their prosperity now. How much do you think the components in your computer might cost if they were made here? Would you even be able to afford a computer o a cell phone if China did not produce cheap hardware?

              They will gravitate towards liberty and capitalism because that is the natural human state.

          2. They can also, with the DF-21, sink a US aircraft carrier that costs 100s of billions with a $1 million missile.

            1. Heh.

            2. That’s like saying that an assasin can kill the president with a 5 cent .22 round.

              Well… yeah…

                1. One who kills people while high on hashish.

                  I have questions for the SEALs.

            3. Of course they can. But you yourself are sinking into pure idiocy. And wow, I can’t wait to buy my first Made-in-China automobile. What a hit that will be.

              1. Was that a back-hand swipe at me?

      2. “the destruction of Al Qaeda”???

        You really swallow the propaganda don’t you?

    3. It was a brilliant gambit by Osama bin Laden.

      They fight with thousands of dollars, have 400 million young males, and have hundreds of years to wage this war.

      1. to go along with it all, didn’t he skreeetk

    4. What a fag

      1. fag is offensive to gays. The PC term is butt pirate.

  15. Luis Posada Carriles is an alleged terrorist currently residing in the United States. He is accused (by Cuba) of masterminding a 1976 bombing of a Cubana airlines flight that killed 73 people. Does Cuba have the right to send a special forces team onto our territory to kill him?

    1. If they have that capability and do so with little other damage, I don’t see why not.

      More relevant to the OP, how does your analogy change in any relevant way if “kill” is changed to “capture”?

    2. “Does Cuba have the right to send a special forces team onto our territory to kill him?”

      No. When a government *doesn’t* derive its authority from the consent of the governed, they have no “right” to do anything to a country that *does*. They are criminals. Only it’s not in a free country’s interest to police the world and get rid of all the criminals.

      1. No government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. I guess you really like to held onto fairy tales.

        1. With voluntary taxes it would have no choice.

    3. Right? States have powers, not rights. International law is the law of the jungle.

  16. The laws of war were created to try to restrain warmaking, limit it, keep it in a box. In a very real sense, they are a gentlemen’s agreement: the belligerents agree to certan standards, and there is no authority to enforce them. During WWII, it was well known to both sides after D-Day that there was one, and only one, German formation that shot prisoners. The allies returned the favor to that formation. The laws of war in action; you reap as you sow, and the lowest denominator sets the standard.

    The likes of Obama let it back out of the box by engaging in warlike activity without sovereignty and without complying with the laws of war. They are war criminals, which are traditionally subject to summary execution on the battlefield.

    Except Obama’s war has no battlefield, or has made every place a battlefield.

    Parsing the legalities when dealing with someone who has intentionally placed themselves completely beyond legal categories is a fool’s game. He reaped as he sowed. The rules he applied to others got applied to him. That, I suspect, is justice enough.

    Attempting to apply criminal law or the laws of war to a bin Laden is a category error, and makes no more sense than an umpire calling balls and strikes during a football game.

    You can say that means we lowered ourselves to his level. Fine. The real question is, do we stay there.

    1. Warlike activity? Is that the new buzzword? What does that even mean?

      The only difference I can see between AQ and your garden variety murderer is that they used explosives, hijacking, and killed way more people. They haven’t used any military weapons in their attacks.

      Now obviously they deserve the death penalty for murdering civilians, but I don’t see the justification for jumping from the criminal system to the battlefield justice system, other than that a criminal trial could be a headache.

      1. Osama Bin Laden declared war on the United States and carried out attacks on the US. Why does he have to use a tank to be at war?

        Asymmetric warfare is still warfare. Lesson to be learned here is do not declare war on a country that has better weapons and soldiers.

  17. The likes of Obama

    Sorry. Osama.

    1. It’s addictive, isn’t it? Half the media keeps making that mistake.

    2. The argument works with either spelling, if you live in Libya.

  18. Everyone knows it’s not assassination if you look the hombre right in the eye and say “Draw!” And then blow his brains out.

    SEALs are trained to do that.

  19. If you hate someone enough, you don’t have to give them a trial. You can just kill ’em. Good to know!

  20. Whatever the legal and political ramifications, my moral
    response is very straightforward: killing an “unarmed”
    suspect we can reasonably capture alive and bring to
    justice (i.e. try and imprison Osama bin Laden for the rest
    of his natural life), or formulating “rules of engagement”
    that transparently seem designed to guarantee killing when
    capturing alive is clearly possible, seems much closer to
    an ethic of terrorism than to the ethic of life we should
    be defending and advancing.

    There’s a strong argument that an international terrorist,
    like a pirate in traditional international law, is _hostis
    humani generis_, an “enemy of humankind,” who may be
    arrested and tried by any nation. Thus I have no problem
    with the “targeted” in targeted killing, only with the
    “killing” part. A targeted arrest, trial, and life in
    prison was what Osama bin Laden deserved; and given that he
    was “unarmed,” making capture quite possible, we should
    have given it to him.

    1. Why are we trying to preserve his life? He is an “enemy of humankind” his stated ambition of killing innocent people and his proven ability to coordinate and command others to fulfill his ambition make his presence in civilization a persistent threat to the lives of everyone he wishes to kill. He was already effectively in prison the past decade we had him on the run, yet he somehow managed to express his will to have innocent people killed.

      What purpose would a trial serve? It’s not like we need a trial here, he has already admitted his guilt repeatedly. Life in prison is equally pointless. Life in prison would necessarily mean that he is in solitary confinement so that he has no opportunity to express his will or pass along commands. It’s not like new DNA evidence is going to surface in 5 years proving his innocence so why are you okay with taking away all of his liberty and dignity, but not okay with killing him? Does his death somehow harm our humanity? Arguably his killing would no undermine the rule of law here. He declared war on us and effected the killing of thousands of innocent people. He freely and proudly admits these things. Are we expected to rehabilitate him in prison?

      Killing UBL arguably saves lives in that he cannot continue to make war. Putting him on trial will do nothing but give him a pedestal and since he has already admitted guilt, it won’t even protect the rule of law. Putting him in prison is only marginally different than killing him since he should never again be heard or seen from again.

      We protected life by killing him. We reaffirmed the value of human dignity and life by removing an “enemy of humankind” from human society.

  21. Remember the last time the US was in a (legally-defined) war? What happened to the German High Command and assorted cronies. Did they get a bin Laden cocktail (two shots and a splash)? No. We put them on trial If AH wouldn’t have taken himself out, we would have put him on trial, too.

    Because that’s what countries that say that they live by a code of law do.

    If we go around taking out every single person who has offended us then we’re no better than the Third-World shitholes that we’re blasting the hell out of.

    We didn’t double-tap Ted Bundy.
    We didn’t double-tap Noriega.
    We didn’t even double-tap KSM.

    Are there no “Good Guys(tm)” left anymore?

    … Hobbit

    1. That was the old USA when buzzed driving wasn’t a problem and stay at home wives ate valium all day.

      Oh, seriously?
      The good guys(tm) were defeated when Dick Cheney said we had to turn to the darkside.

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darkside/

      That’s actually a pretty good show with a few CIA people interviewed.

    2. Remember the last time the US was in a (legally-defined) war? What happened to the German High Command and assorted cronies. Did they get a bin Laden cocktail (two shots and a splash)? No. We put them on trial

      Those guys all had surrendered (or, rather, the OKW had surrendered on May 8 for them). If, on the other hand, a crack team of commandos had parachuted into OKH headquarters on May 7 and busted caps on Keitel, Jodel, et al. (and had stopped off at Flensburg on the way home to plug Doenitz), we would have regarded it as an appropriate military action.

      1. Exactly.

  22. “Did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate U.S. law”

    Given that if happened outside the jurisdiction of the United States, I’m going to go with no.

    Now, did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate Pakistani law? That’s a fair question.

    1. Were those foreign helicopters used to ferry the death squad to their location?

      Were those Navy SEALs actually French Foreign Legion is disguise?

      No it was US troops, in a foreign land, invading a house that nobody was sure OBL was even going to be in and ordered to shoot anything that moves.

      It’s not legal. There’s no way it’s legal. It’s yet another crime the president is going to get away with.

      1. I’m not sure I agree it isn’t legal, in the sense that there’s law supporting the action, but I do agree that the fact that it happened overseas isn’t a critical issue. Our government can only do what it has the legal power to do. Anything else is extraconstitutional and illegal.

      2. Ok, I think its time to Truman this comment thread.

        Truman signed the order to VAPORIZE a hundred thousand civilians, and we’re arguing that shooting the military and political leader of an organization that we are at war (or at least at military action) with, is us losing our way with respect to the “rule of law.”

        BULLSHIT! War is war. The leader of the bad guys is a legitimate target, armed, unarmed, whenever and wherever we can get to him. Period.

        America has done far far worse things to end wars than to shoot the leader of the other side dead.

        The bickering over this is pointless and also partisan and political as well.

        1. Truman is a bad hero to have.

          Yes America has done far worse. That doesn’t excuse the matter at hand.

      3. Ok, I think its time to Truman this comment thread.

        Truman signed the order to VAPORIZE a hundred thousand civilians, and we’re arguing that shooting the military and political leader of an organization that we are at war (or at least at military action) with, is us losing our way with respect to the “rule of law.”

        BULLSHIT! War is war. The leader of the bad guys is a legitimate target, armed, unarmed, whenever and wherever we can get to him. Period.

        America has done far far worse things to end wars than to shoot the leader of the other side dead.

        The bickering over this is pointless and also partisan and political as well.

        1. “”BULLSHIT! War is war. The leader of the bad guys is a legitimate target, armed, unarmed, whenever and wherever we can get to him. Period.””

          Can I assume you think that’s a one way street?

          If AQ nuked the US tomorrow, would you say, that war bitches!!

          1. If AQ nuked the US tomorrow, would you say, that war bitches!!

            It’s possible we would. If AQ had the ability to nuke any city at any time while not operating out of any identifiable geographic location, we might actually have to negotiate a surrender.

        2. Hey, I like that. First you hit Hiroshima, then you nuked the thread again when it didn’t immediately surrender.

          1. Within the same minute even. And you thought Truman was merciless.

        3. War is war when congress declares it’s war, which it hasn’t done since 1941

          1. You mean 1942 (declarations of war against Bulgaria, Hungary, and “Roumania”).

          2. UBL declared war on us. Why do we need to declare it back? If we are put into a state of war by an enemy, we are at war.

            PS I do not thing going into Afghanistan with a full military assault was an appropriate response. I think we could have gotten the same job done with much fewer resources. You can’t say we are not at war with AQ, because they are most certainly at war with us.

  23. Being the order came from within the US. It might have violated US law despite the action occuring overseas. At least the actors on US soil.

  24. If the order was illegal, then the SEAL team can be brought up on charges for following it.

    I’ve wondered: If the order was for a kill mission, did any of the SEALs ask for immunity? Because I wouldn’t trust Our Masters not to prosecute me if they thought it was politically expedient.

    Hell, Obama is already distancing himself from the kill – there was a statement (trivially true, but revealing) that the SEALs had the final decision on whether to kill him.

    1. Hey, he has a Peace Prize! Besides, ordering the death of the heads of the Five Families isn’t something you can do openly.

      1. It’s for what he’s going to do…

        Any day now…

        1. There is good in him. I can feel it.

    2. “”Because I wouldn’t trust Our Masters not to prosecute me if they thought it was politically expedient.”‘

      Then stay out of the military, because that’s always a risk.

    3. Time to watch Paths of Glory again. Of course they can prosecute based on political expediency. Or they can simply change the rules in the middle of the game. That’s the risk every soldier takes.

      The strength of the system (as with our constitutional system generally) is derived from the integrity of the participants — from the very top on down. And (as you point out), there isn’t enough of that to go around.

      1. AWESOME movie, but not really applicable here

    4. I wonder if anyone on the SEAL team knew what “I surrender” is in Arabic.

    5. That’s what I was asking in a previous thread. On a mission like that, I’d sure want a piece of paper from the President telling me that killing this guy out of hand was legal. Maybe it went where the 25 minutes of missing video went?

  25. How I long for the clarity of the good old days when a CIA spook would have been dispatched to “neutralize” the asset when he first became a problem, probably back in 1998.
    Ergo, no publicity, no 9-11, no angst about how legal the Paki raid was.

    1. Either that or you end up with Fidel Castro.

      1. Take the bitter with the sweet.

  26. “Two things: First, if international law makes killing Osama bin Laden illegal, then the problem is with international law. Second ? and you knew this was coming ? ‘They told me if I voted Republican, Europeans would be calling our president a war criminal. And they were right!'”- Instapundit. 

  27. No crime was committed since Bin Laden is not dead. Has anyone seen a death certificate? I demand that Obama clear things up and show us the death certificate as proof the Bin Laden is deceased. The fact that he has not can only mean that Bin Laden is still alive. It’s all a vast conspiracy covered up by the Masons.

  28. I will share the information to my friends, it is great!

  29. “This is not a lawsuit, that we go about to collect evidence”
    Rudyard Kipling,
    KIM

  30. “But the number of people for whom that is true is small. At least it should be.”

    SHOULD be zero.

  31. For information on people using Libertarian tools, please see Libertarian International Oreganization at http://www.Libertarian-International.org

  32. For information on people using Libertarian tools, please see Libertarian International Oreganization at http://www.Libertarian-International.org

  33. The head is dead but the subordinates are still intact. Whats the use of him being dead if terrorism is still a a pressing reality not only in this nation but also to the other.

    1. (Obvious Answer)

      More bodies?

    2. It’s a disruption at best, but you are right. What killing him does accomplish is hopefully demoralize AQ and minimize their ability to kill. I am not suggesting this is actually going to happen, but keeping him alive is not really helping either and if he is of any importance to their command structure, then we could frustrate their efforts, which may save lives.

      Its not perfect, but it is probably better than nothing.

  34. No cause they didn’t kill bin Laden. He’s been dead for almost 10 years you silly monkeys.Millions of words based on a false premise!

  35. During WWII, U.S. P-38s shot down Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, commander of Japan’s Navy and architect of the Pearl Harbor attack. U.S. intelligence had intercepted information about where Yamamoto would be and a top secret mission was put in place specifically to kill him with the purpose of demoralizing the enemy. No one considers this an “assasination” or a extra-judicial execution. Osama bin Ladin was killed in a similar military operation–and he was a legitimate military target. Why are we having this debate?

  36. [Why are we having this debate?]

    “We” aren’t.

  37. The laws of the United States do not cover the earth; they only apply to U.S. territory, U.S.-flagged ships and aircraft, and to U.S. military personnel and civilians accompanying them into the field. Those last are only covered by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not the entire CFR nor all Federal statutes.

    So, no, it was not a crime for Navy Seals – or whoever it was – to kill Osama Bin Laden – or whoever it was – there in Pakistan. These sorts of confusions about the law and legality always arise when the U.S. government doesn’t follow the Constitution and laws about war and the President’s authority – or lack of it – to order military operations without Congressional declaration of war. If it were a declared (or otherwise properly authorized) war, clearly no crime was committed, unless the soldiers violated the UCMJ in some manner. In this instance? Dunno, but nearly certain that the shooters didn’t violate U.S. law and international laws doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens unless the U.S. has signed and approved a treaty. That procedure incorporates the foreign law into U.S. law and only that procedure. No matter how many ‘learned’ professors write treatises or doctoral theses or polemics, a foreign law doesn’t apply to U.S. personnel until and unless it is incorporated into U.S. law via a treaty approved per the Constitution. End of story.

  38. Haven’t we been trying ‘attempting to capture’ this guy for 10 years?

  39. So what’s Reason’s position? It was curiously missing from the article.

  40. Some memes I’m getting sick of:

    -Al Qaeda is “defeated”
    -The Arab Spring is worse for Al Qaeda than it is for American interests
    -Bin Laden was “irrelevant”

    All are bullshit, and wishful thinking

  41. I would argue that it is a legal killing and that due process was in fact served. A confession is sufficient evidence to convict of a crime, and a guilty plea in a courtroom negates the need for a trial. Bin Laden not only confessed to the murder of thousands of people, he openly bragged about it. Could that not be construed as a guilty plea? And furthermore, it could be assumed, since much logistical planning was required, that these murders would be classified as premeditated. AKA Murder 1, a capital crime in many if not most states including NY where a great many of the murders were committed. So with a guilty plea and a sentence of death very much deserved… What’s the problem? (besides the argument that he’d be easier to question while still alive than he is while dead)

  42. Thank you for this great article! I will follow your advices

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.