Was Killing Bin Laden Self-Defense or Summary Execution?


The New York Times has more details about the raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan, some of which undermine the initial story and some of which bolster it:

Administration officials said that the only shots fired by those in the compound came at the beginning of the operation, when Bin Laden's trusted courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, opened fire from behind the door of the guesthouse adjacent to the house where Bin Laden was hiding.

After the Seal members shot and killed Mr. Kuwaiti and a woman in the guesthouse, the Americans were never fired upon again.

This account is inconsistent with the impression left by White House spokesman Jay Carney and CIA Director Leon Panetta, who said bullets were flying throughout the raid. But the latest version of the story does offer a credible reason for shooting Bin Laden even though he was unarmed:

Because the Special Operations troops had been fired upon as soon as they touched down in the compound, they were under the assumption that everyone inside was armed.

"They were in a threatening and hostile environment the entire time," one American official said.

When the commandos moved into the main house, they saw the courier's brother, who they believed was preparing to fire a weapon. They shot and killed him. Then, as they made their way up the stairs of the house, officials said they killed Bin Laden's son Khalid as he lunged toward the Seal team.

When the commandos reached the top floor, they entered a room and saw Osama bin Laden with an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol in arm's reach. They shot and killed him, as well as wounding a woman with him.

If this account is accurate, the SEALs may have had good reason to shoot Bin Laden before he was able to grab a weapon. The new account also makes sense of President Obama's statement on Sunday night that  the SEALs killed Bin Laden "after a firefight" rather than "during a firefight." But if the president knew as early as Sunday night that no shots were fired at the SEALs after the initial exchange with Bin Laden's courier, why didn't Carney and Panetta know? And what are we to make of Obama's statement on Monday that the raid "resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden." According to the newly revised story, there was no "capture," which would have transformed self-defense into summary execution.

I discussed the raid on RT's Alyona Show yesterday.