bin Laden wasn’t armed

May 3, 2011 • 1:51 pm

UPDATE:  CIA director Leon Panetta, speaking on NBC News, just admitted that some of the information used to capture bin Laden came from what he called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” This was in response to a question by anchor Brian Williams about whether waterboarding had been used to extract information about bin Laden.


According to the New York Times, the White House, trying to correct false reports about Osama bin Laden’s death, now admits that he was not armed:

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, read the narrative in an attempt to correct statements by administration officials who had suggested that Bin Laden was armed during the raid.

Under questioning, Mr. Carney said that the White House stood by its claim on Monday that Bin Laden had resisted capture, but said that “resistance does not require a firearm.” Mr. Carney said that the new narrative was the result of “fresh” information.

Well, many unarmed people resist the police by struggling, striking out, or the like, but they’re not killed.  This suggests that the US simply engaged in murder. And that was obvious from the mission, which was not to capture him but to kill him.

Perhaps this plan was meant to avoid a trial, during which bin Laden could have made statements inciting terrorism, but it’s still not right.  We are supposed to bring people to justice through the courts, not through vigilante justice.  If bin Laden had resisted in a way that endangered his captors, that would have justified killing him.  But if he didn’t, this is simply officially sanctioned murder.

Under our system, criminals—even horrible ones like bin Laden—are supposed to get a trial.  I know it doesn’t always work out that way when war is involved, but it should.

337 thoughts on “bin Laden wasn’t armed

  1. How do we know he’s actually dead anyway? He could be quite useful to anti-terrorism tacticians alive, but reported dead, and secreted away where only a few knew the truth of his whereabouts. Unless we are shown concrete proof that he’s dead, I’m not sure we should necessarily believe it. Our government has almost certainly pulled off much bigger deceptions that this!

      1. Right, that’s why a large chunk of the Islamic world thinks that 9/11 was actually pulled off by Jews.

        1. …outside the Arabic world! I was waiting for someone to add something! 🙂 Don’t be so sensitive!

    1. Seriusly, though, let anyone who says he’s alive produce a video of him holding a copy of today’s paper and talking about something that happened since he “died”.

  2. This does put a damper on the big celebration, doesn’t it?

    As I’ve said, I shed no tears for the SOB, but this seems to place the whole operation even further outside the law, if there was no intent to capture him at all.

    1. The Israeli’s managed to capture a boat-load of Nazi’s and bring them back for trial. I find in unbelievable that could not, if we had chosen, do the same.

  3. Since Bush declared Dead or Alive I am not sure politically that Obama had a choice. Also, though I have never been in a remotely similar situation, I suspect with the adrenaline flowing, gushing, any movement on his part could have been perceived as a threat. I agree entirely that all efforts should have been made to bring him back alive.

    1. Because predecessor said “X or Y”, successor felt compelled to choose X and not Y?

      That makes no sense.

  4. “Perhaps this plan was meant to avoid a trial, during which bin Laden could have made statements inciting terrorism, but it’s still not right.”

    Under whose ethic? Numerous philosophical systems would disagree with what’s “right” here, especially if holding trial could have let to bin Laden make “statements inciting terrorism.”

    1. There are indeed many philosophical systems that would have no problem with what may well have been the extra-judicial execution of Bin Laden.

      There are also many philosophical systems that have no problem with humans being kept as slaves, with women being regarded as inferior to me, with people of different skin colour being inferior, with those who are sexually attracted to adults of the same sex being killed and so on.

      I am sure you get my point, and will therefore take some time to understand why your comment is not very helpful.

      1. You’re making my point — it’s why I quoted the above statement. It’s very sweeping given the complexities of ethics and the sensitivity to such an issue.

  5. “Well, many unarmed people resist the police by struggling, striking out, or the like, but they’re not killed.”

    You’ve never been to my fair town of Oakland, have you?

  6. Don’t they have tazers? And why can’t anybody ever shoot to wound?

    It sure looks like intent to kill.

    1. I don’t have any military training, but my impression is that these elite special-forces guys are not trained to taser or incapacitate, they are trained to kill efficiently and quickly.

      That’s why they shouldn’t send soldiers into policing situations — not that this was that sort of situation.

      1. Since they are so highly trained, it’s unlikely that they would have been panicked into shooting someone who was not armed, or been unable to disable an opponent without killing him. The reasonable conclusion is orders to kill.

        1. Indeed. Didn’t they shoot the woman who was supposedly being used as a shield in the calf?

          classic hostage situation:

          shoot the shield so she drops, then drop the hostage taker with a headshot.

          seems like a very professional and intentional scenario, if that’s what actually happened.

          I think if OBL had come out “hands up” and offering surrender, they likely wouldn’t have shot him.

          Any other scenario was probably given the green light to go ahead and take him out, “just to be safe”.

          1. **shoot the shield so she drops, then drop the hostage taker with a headshot.**

            You’re thinking of the film “Speed”.

    2. “Shoot to wound” ? That’s what you do against an opposition you ‘know’ to be unarmed using (say) rubber bullets. Otherwise it’s a great way to get yourself killed

      1. I’ll defer to your knowledge. I’ve never been in a firefight. Nor do I ever expect to be.

        1. Also, contrary to TV and movie depictions, there are no guarantees about “shooting to wound”. Hit someone in the arm or leg and you could sever a major artery, causing them to bleed out very quickly. Getting shot almost anywhere carries a significant risk of death.

          1. And by the same token, a hit with a Tazer, stun gun, or other less than lethal device can still kill you or result in your death, if the conditions are right.

            Heck, a gun loaded with blanks can kill someone. That’s why actors are taught not to point prop guns directly at people.

            1. Tazers are not “less than lethal.” They are low-lethality devices with a primary function of incapacitation. Like the P38-nightstick carried by most policemen.

      2. I know of no organisation that promotes the idea of shooting to wound. Among police the gun the is always seen as a weapon likely to kill it’s target, you do not shoot someone unless you intend to kill them.

        1. IIRC German police are actually taught how to shoot to wound, and are instructed to do so in certain situations.

          1. The “certain situations” (I’m guessing) probably being when targeting an individual known to be dangerous who’s fleeing capture or armed with a close range weapon (knife/sword) when you have the luxury of rifle at 400 metres.

  7. More worrisome is the fact that the US “trusts” Pakistan. As a general rule, no country whose system of government is based on a religion should be trusted.

    Maybe ObL was not armed… but maybe he make it look like he was armed before he got shot. Only the US troops involved know what happened, and I’d rather give them the benefit of the doubt. Armed or not, he got what was coming to him.

    Now the question remains… how long before we abandon our presence in that area?

    1. It seemed pretty obvious to me years ago that this was what the US military/industrial complex intended as a replacement for the Cold War.

      I mean, even McCain was talking about “Building 50 year bases in Iraq, like we did in Germany after WWII”

  8. Unless a person has experienced being “on the ground” in such a situation (especially in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan)it might be wise to not do so much conjecturing and conclusion drawing; especially when using such terms as “murder”.

    1. Ah, the old if you have not experienced it then you have no right to comment gambit.

      So I take it then you never offer any opinion, nor indeed ever have an opinion that goes unoffered, about how anyone performs their job, unless it happens to be a job you have done. After all if you have never been a doctor then who are you to opine that doctors should maintain certain professional standards ?

      1. There are opinions, and there are opinions. Only doctors/surgeons can talk about how to behave in certain situations in the OR, for example. That has nothing to do with professional standards.

        Soldiers have professional standards, but when it comes to combat situations, the reality is only the ones present can attest to what happened. ObL flinched, he got shot.

        1. Clearly you missed the part about being unarmed. Shooting unarmed people should not be considered professional.

          1. How does a soldier deal with someone who keeps moving despite being ordered to “stop” ? The soldier would have entered the room & had only a moment to assess the people there & the risks.

            Of course he will shoot anything that appears to pose a threat. There’s no time to check if both hands are empty for everyone in the room. Any movement will be reacted to.

            However I suspect ObL was not THAT important alive ~ the orders maybe were to find data (paper/computers) & to prevent the destruction of same.

            1. The same way other people who find themselves in such a situation deal with it.

              The police, outside the US at least, seem to manage fairly well.

            2. Actually, when they entered the room with OBL, there was a woman there with him. She started to run (in their direction, they said — I would guess she wanted to flee out the door), and they shot her in the leg to incapacitate her.

              Only then did they shoot and kill Osama. So I don’t think it was they case that they had only a split second to see what was going on. It was more likely deliberate.

        2. Please provide an example of a situation in the OR ONLY doctors/surgeons can talk about. That has nothing to do with professional standards?

          What happened is different from what should have happened. We need records for the former, for the latter, we can all give input.

          1. Please explain how you so accurately know “what should have happened” in that particular situation.

            1. Jeeze, but you’re a tool. You’re playing the exact fallacy that was described.

              Are you that oblivious?

            2. Please explain how you so accurately know “what should have happened” in that particular situation.

          2. Legally, it’s almost every situation. Juries are restricted in malpractice cases when determining the proper medical standard of care. They can only select from what experts testify and can’t do their own work. This is in contrast to most negligence cases.

            1. “They can only select from what experts testify and can’t do their own work. This is in contrast to most negligence cases.”

              Please tell us what juries in “negligence” cases do investigation that is admissible in any court.

              And nothing short of proper case citations will do.

        3. And then there are FOOLISH opinions based solely on the ignorance of the one who opins…

          Think ‘malpractice.’ Then you’ll see that, in fact, the OPINION of a jury has weight in regards to the professional standards of a professional.

          Don’t like doctors as an example? Accountants, lawyers, engineers, architects… The list of professionals who are second-guessed about complex issues in a court of law is quite long.

          1. Juries are limited when second guessing breach of duty causing injury when it comes to professionals.

            When a person is tried for negligence outside of a professional capacity, the question is if they did what a reasonable person would have done. Common practice is important but very far from decisive. Juries basically make up what the proper standard of care the defendant owed was.

            When a professional is tried for negligence, the question is mostly whether or not they conformed to one of the professionally accepted standards of care. This is more strict in that the question is not whether they acted like a reasonable average person, and instead is if they acted according to a higher standard.

            However, it is more lenient in the sense that the jury is not simply free to speculate about what the proper standard of care should have been. They are largely restricted to communally accepted (even minority) professional standards. This is because laymen are generally not qualified to reinvent entire professions according to the cost/benefit analyses behind every action.

            Of course the jury opines regarding malpractice. As in every case with them, they determine what the facts were and how they fit the relevant law. They are not free to reinvent the law and make stuff up, and when second guessing professionals they are not free to ignore professionally unanimous cost/benefit choices.

            Find the special forces team from any country that reacts to non-cooperation by militarily trained enemies with care-bears and lollipops, and we can discuss which professional standard is best.

      2. Now that is exactly the type of conjecturing and conclusion drawing that I am talking about.

        Why would anyone with a grain of sense accuse another of these types of things when the accuser doesn’t know the accused and the accused neither stated or implied such things.

        Perhaps you have never served your country in uniform or in any other constructive manner associated directly with the government. It has been my experience that those who haven’t are the quickest to negatively criticise and jump to unwarranted conclusions; those conclusions usually widely missing the mark.

        You would be hard pressed to find a stronger supporter than I of the 1A.

      3. Surely one would see the difference between a profession intent on saving life and a profession intent on taking it. I would even posit that the job of the military is so different that it cannot be compared to any other profession. It’s common for soldiers to experience a situation in which they have to make a decision in mere moments about whether someone is harmless or an aggressor, and that leads to accidents. Accidents are so rampant and so profoundly harmful to those involved that it is almost an argument itself against the use of military aggression in many circumstances. The conflicting reports in the last few days might even be evidence that soldiers saw different things during combat in bin Laden’s house. So it’s conceivable that this could have been a similar case. One has to expect it in a combat situation in which both sides are aggressive against each other. Of course, perhaps this was a rational decision to shoot first, or perhaps it was part of the mission. But experience is a relevant argument.

        1. Even if you have not been there and done that, you certainly demonstrate much more logic and clear thinking and analysis than some of these other folks.

      4. Ah, the old if you have not experienced it then you have no right to comment gambit.

        Well, why not? It’s considered a valid rebuttal when it’s coming from a member of a minority group and directed at someone whose dissent is alleged to be the product of privilege.

        (Not that I disagree in that latter case, necessarily, but inconsistencies and other intellectual dishonesties have always bugged me)

        1. But it is ad hominem reasoning pure and simple. In principle, the truth can be inferred by looking at the evidence, no matter who you are.

          A doctor best evaluates medical data, but others also have to ability..

  9. This was not justice, it was blood vengeance. I’m indifferent to what happened to bin Laden, and submitting him to an American show trial might not have been better than murdering him, but an international court would have brought actual justice. Death is not even a punishment, and the celebrations of vengeance we have seen on American streets are embarrassing and disturbing.

    1. but an international court would have brought actual justice.

      *Thinks back to what happened to Saddam Husein…*

      *Then thinks about what happened to Pinoche…*

      Never would have happened.

    2. “an international court would have brought actual justice”

      It’s good to see an anti-religious site has such a diverse body of readers, including those of infinite faith in all sorts of tripe.

  10. I’m really starting to get disturbed at the joyous way in which some very grisly images of dead Osama are being bandied around.

    Sure – it can be relevant in a journalistic article on the subject.

    But the way those images are being held up as something laudible is starting to seriously fuck me off.

    If it was a non-USA-friendly country doing this – posting up bloody images of someone that had been killed by the government – Amnesty International would probably have everyone writing letters of protest.

    But when it’s America’s enemies? Fuck it! The mass-media equivalent of a head on a spike outside the white-house is suddenly a-ok.

    It’s bad enough that no attempt was made to capture him and bring him to trial to face sentencing.

    But the bloodlust on exhibit in the media circus surrounding Osama’s death is somehow far more disturbing. I’m actually starting to feel a bit sickened, viscerally, when I see the images in the news of people in America party-ing it up.

    1. Our usual method is just to drop bombs on to the terrorist’s (real or alleged) residence. This surgical assault is actually much less violent, in that some residents apparently survived.

      One commentor on (I think) BBC said that the bombing option was considered, but it was rejected because it would leave no evidence that bin Laden had actually been killed.

      How many hundreds of times have we just dropped bombs on these guys?

      1. Our usual method is just to drop bombs on to the terrorist’s (real or alleged) residence.

        yeah, well, didn’t they have a perfect, very recent, example of that not working out so well?

        Ghaddafi comes to mind.

    2. Yeah, well, that’s just the nature of “Amuricuns.” “USA! USA! USA!” by late-teen/early-twenties males, as if it were a sporting event.

      So far as clueless Amuricuns were concerned, bin Laden was a “nobody” (though not of course to U.S. intelligence agencies) until 9/11. Where one bin Laden was nipped in the bud, who’s to say that another “nobody” cannot spring up?

      As Churchill and JFK said, we have to face terrorism with “an austure, serene gaze” as we continue to engage in “a long, twilight struggle.”

      I should hope in twenty or thirty years to be able to read the debriefing transcripts of the SEAL team members.

      Everybody rides the bucking horse better than the guy riding it. I’m sure that the adrenalin was flowing in these young gentlemen. If bin Laden made one false move, would be hard to blame a young man for quickly – instinctively? – firing, a young man who wants to get the heck out of there with his life. (After all, he could have opted to be a billionaire hedge fund manager with an income tax rate of 15-17%, eh?) Shall we bring back the draft to get the attention of the children of the privileged, rich elite?

      Would like to know what their top-priority orders were. Kill, or Capture?

      I should think Capture if at all possible, but Kill before allowing Escape.

      Why do you suppose youngsters become part of the SEALs? Boredom? Glory? To keep Wall Street in business?

      Is there any place one can go which provides a comprehensive list of “Amuricun Values” for which it is worth sending young American service members in harm’s way to be killed or maimed for life? (I’ve recently read of a QUADRUPLE amputee veteran. Something’s not quite right about that. I think Donald Trump should have volunteered for the military. I would be in no position to presume to comment, except that I was in the military.)

      1. I heard their orders were to kill, not capture, but who knows. Either it was incompetence or malice, and I have no sympathy for the murderers in either case.

        1. I heard their orders were to kill, not capture

          I’m genuinely curious as to what the source of that was?

          1. The BBC reported that the orders were kill not capture. The White House later said that the orders were to attempt to capture but kill failing that. We have no evidence either way, so for the, moment, it’s a matter of who one thinks has more credibility.

          2. Well, Obama certainly promised that during his 2008 campaign. So it’s certainly not ‘unbelievable.’

  11. Bin Laden lived as a terrorist, so, armed or not, he got the same justice that was offered to his victims. Hiding away in a pleasant little town in Pakistan I’m amazed that anyone still had any respect for him.

    And Christopher Hitchens spoke in his usual measured tones on the subject.

    The third Islamic invasion is the most dangerous. It is happening quietly as we sleep.

    1. “he got the same justice that was offered to his victims”
      I’m not sure you’re making the argument you think you are, because that’s “none”.

      1. I suppose it depends how much justice you think he deserved.

        “I have never wished a man dead,but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” – Mark Twain.

        1. That’s not Mark Twain, it’s Clarence Darrow. The full quote, according to Bartlett’s, is “All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.”

          Mark Twan worbably has more misstated quotes and more quotes falsely attributed tohim than any other man of letters.

          There are many people whose obtiuaries I will read with great satisfaction.

    2. I think the idea is that we are supposed to have higher standards than the terrorists. I would go so far as to say that we should have substantially higher standards, especially when it comes to issues such as justice.

      It is odd that you use someone you despise as your yardstick against which to measure how well you behave.

  12. I am very sorry Dr Coyne, but this kind of sounds like a conspiracy theory. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad materminded 9/11 under binny and he is in detention. It possible to put someone on trial and stop them from making inciting statements (at least in public). As for resistance-that is a little vague. If it involves knives or martial arts (which probably wasn’t the case here) it can be very dangerous indeed.

    1. If he had a knife, then he would have been armed. And somehow, I don’t see Osama as the kung-fu type. 😉

  13. I feel like I’m falling into the lion’s den here but . . .

    OBL was the leader of an organized group that declared war on this country. He and his followers did not consider themselves as criminals, but as soldiers. The fact that their group lacked a geographically limited area is not relevant. OBL sought to have (and did have, if you remember) his people kill every American they could.

    I will admit that his actions may be on the gray scale of criminality v. war, but I say give him the benefit of the doubt–if he thought of himself as a soldier he was entitled to die like one.

    I have no problem with the way he went out.

    1. “OBL was the leader of an organized group that declared war on this country. He and his followers did not consider themselves as criminals, but as soldiers.”


      But that brings up another legal point – we didn’t treat Al Qaeda prisoners like soldiers. We didn’t treat them like suspected criminals either.

      We didn’t even treat Taliban prisoners as prisoners of war, which is a pretty flagrant war crime. I consider that issue a higher priority than how we dealt with bin Laden himself. And I expect the American press and politicians to ignore both issues with equal vigor.

    2. “OBL was the leader of an organized group that declared war on this country.”

      Actually should read “OBL was the de-leader of a disorganized group that declared war on this country.” Even the name was applied by US security agencies to define a smal group of people apparently loosely associated with OBL, sort of like the term ‘mafia’ is applied to a broad range of groups that have little command and control in common.

      This is not to argue that terrorists don’t exist, but that OBL is no Lex Luther, no leader of a powerful organized system that is any real threat to this country.

      Hitler, Stalin, Khruschev were threats to this country; they had power, organization and could actually implement major destructive actions. OBL’s only power was that he could frighten a timid populace.

        1. OBL managed to kill more Americans than Stalin and Kruschev put together. Even Hitler never attacked America. I’m sorry but I find your reply muddy. If I recall correctly the name was supplied by the movement itself and means “The Base.”

          1. There are conflicting stories on the name “Al-Qaeda“. The first one I remember hearing about was that the “base” referred to the database that contained all the information and stats on the mujahadeen trained by Reagan’s CIA.

            Most estimates put the death toll in the WWII ETO at 200,000. Maybe Hitler and Stalin never attacked America directly, but they did have the status and political and economic resources that come from being in control of a state. The main difference between the threat posed by Stalin and Hitler and that posed by bin Laden is that the former put you more in peril if you were wearing a uniform.

    3. I was scrolling down to see who might disagree with Mr. Coyne’s view, and I am glad that I didn’t have to read all 330 comments (so far) to find one.

      I am happy to hear that Bin Laden is dead, and I have no ethical objection to how he died at all. Bin Laden had already confessed to 9/11, and had boasted publicly about it. The only thing left to do was to go get him. To give him another platform to inspire more violent acts would have been a grave disservice to the world. And if democracy must take a black eye for a time because of it (as some seem to think, though I disagree)..well then, I guess we’ll have to live with the consequences.

      As for the treatment of those captured and detained in other ways, we should treat them humanely and according to our laws. Some of them have been captured under questionable circumstances and may in fact be innocent. I do not see any contradiction here.

      thanks. (yours is still the best science blog around, Jerry!)

  14. As we weren’t there we can only guess what happened and why. I do have reservations about a shoot to kill policy with no attempt made to arrest. If we lower ourselves to that type of action then we are no better than those we denigrate as terrorists. But, as I say, we weren’t there so anything we say is only conjecture.

      1. To put it more broadly, we weren’t there and haven’t seen any direct evidence one way or another, so therefore it’s only conjecture at this point.

        Evolution, on the other hand, has boatloads of evidence supporting it, which any of us willing to make the effort can examine for ourselves. Therefore, the theory of evolution is not conjecture.

      2. My point about us not being there was that we cannot know what form his refusal to surrender took and therefore his death may well have been justified by his actions.

        I don’t like second guessing situations like this, it’s very easy for me, sitting at home, to say that he should not have been killed but for someone who was there, that may have been the only viable option.

        The main thrust of my point was that we should, as far as reasonably possible, try to maintain as high a standard as we can when dealing with the likes of Bin Laden, otherwise we lose any moral authority we had.

  15. Obama has shown little or no interest in granting a trial or other rights, including habeas corpus, to any of the other Al Qaeda hostages the US has kidnapped, so I really don’t think the inconveniences that legal niceties might impose played any role in the decision to assassinate bin Laden.


    1. You have only to observe the inhuman conditions of Bradley Manning’s imprisonment to make an intelligent guess about what Bin Laden’s fate was always meant to be, if found.

    2. Do you think it might be possible, due to intelligence or other strategic and tactical issues, a POTUS might be severely constrained by what went before?

      1. No. Not at all.

        The President’s job, the one he’s elected to perform, that he takes an oath that he’ll do, is to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

        Denying people the writ of habeas corpus and a fair and speedy trial is so unambiguously unconstitutional it’s not even funny. So is the killing of people (bin Laden, perhaps, and certainly all the personally-identified targets of Predator drones) without the due process of law.

        Bush committed high crimes and misdemeanors when he ordered those kidnappings…and, to my horror, Obama has become an accomplice after the fact and added crimes of his own.

        If the President is above not just the law but even the Constitution itself, then we are not a nation of laws; we are a tyranny. All that separates us from the Taliban warlords we despise is the shininess of our weapons and the benevolence of our dictator.


        1. A Constitutional scholar you do not appear to be nor do you appear to demonstrate any background knowledge of the actual conduct of warfare.

          For goodness sake! Warfare has always been illegal in the definition of one country or another;probably all. That is, the attacked almost always claims that the action of the attacker is illegal and when the instigator is later attacked, it claims that the response is illegal! Therefore all of the participants on all sides are guilty of illegalities and must be brought to justice in some sort of court of justice. BAH!!!

          To follow your errant line of reasoning, it would be necessary to try every military participant of every war that ever took place; losers and winners. How ridiculous!

          1. Warfare has always been illegal in the definition of one country or another;probably all.

            <sigh />

            You sure talk a big talk about being the resident expert on the history of the law of war, yet you just demonstrated perfect ignorance of the Geneva Conventions.

            Come back after you’ve finished remedial courses in civics, history, and international affairs. In the mean time, I have bigger fish to fry.



            1. As if you have effectively fried any here.

              You might want to check the GC vis-a-vis “illegal enemy combatant”. Guess what; it doesn’t apply.

              Talk about being an expert. You know, “ex” is a has been and “spurt” is a drip under pressure.

    3. I have to agree with Ben here: the ultimate arbiter of morality is fairness. Bin Laden got what he gave.

      Should we be better than the enemy? Sure, we should, when we can. And we can’t, well, then, all we owe them is fairness.

      Now I must read the rest of the thread and see if the Republican troll has been beaten out of the allegedly pogressive Ben by a successful act of assasination by his not-progressive-enough president. 😀

      1. Upon re-reading Ben’s post, I don’t recognize it. I must admit I have no idea to whom I was actually responding, and therefore the above post makes no sense.

        I could swear somebody was saying something about fairness, and I was surprised to see it was Ben; and now I can’t find the comment at all.

        So, my apologies to Ben for doubting his anti-Obama stance. It won’t happen again! 😛

      2. I assure you, I am most emphatically not a Republican. I am even farther to the left of Obama than the Republicans are to the right of him.

        I am a registered member of the Green Party, a regular donor, and I attend local party meetings when my schedule permits.



  16. Hey c’mon, he probably tried to brain them with his dialysis machine. Those things hurt!
    The White House isn’t hiding anything, just ask Jessica Lynch or Pat Tillman.

  17. It surprises me when people I consider to be “above average intelligence” express surprise about the “celebration” images and articles we have been seeing re OBL’s demise. Especially on a blog the nature of this one!

    Most probably the majority of the people taking part in “celebrating” are those that posters to this blog castigate for their beliefs in a sky daddy or mommy; how else would you expect them to act? It should also be kept in mind that those types of folks most probably are within the “lunatic” fringe of those who believe in a sky daddy or mommy.(or perhaps they are just too young and inexperienced or too old and don’t remember)

    Has anyone seen any pictures of our troops overseas celebrating the same way?

    I need to be more fair about the majority of the posters on this blog. I don’t think most of them castigate the believers as much as they castigate the beliefs; and that is a good thing.

    1. I was more bothered by the hypocrisy of those who would dance in the streets over Bin Laden and see no parallel with foreigners who have danced in the streets when Americans are killed.
      When they do it, they are animals; when we do it we are humans.

      1. The cases are perfectly analogous in every relevant way.

        They celebrate whenever any American is killed, whichever individual that happens to be, and we celebrate whenever any Osama bin Laden is killed, whichever individual that happens to be.

        In both cases, absolutely no attention is paid to the culpability of the individual who is a member of the set, it is wholly sufficient that a member of the set die, any member at all, regardless of guilt.

        Their set is “Americans (and Jews, and Hindus, and apostate Muslims…)” and our set is “People who are Osama bin Laden”.

        Barbarism, all around. Hoi polloi crudely think in terms of black and white, it’s good to be among a more sophisticated crowd that has learned to think in shade (sic) of grey.

  18. Obama and friends are running scared from Tea Baggers and needed a bone to throw the right-wingnuts.

    “Mission Accomplished”

    Justice? Integrity? Who cares. Frontier justice and the law of the gun. I heard he was shot twice in the head. Unarmed it said — just like a video game! Hoo Rah!

  19. “This suggests that the US simply engaged in murder.”

    So? That’s what war is. Some people need to be murdered.

    Having a nine-person jury decide to murder someone doesn’t make it any more righteous, in my view, than any other murder.

      1. “Oh, and I do I need to point out the US is not at war with Pakistan ?”

        Um, did we shoot Pakistan and bury it at sea?

        “you are condoning criminal behaviour.”

        When it accomplishes a worthy goal, absolutely, and I hope you would too. I would hate to think that you’d run around killing ethnic minorities just because it became the law to do so.

    1. Soldiers are highly regulated in when they are and aren’t permitted to kill. If they step outside the bounds established by national and international law and the rules of engagement, they stop being soldiers and become murderers; at that point, they can and should — nay, must — be tried for murder.

      Unless bin Laden was reaching for a weapon, or perhaps if he were fleeing in a manner that the soldiers could not otherwise prevent his escape, I don’t think there was a legal framework to support his killing. If so, he was murdered.

      One can make an ethical case for war. I firmly believe that case cannot be made in Afghanistan, but that’s not the question her. But, even in ethical wars, murder must be treated as every bit the serious crime as in the civilian world. If not, we truly are no better than the savages of our past who raped, pillaged, and murdered for fun and profit.

      Is the world a better place without a living bin Laden? Probably. Is it a worse place that he was assassinated at the command of the President? Yes — and the damage from this crime may well be worse than the continuation of bin Laden’s life.

      For this sets a precedent: heads of state may now order the extrajudicial assassinations of anybody they please. If even the rich and the powerful don’t enjoy the protection of the rule of law, you can be damned sure none of the rest of us little people really do, either.


      1. You really disappoint me on this one. If you think for one minute that we, and the rest of the civilized world, are not “at war” with terrorism you have gravely missed the boat.

        If we were talking about massacring innocent civilians and noncombatants, it would be a whole different matter and I would mostly agree with you.

        However, in no way, by any stretch of the most active imagination, is that the case here. I think perhaps if you were to read Steve Coll’s book, “The Bin Ladens” you might quickly change your mind w/r to this particular matter.

        The troops did exactly what they are trained (and yes, conditioned) to do given the particular situation.

        1. But we aren’t at war with terrorism. We can’t be, any more than we can be at war with drug abuse, illiteracy, or piracy.

          War can only be perpetrated by nation-states against each other.

          Terrorism is a criminal matter. Granted, it may well require resources beyond what the local sheriff’s department can muster, but that’s what we have the FBI and Interpol for.

          If it’s an actual nation-state that’s carrying out the criminal acts, then that constitutes and act of war and you can bring in the military — but, even then, the military has clearly-defined limits on what it is permitted to do. And the military isn’t permitted to engage in targeted assassinations or to kidnap people and hold them hostage indefinitely without due process any more than the police are.

          These games of trying to define “them” as neither criminals with civil rights nor soldiers subject to treaty obligations are nothing more than propaganda to excuse injustices that only a tyrant could love.


          1. WOW!!!

            First of all I used “”at war””.

            Here is a definition of “war” from the Babylon English Dictionary:

            battle, combat, fight, struggle; be in a state of war

            That is the verb use.

            Here is the noun use:

            state or period of combat between two sides (especially two countries); state of conflict or contention between two sides; theory of combat; effort against something

            Here is the noun use from The Concise Oxford Thesaurus

            the Napoleonic wars: CONFLICT, warfare, combat, fighting, (military) action, bloodshed, struggle; battle, skirmish, fight, clash, engagement, encounter; offensive, attack, campaign; hostilities; jihad, crusade.

            So you see, you, and the other posters on this thread who have asserted that war can only be between “nation states” are not exactly being accurate. I will attribute the error to lack of doing pertinent research before commenting.

            I will be among the first to state that almost all of the historical literature about “war” has been within the context of conflicts between nations. That, however, can no longer be the case. It should be obvious that it is perfectly accurate and appropriate to say that we are involved in a “war” against terrorism.

            Perhaps later more about other errors in this post of yours.

            1. In the context of international affairs and the actions of nation-states, the term is exceedingly well-defined, and that definition most emphatically does not encompass the so-called “war on terror” any more than it would encompass the “war on cancer.” That there are other uses of the word in other contexts is irrelevant in the extreme.

              Or are you one of those “Evolution is only a theory!” nutcases, too?

              Regardless, you continue to demonstrate a perfect lack of knowledge of the subject. Again, I refer you to remedial courses on civics, history, and international relations.



              1. So words only have the meaning/s that you agree to and evidence to the contrary lacks any probative power because you say so. NICE!

                I certainly do not agree with those who think/believe that evolution is a myth and who at the same time believe in a sky daddy or mommy. If you were half as interested in paying attention to other people’s post as you are in stating your unsupported opinions, you might be worth listening to. As of now I’m quite certain you have lost most of your credibility with those who post here.(In this case at least)

                Again, read Coll’s book!

  20. It seems pretty clear that there was no intention of getting Osama out of that building with his brain-matter still arranged in an orderly fashion.
    These Team six fellows don’t appear to be the guys you call when you want the get the target in one piece.
    I, for one, will sleep like a baby with the knowledge that our government has put this guy out like a rabid dog.
    To consider these methods uncouth is to extract oneself from the unfortunate realities of the world we live in.
    The eleventh commandment is arguably the most important one and it now reverberates through all the Madrassas and Mosques around the world: Thou shall not get away with it.

  21. I really dont see the issue here, this is an operation with 40 seals SEALs out to get this one man, they dont mess around, they are attacking a known paranoid mass murderer, anything but lying face down with your arms outstretched on Bin Ladens part would likely have gotten him killed. I think that would be pretty clear the moment he heard the first flashbang. He knew who they were looking for.

    Who knows if he carried with him a button that would leave a crater in place of the compound?, he’s certainly shown he would be paranoid enough. There is also a chance he tried to escape.

    Anyway the guy is dead. Good riddance.

    1. While I agree with most of your comment, I know of no evidence that bin Laden was paranoid.

      1. I’m not talking about the clinical definition ie: mentally Ill. I meant the “tactically burning his garbage-only connecting through couriers-hiding in a compound-escaping american forces for 9 years-kind” of paranoid, which he, lets be fair, must have been.

        1. That’s not paranoid, that’s just taking reasonable precautions! In his case, people really were out to get him.

          1. Perhaps paranoid was poor choice of words, but I’m not sure if there is one for reasonable precautions/fear on bin Ladens level. Semantics aside, my point was just that the soldiers were dealing with a man and a situation where anything was possible.

      2. Everyone actually was out to get him. He had millions of dollars on is head and much more than that spent on intelligence to get him.

    2. This was a war situation….I have never been in the military but my husband was….and although we never discussed this particular type of situation, I am sure he would have agreed with me and with some of the commentators here that without raising his hands or falling on the ground on his face and yelling “I surrender” the SEALs had no idea what he could or would do. Shooting is what happens in those situations. Our police do it,and I am sure if I were in that situation I would shoot also. We can go on and on about whether they should have shot him or captured him but we weren’t there….and other people may have already been shooting. I haven’t read all the details….nor will I… but I feel thay were justified in shooting…and as someone else said you don’t shoot to wound. If shooting is necessary…one shoots to get the most benefit from it.

      1. Right on!

        And those who have been there and had to do that usually don’t talk about it outside of their “brother” group.

        When it comes down to the rubber meeting the road, I have met very few veterans who go around talking about the number of enemy combatants they had to kill. They live with the consequences the rest of their lives.

          1. Damn, sorry, that’s the wrong post I responded to, but most of your posts really read like a *serious* case of ad hominem reasoning, along the lines: no civilian may ever judge or understand what soldiers do.

            1. To whom is your comment directed?

              If to me, I suggest you do some research w/r to the term “ad hominem”.

      2. I think it’s important to keep in mind that this wasn’t some fly-by-night off-the-cuff operation pulled off by a bunch of low level swabbies. This thing was planned to a T and directed from the White House. If you don’t think that there was a ton of thought that went into making sure this operation had a legal basis, then you’re just not thinking. The SEALS acted on orders and are most certainly guilty of anything close to murder.

        No reason to rehash but if you’re interested in what other legal minds think:

    3. Who knows if he carried with him a button that would leave a crater in place of the compound?, he’s certainly shown he would be paranoid enough.

      A man who loves his life more than the rule of law has no place in the army of a free people.



  22. I agree with the principle of a fair trial for everyone, but I cannot make myself feel the least bit angry or indignant that bin Laden didn’t get one, whether or not any attempt at capture was made.

    I think he crossed a line, beyond which one deserves no better treatment than that proffered to a termite by the Orkin man.

    1. And if someone was to decide you have crossed that line ?

      The whole point of the rule of law is that it applies to everyone, not only but especially to those those you despise.

      1. I agree in principle about a fair trial, even for Bin Laden, But he was clearly killed in a combat operation. I think, if he wanted to, he could have had his trial too, had he put himself, as i said, face down arms outstretched yelling “surrender” over and over.

      2. I think these “terrorists” are considered guilty without trial. That’s part of what makes this whole “war on terror” illegal.

        Bin Laden was an extreme example since he admitted his complicity for 9/11 and was considered by just about everyone to be in charge of the entire operation. (Admittedly the evidence for some of this is a bit suspect.)

        Unfortunately I don’t have any good solution except that we ought to apply the law wherever we can. It’s the only check against just killing anyone we find inconvenient.

      3. I’ve never taken credit for killing thousands in several separate terrorist attacks, so that’s not much of a concern, now is it?

        Would you be as circumspect had the same fate befallen the likes of Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, or Josef Stalin?

        If someone had exterminated 6.99 out of 7 billion humans on earth, and you happened to be one of the lucky survivors, would you insist on a trial?

        I don’t think anyone can define the line, but I’m curious if you’re even capable of seeing that it exists.

    2. If you don’t agree in the principle of a fair trial for those you most despise, then you don’t believe in the principle of a fair trial.

      1. Yes, the world is that simple. There’s a platitude for every situation. Congratulations on nailing this one.

        1. I don’t see it as a platitude. It’s pretty much a plagiarism of a Noam Chomsky quote on the Faurrison affair, in which a Holocaust denier was imprisoned for his views (in violation of the principle of free speech).

          IMO, that view applies to the principle that everyone deserves a fair trial, no matter how despicable they are.

          Saying you think the principle for a fair trial (or free speech)doesn’t apply because you REALLY can’t stomach the person may seem like clever nuance to you, but I’m not impressed. I prefer legal universality.

          1. So if a statute says theft of any kind carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, you’d insist it be given to a starving child who stole an apple.

            That’s precisely the same principle you’re espousing, from the other direction.

            Martinets do not impress me.

  23. About the button example, I obviously have no idea and no reason to think so now, I’m talking about the kind of judgements the soldiers faced during the operation.

  24. What bothers me is that the Pentagon initially released a false report, just as they did in the Jessica Lynch affair.

    Also, Jerry, your analogy doesn’t quite work – occasionally, police officers attempting to arrest an unarmed suspect end up killing the suspect – even if he wasn’t resisting – and they usually get away with it.

    1. The Pentagon released a false report? Are you sure? Also, didn’t it take weeks for the truth about the rescue of Jessica Lynch to leak out whereas the incorrect details of the bin Laden operation were only mix-ups and more of the super objective press’s fault rather than intentional propaganda and are already being corrected no less than 24 hours after the event took place?

      1. You’re right, it may not have come from the Pentagon.
        The initial claims came from a White House spokesman and I can’t find a record of him saying where he got the info from.

        Yes, this administration, in this case, corrected the misinformation right away, a marked departure from the previous administration.

        1. I tried to find out if the Pentagon said anything, too, and you may have been right about a false report on one aspect coming from the Pentagon initially.

          Politico has a report that says the whole “woman used as human shield” story, which turns out now to have been false seeing as how she was killed in crossfire, may have come from an unnamed “senior defense official” during a Pentagon briefing.

          That was before Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan told his edgier version of that story about how the woman used as a human shield (which didn’t happen) was bin Laden’s wife (the woman who was killed wasn’t) and that bin Laden was firing a gun at the US forces from behind her (which didn’t happen either).

          Brennan is part of the National Security Council, but, correct me if I am wrong, the National Security Council is not technically part of the Pentagon even though it is made of people from the Pentagon.

          It’s definitely confusing–I’m confused, but I am tentatively thinking of this one as stupidity rather than malice. It sounds mostly like a classic case of the game telephone where a slightly misheard fact worked its way into a much bigger tale than it really was on subsequent retellings.

        2. Good for you! Would that some others here would follow your example.

          I might also point out that the troops involved in the operation will go through lengthy debriefing. Their individual statements will be collated, and the most likely “on site” scenario will be developed and submitted to the pertinent members in the chain of command.

  25. This is a complex problem, and it is complex because there is a conflict between justice and morality. I have to stand by the action, which was obviously a military one and not a police one. It was an act of war, not an act within civilian life.

    And so, yes, it is justified that he is shot dead. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.

    But that doesn’t mean that I have serious concerns over Obama’s judgement, which has on more than one occassion, given me to doubt his wisdom.

  26. It only suggests murder if you assume that he wasn’t attempting to escape or get to a weapon.

    This seems like a deeply unreasonable assumption.

  27. Do we know the details of the mission, here?

    How do we *know* that the objective was not to take OBL alive and give him a trial, and this simply became impossible during the firefight?

  28. I am not, in this instance, in the mood to second-guess the individuals whose mission it was kill or capture Bin Laden, who was holed up in Bin Laden-friendly-Pakistan. Not Brooklyn.

    Let’s keep our eyes on the ball, shall we?

  29. A couple of comments:
    1. People who resist police in peacetime, in general, don’t have armed people protecting them. In general, people resisting police do not have military training.

    2. If OBL tried to run away and got away, what then? Letting him get away was not an option.

    3. How much risk to the team would there be in trying to take him out of there alive?
    I am not going to second guess; this was a high stress, highly unusual situation.

    1. 2. If OBL tried to run away and got away, what then? Letting him get away was not an option.
      That is not even vaguely realistic.
      A crack team of highly trained young soldiers not being able to catch a very sick old man without killing him?
      I’m not buying that scenario for even an instant.

  30. You guys have killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq. At least this guy was guilty of something. Besides, last time I checked there is a war in Afghanistan. In a war, you kill enemies.

  31. Does anyone honestly believe there is even the slightest a chance that Osama Bin Laden was not in fact involved in terrorism? The point of a trial is to determine guilt but in this case any trial, even one in an international court would have been a farce. I still would have preferred one but I’m not particularly worried that there was no trial.

    Secondly I think holding him alive would have meant substantial risk. I think it likely that his followers would have staged attacks in an attempt to free him. I also think he would have spent the time in custody using our resources to spread messages inciting terrorism.

    I think killing him was the more pragmatic thing to do. I think the danger he posed (the danger coming from his followers, I know he was individually not a threat) and the amount of evidence showing he was a terrorist make it an acceptable decision to kill him rather than arrest him.

    Please remember that those who are saying it was alright to kill Bin Laden are only saying it’s alright to kill Bin Laden. No one is saying the US should be allowed to kill anyone they suspect of terrorism or that it’s OK to skip the trial of a suspect only that in this extreme case the rules can be suspended.

    1. “No one is saying the US should be allowed to kill anyone they suspect of terrorism or that it’s OK to skip the trial of a suspect ”

      Actually Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have been saying that for years.

          1. not only that, but they spearheaded efforts to get the US to nullify various treaties signed in previous decades that prevented the US from engaging in assassinations.

            check the leg docket for 2001. They worked on doing this right out of the gate.

      1. No one on this thread. There are a fair few liberals (me among them) who oppose extra judicial killings but who think that the circumstances here are enough to make an exception for. I’d still prefer him alive but I’m not going to say this is murder.

  32. “CIA director Leon Panetta, speaking on NBC News, just admitted that some of the information used to capture bin Laden came from what he called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

    Yeah, he’ll be walking that back in 24hrs. or less.

    1. No he did not. He admitted that some of the info came from detainees who were subjected to torture (let’s call it what it is), not that it came from the torture sessions. All detainees were also subjected to normal, non-torture interrogation. More in comment #67.

  33. Well, these Islamic lunatics never tire of telling the world how they “love death” and yearn to die as martyrs in the cause of Allah…so I don’t see why there should be any complaints when we take them at their word. The best policy for dealing with these people IS to kill them, whenever wherever, and however possible. They get their 72 virgins and we get rid of them. It’s a win-win situation.

    If he’d been taken alive, can you imagine the circus any trial would have turned into? I’m very glad we’ve been spared the spectacle of Bin Laden grandstanding in front of a world audience, with a gaggle of parasitic “human rights lawyers” milking the system for every dollar they can get, and muslim extremists everywhere taking hostages or randomly killing people to try and force his release. No thanks.

    Bin Laden and his followers declared war on the US and the rest of the civilized world. Now he’s a casualty of that war. Good riddance.

    1. “If he’d been taken alive, can you imagine the circus any trial would have turned into”

      No, because previous trials of terrorists – namely the trial of the terrorists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing – did not turn into circuses.

      We’re not just speculating that the justice system can work in cases like this – we know it from experience, because it already has.

      1. However, there is a vast difference in having a trial of a “world terrorist leader” as opposed to that of their minions.

        The potential outcomes and potential ramifications are almost totally different.

      2. Do you honestly believe that there is any chance Bin Laden was innocent? The purpose of a trial is not to have a trial it is because it is the best way we know how to determine the guilt or innocence of a person. We’re past that with Bin Laden. Tell me why you think a trial would have been a good thing here.

  34. This was an unlawful killing, it is the USA flouting international law and there is no excuse for that. After the next atrocity by the Islamist and they are condemned as terrorist what’s to stop them claiming the USA are terrorist too. Forget that Pakistan is a failed state they are still an ally of the USA and you transgressed their territory. It now seems that he was unarmed as well as one of his children and a women was also killed in the raid. So might is right now and the USA can do what it wants. What happens if the USA is no longer the worlds superpower you have set an alarming precedent. As Dominic pointed out in a reply to my post on the other thread ‘what if China had done this.’

    1. For goodness sake! Did you read any of the preceding posts?

      Also, the people on this thread who have asserted that this situation set a precedent obviously haven’t read any history of warfare.

      1. The history of warfare I’ve read includes the convictions of Nazis at Nuremburg for following unlawful orders and for crimes against humanity.

        If Obama ordered that bin Laden be assassinated, that order was unlawful. If the soldiers killed an unarmed man who was neither resisting nor attempting to escape, that was an act of murder.

        If we do not hold ourselves to the same standards we hold our worst enemies to and grant our enemies the same rights we ourselves enjoy, then we are not a civilized people; we are a lawless collection of savages.

        Or would you rather live on your knees than die on your feet?


        1. Ben, was Bin Laden equivalent to the NAZIs tried at Nurenberg? He wasn’t associated with a government nor was he acting for a government.

          1. Either bin Laden was an officer of an enemy nation or he was a private citizen. The law does not recognize any other category of person and does not permit a person to be excluded from or included in both.

            If we are at war with al Qaeda, then bin Laden was either their highest-ranking military officer or their head of state (or both). If we’re not at war with al Qaeda, then he’s a Saudi ex-patriot wanted for conspiracy to murder in the United States.

            In either option, he enjoyed specific legal protections that exclude assassination, torture, and indefinite detention.

            There is no legal authority by which the President or anybody else can order an individual to be killed, kidnapped without an arrest warrant or not as a prisoner of war, tortured under any circumstances for any reason, or held captive without due process.

            There is also no legal authority which shields from prosecution the President or those who act on illegal orders he might give.



            1. Have you ever admitted being wrong about any of your points? I am beginning to sincerely doubt it. If you have, please steer me to the pertinent thread, and I will apologize; not that one is technically required under the circumstances.

              You simply go on and on as if there is nothing different about terrorism and what means might be necessary to (hopefully) effectively combat it.

              1. If you wish to convince me of the error of my ways, you’ll have to do better than quoting an abridged collegiate dictionary to pretend you’ve defined out of existence long-standing international treaty obligations that have themselves grown out of ancient custom.

                Much better.



              2. I’ve been keeping an eye on Ben Goren for quite some time now, and while I may not be a perfect historian, I also do not think that he has ever admitted to being wrong.

                That he has never, in fact, been wrong may have something to do with it, though.

                An uncomfortable reality, BradW, is that the US of A has a long and perhaps escalating track record of illegal (by national and international law) actions — and a young crop of anti-intellectual citizens and the idiot lawmakers they elect that wouldn’t know an illegal action if it bit them on the ass.

                A really sad thing is, we don’t even try to hide our crimes anymore, we’re that stupid. Order torture? Bush had to cancel a Geneva trip because of the very real possibility he would be arrested the second he stepped off the plane (because of testimony he freely gave in front of TV cameras a few weeks before, admitting ordering torture). If we had a judicial system worth a fuck, Obama would be under a similar threat for ordering a “kill mission” and watching it on closed-circuit TV, if that’s indeed how it went down.

                That we were treated to images of young ‘uns cheering this like they were at a football game is indeed surreal. We have fashioned ourselves a fascist police state, and few of us seem to have bothered to notice.

              3. Ben; you are now the one who sounds like those believers in a sky daddy or mommy.

                Just because certain words and/or phrases have historically been mostly used in only a couple of ways doesn’t mean that that same use is accurate in new circumstances. Such an assertion involves the same thinking as the religious folks who assert that their sacred book is right/and correct simply because it has been around for a couple of millenia.

            2. Ben Goren,

              “There is no legal authority by which the President or anybody else can order an individual to be … tortured under any circumstances for any reason,”

              You don’t know that. The question of whether the President has the legal authority to torture has never been tested.

              “There is also no legal authority which shields from prosecution the President or those who act on illegal orders he might give.”

              Our legal system includes a variety of mechanisms for circumventing or obviating the ordinary legal consequences of lawbreaking. These include prosecutorial discretion, the necessity defense, jury nullification and executive pardon. I think it is very unlikely that a president who ordered torture under circumstances that were widely regarded as justifiable would even be prosecuted for a crime, let alone convicted of one.

      2. Who are you? You seem to be an apologist for the US military The war on terror right! A stupid concept if ever there was one. Though it gives legitimacy to whatever the USA decides. The USA can do what it wants to because it’s at war with a concept. When China transgresses a sovereign state and kills an undesirable let me know what the US response will be.

        1. I get really tickled when you folks who think you are engaging in reasonable debate turn to making personal attacks; shows a definite lack of confidence in your own positions.

          I am no kind of apologist; I simply point out things that perhaps others have not thought of; if you can’t stand the heat, get away from the fire.

          And who I am doesn’t matter any more than who you are.

  35. bin Laden was not in our country. Our criminal justice system is not in effect.

    al queda waged war against the United States. When a country is at war, the enemy is almost never treated the same as civilian criminals. US or allied troops killing German, Italian or Japanese warriors during WW II was not declared murder. The US could not declare war against al queda because they are not a country.

    1. The Constitution is quite clear in distinguishing between people and citizens. The only rights in the Constitution reserved to citizens revolve around eligibility for public office.

      The Constitution also does not distinguish between official actions performed within or without our borders.

      Distinctions are made “when in actual service in time of war,” but, as you note, we are not at war with Al Qaeda.

      Therefore, Constitutional protections apply even to these, our most hated enemies.

      And, even if we should wish to deny them the protection of our own laws, international laws — backed by treaties ratified by the Senate and thus American laws — also guarantee individuals many of the rights we have been illegally denying them.

      Lastly, I’ll point you to the My Lay Massacre, in which killings by US soldiers were not sanctioned by the laws governing warfare and for which William Calley was indeed convicted of war crimes and murder.



        1. Yes, exactly.

          Al Qaeda is an international criminal organization and should be treated no differently from the Mafia.

          The “war on crime” would no more justify an invasion of Sicily or the assassination of Salvatore Lo Piccolo than the “war on terrorism” justifies the invasion of Afghanistan and the assassination of bin Laden.

          The use by politicians and the press of martial language to describe criminal matters should scare the shit out you.



          1. I’m not an American – and it’s been scaring the shit out of me since day one.

            “War on Terrorism” indeed.

            What’s next? The War on Purple?

            I know that the War on Purple sounds ridiculous – but the category error is the same.

            I’m keeping an eye out for your posts in the thread Ben. I’m liking your input.

      1. …the My Lay Massacre

        Conventionally transcribed as Mi Lai.

        Admit it, Ben–you were wrong!

        Otherwise, hear, hear for your input here.

  36. Just because he was unarmed doesn’t necessarily mean he was any less of an immediate danger. He was the FBI’s most wanted terrorist, the leader of Al Qaeda, he sanctioned suicide bombing and he lived in a high security compound. The Navy Seals were on his turf. What if the compound was rigged with explosives for example. I can think of many ways someone like Osama Bin Laden could detonate such an explosion knowing that someday he might find himself at the rubicon. Even by voice command. In this case, resistance could be nothing more than talking or moving. Think of all the information on Al Qaeda that compound may have held that OBL would want to destroy as quickly as possible. I think there may have been plenty of reason to fear an unarmed OBL in this situation.

    1. There is an important point that often eludes smart people, and many have been failing to grasp it on other threads. That point is that even things we cannot imagine exist.

      It would be a terrible policy to have soldiers allow enemies to do whatever they please, except for when the soldier can see exactly how it could do harm to him.

      Yes, now we can at leisure think that perhaps he had a button that set off explosives in the compound, and on the other hand see why that might have been very unlikely.

      During the operation, the soldiers don’t have a blacklist of enemy movements they forbid, they have a whitelist of enemy movements they know won’t harm them. “Hands open and held up, no sudden movements – or you die.” If someone does not follow directions, our inability to contrive a specific state of affairs in which the enemy movement could have been dangerous is irrelevant.

      That said, according to several of the discrepant news stories I have heard they confirmed the kill, and so clearly preferred him dead to alive. Once we know they preferred him dead, it’s very unsurprising that he was not captured alive.

    1. I’ve been triple checking that I’m hitting “Notify,” but still haven’t gotten a “subscribe to this post” email…

  37. “This was an unlawful killing, it is the USA flouting international law and there is no excuse for that…”

    …other than the fact that the law is not equivalent to morality.

  38. The fact that he was unarmed doesn’t bring up ethical dilemmas, until more facts are known. You can walk into a store and poke your finger into your jacket pocket and rob the clerk. If you get shot, and it’s found you were unarmed, do you think the clerk will get charged with murder? No. Because your intent was armed robbery.

    You are in the same room with the most wanted terrorist on the planet. You have a gun trained on him. For all you know he could speak a single command or hit a button and the entire building explodes. If his hands aren’t raised where they are visible and his body language isn’t one of surrender, you shoot him. Plain and simple.

    Now if he surrendered and was shot anyway, that’s a different story. It’s highly doubtful that was the case, but we really have no way of knowing. Calling it murder just because he was unarmed is irresponsible conjecture.

  39. When you’re the most wanted man in the world, and you’re up against a team of special forces pointing guns at you, the only gesture you should make is putting your hands high in the air and getting on your knees. Any other gesture will get you a bullet between the eyes.

  40. I dunno about your updated info, Jerry. According to what I have read, the intelligence on the courier that led to Bin Laden was determined two years after torturing prisoners was stopped. This is even according to Donald Rumsfeld. Maybe the CIA had continued to torture, although the CIA had supposed to cease interrogating detainees in 2006. Or the CIA chief is using current events to sanitise and justify the illegal practices of the past.

    In any case, I agree that it would have been better to capture and put on trial. My guess is that, as the US helicopters were in Pakistan airspace without clearance and knowledge of the Pakistan air force, there would have been extreme time pressure to finish the mission and extract the US helicopters before they could be shot down. Given such time pressure, I would guess the SEALS would have had no time to argue or risk a prolonged physical confrontation in order to detain Bin Laden. Assuming they were given the orders to capture alive if possible.

    1. I just reported what I saw with my own eyes on NBC news. Panetta said precisely what I reported. Now of course I can’t vouch for its accuracy!

      1. No worries, mate. I am not trying to act like Chico Marx once said, “So who are you going to believe; me or your own eyes?” 😉

        That reminds me, I have to get a copy of “The Invisible Gorilla” from the library today. To try to understand my own eyes.

          1. I think you will find that it was Chico, but disguised as Groucho (see here at 4:00. So it is an easy mistake to make, or memory to have 😉

            Curiously, this sort of misremembering is very common (basically, everyone does it) and is described in the book “The Invisible Gorilla” which, as mentioned above, I have picked up from the library.

      2. On the role of interrogation:
        BRIAN WILLIAMS: Can you confirm that it was as a result of water boarding that we learned what we needed to learn to go after Bin Laden?
        LEON PANETTA: Brian, in the intelligence business you work from a lot of sources of information and that was true here… It’s a little difficult to say it was due just to one source of information that we got… I think some of the detainees clearly were, you know, they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of these detainees. But I’m also saying that, you know, the debate about whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think is always going to be an open question.
        BRIAN WILLIAMS: So finer point, one final time, enhanced interrogation techniques — which has always been kind of a handy euphemism in these post-9/11 years — that includes water boarding?
        LEON PANETTA: That’s correct.

        1. Seems to me that that statement is a hell of a lot different than saying the information was the result of water boarding!

          1. BradW,

            Panetta doesn’t categorically say that the information was obtained through waterboarding. But he strongly implies that it was. He refers to the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on the detainees, and then says that it is an open question “whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches.” I don’t know how you can read that statement not to imply that the information was obtained through “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which is CIA-speak for waterboarding.

            1. It is one of those skillfully crafted responses that leaves the listener with the impression that they have the question has been answered, and even gets the listener to fill in the blanks so that the answer is whatever satisfies you, without actually saying anything. See any episode of Yes Minister or Yes Prime Minister for examples.

              1. Bravo!

                Anyone who thinks that “enhanced techniques” is CIA speak for “waterboarding” or “water boarding” simply has no idea or knowledge of how many “enhanced techniques” exist for extracting information during interrogations.

                To say that Panetta’s response can only be interpreted as “waterboarding” is patently ridiculous.

              2. BradW,

                I didn’t say they “can only be interpreted” as waterboarding. I said they strongly imply that the information was obtained through waterboarding. Williams’ question explicitly refers to waterboarding, for which “enhanced interrogation techniques” is a CIA euphemism.

      3. Panetta said precisely what I reported.

        He did not. See comment #67, complete with link to the interview.

  41. the US simply engaged in murder

    Absurd nonsense. There was a firefight, even according to the unwitting twitterers.

    This was not a police action, and your characterization of it as “murder” is beneath you.

    Please cite your evidence to support your characterization.

    1. There’s so much primitive black-and-white rhetoric revolving around this topic. Foolish false equivalencies in which “If we do X, we become no better than them,” conflation of the law as it is with what is morally right, categorization in the stead of specific thinking (“murder”! really!)

  42. I am afraid I find BradW about the only person on this thread who is making sense. At present it is still very unclear what precisely happened, and surely the best thing to do would be to wait until some sort of coherent story comes out that can then, if necessary, be picked to pieces.

    1. Thanks Tim.

      You have brought to mind another of the myriad complications involved in these types of activities.

      It should be obvious to everyone that we may never actually “win” the war against terrorism. We may very well be highly successful if we can contain any such further actions(e.g. 9/11) within our own country let alone trying to help with the rest of the world.

      Due to “declassification” requirements(which are necessary to protect our troops and methods)we may not know the actual chain of events until 50 yrs from now; if then. In the “intelligence community” there is a little thing that goes by the name of “disinformation” which is also instrumental in protecting our troops as well as cloaking our actual capabilities and plans; just another part of the “real” world.

      1. It should be obvious to everyone that we may never actually “win” the war against terrorism.


        It should be obvious that there cannot possibly be a war against a tactical method, and that only tyrants wage perpetual “wars” against insubstantial phantoms.



        1. Great!

          Then when some terrorist is observed killing you or one of yours, we will stop to take into consideration whether or not we have a “legal” weapon with which to respond before doing anything else.

          OBL was an “illegal enemy combatant” and therefore subject to all “necessary” retaliatory armed action.

          LIVE WITH IT!

          1. First, legally, there is no such thing as a terrorist. There are criminals and there are soldiers. So-called “illegal enemy combatants” are subject to either local civil law or the Geneva Conventions depending on the particular circumstances. That you continue to ignore these facts is hardly surprising in light of your ignorance of even the existence of the governing treaties, but there’s not much I can do to cure you of your ignorance.

            Second, if police or the military observe a crime in progress, there is more than adequate legal sanction permitting them to intervene. Laws regarding permissible civilian actions for self-defense and the defense of others vary by jurisdiction, but are generally permissive.

            I don’t know what nonsense you’re referring to about “legal” weaponry. Are you suggesting that an American soldier in the Korean DMZ who’s tending to the land mine field will hesitate to pick up one of the mines and throw it, frisbee-style, at an Al Qaeda suspect taking pot shots at his platoon because the United States has yet to ratify the Ottawa Treaty even though Afghanistan is a signatory?

            I also suggest you reconsider the childishness of your “LIVE WITH IT!” types of attacks. It is most immature to respond to insistences that we respect the rule of law with pouting and foot-stamping.

            And, while I’m giving fatherly advice: grow a pair. Countless Americans have killed and died to ensure the rule of law. Yet here you are, scared shitless that the bogeyman is going to get you unless you turn into a lawless savage yourself. Let me assure you, it is far better to risk death at the hands of cowards than to embrace the cowardice of tyranny yourself.

            Your petty personal fear of death is not sufficient reason for the rest of us to abandon civilization. There are much worse things than death, and a government that can kidnap, torture, and kill without due process is right there at the top of that list.



            1. Ben; you have now proven yourself a fool of the first class.

              First of all you appear to be infinitely unqualified to give me (and perhaps anyone else)any fatherly advice in this instance. To think that you are so qualified demonstrates an infinite amount of arrogance.

              Second; you need to do some actual research on the GC. Betcha can’t find any place in it that even addresses the issue of “illegal enemy combatants”.

              If you think you have found such an instance, please give the rest of us the specific citation within that version of the GC. Nothing else will do.

              On the other hand “terrorism” is specifically addressed:


              Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

              And that is the sole use of the word in the GC.

              Kind of destroys many of your assertions in this thread doesn’t it?

              1. I don’t want to inhibit discussion here, but can we PLEASE avoid calling each other names like “fool of the first class”?


              2. Betcha can’t find any place in it that even addresses the issue of “illegal enemy combatants”.

                THAT’S THE ENTIRE POINT!

                This nonsense about illegal combatants is a fiction invented by John Woo and others to give propagandistic cover to the United State’s blatant and gross violations of international law by inventing an impressive-sounding legal fiction that’s entirely without precedent.

                You know what else the Conventions don’t address? Nontraditional militarized civilians. Therefore, we can torture the shit out of them and mount their heads on pikes on the White House Lawn when we’re done, because the Conventions don’t have any language prohibiting such action.

                So, you’re now claiming to be an expert in international treaties on the rules of war. Chapter and verse, if you will, where there a person determined to not be subject to the Geneva Conventions may be denied the protections of local civil law or vice-versa.

                And why on Earth are you so desperate to find excuses to strip people of their rights?

                Why do you so hate civil liberties and the rule of law that you’ll grasp at the first straw you can find to shit all over them?


              3. Jerry:

                I don’t normally do that, but if you review Ben,s posts, I think you will find that he was the first to start the name calling.

                I will try my best to avoid it even in Ben’s instance; but it will be difficult.

            2. I’m also glad to know that you are such an accomplished diviner that you can tell me when I am “scared shitless”.

              What a hoot! ROFLMAO!!!!

        2. Just can’t let this one go by; thought I could, but I can’t.

          Tactical Methods are the various tools and weapons that are used pursuant to a Tactical Plan. A Tactical Plan is a subset of a Strategic Plan.

          Gosh! Do you think maybe the human being might be the most important tool in tactical plans
          emanating from strategic plans?

          You know very well that what is being talked about is the perpetrators of terrorism. They are real live human beings; not “phantoms”.

          This latest comment of yours makes it sound like you have conceded the field to the enemy.

  43. This entire discussion is pointless. The simple fact is that there was no way that Mr. bin Laden was going to allow himself to be taken alive for a show trial, a la Adolf Eichmann. He chose what is generally referred to as suicide by cop.

  44. Is killing ever morally acceptable?

    We’re discussing a man that has killed, planned to kill, and had other people kill, literally thousands of people, and most likely was plotting further murders of innocents. This is a man who would kill any one of us simply for being who we are. Could his death be considered a form of preventive self-defense?

    I would never celebrate another human’s death by partying in the streets, as some have, and I certainly find some things our government commands our military to do morally disgusting, but in my opinion, killing this man was not one of those things.

  45. Can you possibly put yourself in the boots of the SEAL who had to make that millisecond decision to shoot or not shoot?
    Would you have negotiated with bin Laden through an interpreter while listening for approaching Pakistani fighter jets?
    Have you ever fired a gun? Have you ever been in a fight? It’s not like the movies.
    We didn’t “murder” anybody. And you have no right whatsoever to second-guess the professional commando whose life was on the line. Expertise in biology does not confer expertise in firefights.

    1. I think the notion that he was “unarmed” is being pushed too far. It was 1 AM, dark, rounds were flying, ….if a person was unarmed and attempting to not be shot, obviously they should simply get flat. I read the news reports that an order was shouted to surrender, and it was ignored. With that, I’m certain the SEAL felt compelled to execute the objective, for in the next split second, unseen parties may be firing at you, or an explosive blast take you out of action, and your opportunity to succeed, denied.
      OBL had made his good-byes, I understand, directly after 9-11-2001, fully expecting the US would kill him, and he would ascend to paradise (his thinking, not mine). IMO, he had no intention of being captured and leaving the compound via US helicopter. If he had resisted, fired a weapon, and the women killed in the crossfire, the result would have still, undoubtedly, would have been OBL dead, the women dead, the SEALs executing the mission. I speculate, but I would say if OBL was unarmed, it was deliberate at that point, because (1) he knew he wasn’t leaving to stand trial, whatever it took (2) the women could be spared if he did not fire a weapon. Remember, OBL was a veteran of combat. He knew the situation, the outcome, immediately, upon the first exchange of rounds.

      He chose to die IMO in a way to allow the women to live. If Special Forces see you, armed, they won’t exchange bullets. Toss in a grenade, everyone in the room gets hit, and probably an agonizing death.

      1. Shouted in what language ?

        Bin Laden spoke some English, but he was by no means fluent. So unless it was in Arabic, and the dialect spoken in Saudi Arabia, then no warning was really given.

    2. Can you possibly put yourself in the boots of the SEAL who had to make that millisecond decision to shoot or not shoot?

      You seem to be saying that the SEAL “had” to be there. As though he were just sitting on a park bench when OBL showed up and threatened to kill him.

  46. I’m delighted that he’s dead and further, that he sleeps with the fishes. I’ll be the last one to wave a flag over this, but at the same time I turned my winter solstice lights back on last night and may well keep the timer on for weeks in silent celebration.

    BTW, I remember noting over the past several months statements from Obama and other administration people to the effect that “we remain committed to killing Osama bin Laden.” It wasn’t killing or capturing, it was killing, period paragraph.

    1. Categorizations and labels should be used to further understanding, not cloud it.

      After we have a thorough understanding of the nature of Osama bin Laden’s activities and how our response fits with both morality and laws of war drafted for obsolete technological and sociological situations, we can see that it was moral.

      Following that up by finding technical ways Osama was a member of the category “criminal” and our actions were part of the category of actions known as “murder” is an attempt to undermine nuanced understanding and have readers infer the American actions were somewhat typical of “murders” and Osama’s actions were somewhat typical of those of a “criminal”.

      This relies on the human tendency to think the world has clearly delineated categories that match our labels squarely.

      It’s all well and good to use labels at the beginning of investigation to help think about things, but glomming onto labels after full understanding is an attempt to replace understanding.

      E.g.: is Socrates vulnerable to hemlock? Well, he’s a man (label=man), so probably, since men are vulnerable to it.

      But wait! Biological investigation has revealed he has a rare genetic mutation that interferes with metabolizing the toxins in hemlock (nuanced understanding).

      But wait! He’s a “man”, so let’s forget about his actual biology and confuse ourselves by crudely applying the label, and assume he is vulnerable.

      Likewise, we can label the american operation as “murder”, OBL as a “criminal”, and Obama as a “war criminal”.

      1. How can you write something that clear and lucid and post it here when it shoots all those holes in Ben’s invented scenarios?

        Well done!

        1. I read hundreds of posts at, which generalize logical errors people make and help me spot them.

          In addition, the far leftists here are really following certain ultra-conservative tropes I am used to arguing against.

          Conflating what is legal and what is moral as if they were the same thing? Check.

          Acting as if there are only two ways for us to be, perfectly moral or just as bad as “them”? Check.

          Having a deontological moral system not based on actual consequences to actual living, feeling, beings? Check.

          The far left are not so different than reactionary conservatives.

  47. Jerry, although intellectually I have to agree with your thoughts with respect to justice, from an emotional as well as a practical perspective:

    a) All those innocent people I saw jumping from the upper towers of the WTC and those crushed in the fall or killed in the initial impact or burned to death deserved a trial too, before they were executed.

    b) From a financial perspective, I’d rather see my tax dollars go towards caring for Americans who need help in tough economic times (or educating a kid who lost a parent on 9/11) rather than on a lengthy legal process focused on Bin Laden.

    I’m 60 years old and I have never, ever, before been – what? Not delighted, but perhaps satisfied, with the death of another human. I have NO problem with the way this event took place.

    1. If you would deny justice to others, what right do you have to demand justice for yourself?

      And even the most exorbitant of trials for the most dastardly of criminals could be more than amply paid for by suspending combat operations in Afghanistan for an hour or so. To suggest that we’re too poor to be able to afford the cost of justice is disingenuous in the extreme.



      1. Ben, it felt good to read your (and a few other) sane thoughts along with Jerry’s thoughtful article amidst the sea of voices approving the near-vigilantism.

        Although Indians are mostly sympathetic to Americans on this act, I’m curious to know how many of these American voices would support similar surgical attacks by India (long ravaged by the same brand of terrorism) on known masterminds of those attacks!

        1. I very much fear that the degree of support would be directly proportional to the difference in average melanin content between the two sides.

          If your hides are roughly the same shade, place your bets on the one most willing to supply crude oil in large quantities at low prices, and lastly on the one with the religion most compatible with evangelical protestant apocalyptic fantasy.

          I’m sorry, but, historically, you almost can’t go worng. As much as I wish we were more enlightened…we’re clearly not.



      2. What a quaint and frankly moronic little syllogism. I demand justice because I live in a society that values human life and really does discourage the intentional murder of innocents, whatever your disagreement with their government. Let me simplify it for you. If I murder several hundred people and may do so again, it is morally acceptable for a government to kill me.

  48. They NOW know he wasn’t armed. However, the mansion appears to have been heavily guarded by others who engaged the seals in heavy gunfire. It doesn’t surprise me that in a situation like that the mind set is shoot to kill.

  49. Here’s Robert Fisk’s take:

    “But a court would have worried more people than Bin Laden. After all, he might have talked about his contacts with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, or about his cosy meetings in Islamabad with Prince Turki, Saudi Arabia’s head of intelligence. Just as Saddam – who was tried for the murder of a mere 153 people rather than thousands of gassed Kurds – was hanged before he had the chance to tell us about the gas components that came from America, his friendship with Donald Rumsfeld, the US military assistance he received when he invaded Iran in 1980.”

    1. The only thing that doesn’t work with this “silencing” scenario, is that if OBL or SH had embarassing intels about the American government, I don’t think they would have waited for a trial before spreading said intels.

      On the other hand, killing him on the spot will probably save lives, as attacks and kidnappings would have certainly escalated to try and negociate his release…

      1. “The only thing that doesn’t work with this “silencing” scenario, is that if OBL or SH had embarassing intels about the American government, I don’t think they would have waited for a trial before spreading said intels.”

        Such facts uncovered through a trial covered by the international media wuold certainly be far more damning and embarassing than a home video shot by bin Laden.

        “On the other hand, killing him on the spot will probably save lives, as attacks and kidnappings would have certainly escalated to try and negociate his release…”

        Yes, and denying free speech to the Koran-burning Florida pastor could have saved lives. Would you have supported that? Principles shouldn’t crumble in the face of potential Islamist violence.

  50. Incidentally, Andrew Sullivan analyses what he calls the ‘big lie’ about torture having led to the discovery of Bin Ladin (a ‘big lie’ that is now, it seems, being repeated gleefully all over Fox News, which is only too happy to pretend that Bush’s torture regime has been vindicated).

  51. If your slippery slope argument begins with “First they came for Osama bin Laden and I did not speak up because I was not Osama bin Laden”, I don’t think it’s going to go much further.

  52. Q: Why was bin Laden buried at sea?
    A: Because he knew G.W.Bush wanted to dance on his grave.

    1. I know you mean that as a joke, but as has been reported everywhere, it was to keep his grave from becoming a shrine.

      Same reason you won’t find graves for any of the primary Nuremburg defendants or Himmler. The former were cremated under pseudonyms, and the ashes were dumped in a nearby river; the cannisters were smashed flat and presumably thrown in a scrap pile (source: a book on the trials, name of which I’ve forgotten). Himmler, after he took KCN, was reportedly buried by one officer in an undisclosed place (another book w/ forgotten title).k

      At one point after 9/11 it was revealed that the bodies of the NYC hijackers had been recovered and identified, constituting a dilemma as to their disposition. I never heard the outcome of that one, so if anyone knows pls post.

  53. Also, on Talking Points Memo there is a good take-down of, and discussion about, the claim that torture had a part in tracking down OBL, a claim that naturally the GOP and the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield crowd want so desperately to be true that the lies and half-truths are already pouring out.

  54. The obvious comparison is the Nuremberg war trials. Truman wanted them, Stalin & Churchill would have been happy to just shoot them.

    “America! America!
    God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    thy liberty in law.”

  55. I wonder, would you say that von Stauffenberg’s act in July 1944 was attempted murder? His group was not in a state of war with Hitler, and he tried to kill an unarmed man, sitting quietly at the table.

    1. Excellent point. Also, are we going to start fretting that the operation constituted breaking and entering, too?

      1. I am sure it did! And I bet they did not pick up the spent shell cases from the bullets, so add littering to the list. 🙁

          1. There, I hafta say that when I first heard the codename I immediately thought that if I was a member of the Native population I’d be insulted.

            Also, I once had a pet flying squirrel named Geronimo, still fondly remembered.

          2. I was just watching the Cartoon Network, and Yosemite Sam just jumped out of an airplane yelling, “Geronimo!” This has brobably become so much of a cliche that it’s not worth remarking on.

            1. That’s why it was a great name for a flying squirrel. Also noted, apparently Geronimo was the name for the operation – OBL himself was Jackpot.

  56. This was a military operation, not a police operation. The targets were considered armed and dangerous and since the primary objective was not to retrieve Bin Laden alive, I would expect the soldiers to take any non-compliant action to be hostile and to shoot. Bin Laden may not have been put on trial, but the government knows he was behind the 9/11 attacks. I hope the government will make what evidence it can against Bin Laden available to the public (a lot of that evidence presumably can’t be made available yet because it would compromise ongoing operations).

    As for the bit on having used torture to obtain ‘some’ information leading to Bin Laden’s discovery, that is nothing but a lame excuse for torture.

  57. Bin Laden was surrounded by people *shooting weapons.* It’s not like he walked out with his hands up.

    And imagine you’re sneaking into Pakistan, into a reinforced compound, to capture or kill a mass murderer.

    Excessive personal safety would outweigh the safety of the terrorist.

    1. The sad reality is that even ordinary criminals, and bystanders, often get shot by the ordinary police if they don’t immediately surrender.

      As I said earlier, the US doesn’t usually even try to arrest suspected terrorists — we just send in a missle or bomb. In this case, they were obviously after more than just his death. At the least, they wanted proof of his death.

  58. It’s not the fact that they went in to kill rather than capture him that is unusual about the current situation, rather it’s that they openly admit it.
    This was not a money launderer or a bank robber in hiding, this was someone whose principle weapon has been the use of the suicide bomb. It would be easy to rationalize the death with a claim that he ‘needed’ to be shot in order to prevent him setting off a possible suicide bomb vest (there would have been enough time from the beginning of the raid until the US military entered his room for him to don such a vest).
    I suspect the reason this is not being suggested as an option is for political reasons – they want to avoid all republican charges of wimpishness (if bin Laden was now in custody Obama could have been charged with being weak and not having the guts to ‘dispense justice’)

  59. I clearly recall that on 8 January, the first reports I heard from Tucson were that Representative Gabrielle Giffords was dead; one source even went so far as to state that she had been “pronounced dead”. As always with a developing story with multiple sources and multiple witnesses, it will take time to sort things out.

  60. So during WWII we should have held separate trials for each individual enemy soldier before we could assert our right of self-defense, requiring 500,000 lawyers and 500,000 judges. Was there a lawyer for Osama on the chopper. My, my, I don’t know how I can live with this shame. And, yes, he’s not dead anyway; I am starting a new conspiracy theory for dumb, fat and ungly American Christians who have nothing better to do. Good bye. J

    1. <sigh />

      The laws of war most emphatically do not require a trial by jury before engaging with the enemy.

      They do, however, place restrictions on what soldiers are and aren’t permitted to do. For example, you can’t kill anybody, soldier or otherwise, who is unarmed and waving for surrender.

      If you do, you’ll be the one needing the lawyer when the judge hears the case for the murder you committed.

      Why is it so hard for people to understand that all we’re asking for is that the rule of law be followed? Do y’all really have such an abysmal understanding of what the law actually is? Is that the source of these caricatures? Or is it something more sinister — a desire for a strong man to dispense vengeance on your command?

      Regardless, it is quite unhealthy.



      1. Yes – all I ask is consistant application of rules/laws, not just when it is convenient for you. I am not stipualting what the laws should be, just asking that people respect the ones to which they otherwise claim to adhere.

  61. UPDATE: CIA director Leon Panetta, speaking on NBC News, just admitted that some of the information used to capture bin Laden came from what he called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

    I jut watched the entire interview, and I do not agree with your statement.
    NBC interview of Panetta 14:57
    WASHINGTON — Intelligence garnered from waterboarded detainees was used to track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and kill him, CIA Chief Leon Panetta told NBC News on Tuesday.

    Panetta: … “Clearly some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees but we also had information from other sources as well…”

    Saying that info came from detainees who were waterboarded is not the same as saying that info came from the use of waterboarding. All detainees were also subjected to normal interrogation.

    1. I don’t see how torture-derived intel could be reliable anyway. You have to have something reliable to check it against, and if you have that, what use is the torture?

      If someone were torturing me, I’d probably tell them anything I could imagine to make it stop. None of it need be based in reality.

      1. “I don’t see how torture-derived intel could be reliable anyway.”

        First of all, thank you very much for prefacing your statement with that disclaimer. Many anti-torture people would simply have written “torture-derived intel can’t be reliable anyway”, as if their inability to think of something meant it doesn’t exist.

        Second of all, I can think of a way in which it can be reliable. One way is when the intel is low cost to verify. Another is to compare the unreliable statements against each other.

        1. In your hypothetical scenario, are you proposing to torture enough people to find some statistically significant correlation between their random, pain-induced rantings?

          And if the highly suspect intel can be cheaply verified, why would we torture the suspect(s)? Just to get a possible lead?

          I don’t have any sympathy for terrorists and their lawful punishment, assuming we caught the right perps and not just some guy who seemed like a good suspect. But the only thing keeping me and my loved ones out of such torture chambers is a bit of luck (so far) and the law. I’m not anxious to jettison the latter.

          1. Wouldn’t that just be two people for some cases?

            Separate two terrorists, if they aren’t cooperative after several days of regular interrogation, don’t let either sleep more than two hours a day or whatever (torture), and only check out the leads they give when they match. Something like that. There would have to be a ticking bomb with a slow fuse, but hypothetically such a scenario could occur.

            I don’t have a perfect record of predicting the outcomes of movies, fiction, or history books. Hollywood writers are able to surprise me, as is reality. I can think of unlikely hypotheticals in which the contingent objections to torture I have read do not hold, but perhaps reality will surprise me by actually producing one or producing one I hadn’t foreseen.

            This goes back to the behavior of a soldier confronting OBL 30 minutes into the fight, after his guards have been killed. The soldier ought to instruct OBL to perform only one specific action that won’t put the soldier in danger. Anything else should be assumed dangerous. The soldier’s inability to think of how OBL could cause him harm by stepping in a certain unauthorized direction does not mean he shouldn’t shoot him.

            It took me one second after typing that to think: “OBL could be stepping on or off a pressure plate linked to a bomb”. But it took a second, and there are other actions OBL could do, from refusing to kneel to singing/pantomiming “I’m a little teacup”. The bottom line is: if you are the FBI’s most wanted and SEAL team 6 has killed all of your bodyguards and is instructing you how to behave, you behave as told, or it is suicide by cop.

      2. Ray Moscow,

        “I don’t see how torture-derived intel could be reliable anyway. You have to have something reliable to check it against, and if you have that, what use is the torture?”

        I see this kind of question all the time from people who claim that torture “doesn’t work.” I really don’t know why you cannot understand the difference between verification and discovery. Information obtained through torture may be verifiable, but that doesn’t mean it can be obtained through some method other than torture. If you’re torturing someone to try and discover the location of a bomb, you can verify whether there really is a bomb at the location he identifies, but that doesn’t mean you could have discovered that location without torture.

        “If someone were torturing me, I’d probably tell them anything I could imagine to make it stop. None of it need be based in reality.”

        If they will continue to torture you until you give them the true location of the bomb, of course it has to be based in reality.

        1. And this method has prevented a lot of imminent bombings, has it? Besides 24, I mean.

          And how does one prosecute the terrorist after you’ve tortured him? Any real court would let him walk, because everything about his case is tainted by unconstitutional abuse of his rights. Basically they have to keep him locked up forever, with no charges, or let him go.

          But let’s pose this scenario: you get off a plane from Egypt, and you are quietly arrested and whisked away to be tortured because someone thought you knew something important. You eventually “confess” to something that, unfortunately for you, happens to correspond to a real event.

          You’re OK with that?

          1. And this method has prevented a lot of imminent bombings, has it? Besides 24, I mean.

            I didn’t say that it has prevented any bombings. I don’t know whether it has or not. I was responding to your false suggestion that if the information obtained through torture can be verified then there’s no point to the torture.

            And how does one prosecute the terrorist after you’ve tortured him? Any real court would let him walk, because everything about his case is tainted by unconstitutional abuse of his rights.

            In a ticking time bomb scenario, I would be far less concerned about prosecuting the terrorist than saving the lives of the people he is trying to murder. But I don’t accept your claim that the use of torture to find the location of the bomb would prevent successful prosecution, anyway. The terrorist would be subject to prosecution using whatever evidence implicated him in the bombing attempt in the first place.

            But let’s pose this scenario: you get off a plane from Egypt, and you are quietly arrested and whisked away to be tortured because someone thought you knew something important. You eventually “confess” to something that, unfortunately for you, happens to correspond to a real event. You’re OK with that?

            What a bizarre question. You’re asking me if I’m “ok” with being arrested and tortured without cause. No, I’m not ok with that. I am ok with the use of torture in the kind of narrow ticking time bomb scenario described by Sam Harris.

    1. It doesn’t matter. It’s too late. The Big Lie has been told, and bin Laden’s assassination will now and forevermore be one of the key pieces of evidence cited for the effectiveness of torture.

      Once again, we blew it. We had the perfect opportunity to be Reagan’s shining city on the hill, a beacon of justice and hope to all the world, and we fucking blew it.

      God damn, but this makes me sick.


      1. The Big Lie: Torture Got Bin Laden
        by Andrew Sullivan
        To repeat: in the one instance we now clearly know about, the CIA is telling us that torture gave them lies. Which they were. Only when traditional interrogation was used did we get the actual names of the couriers.

      2. That may be, but Reginald’s point is still important, better than nothing, something to build on/refer to, etc….

  62. RIDICULOUS! And if we had blown up Bin Laden with a Predator drone would he have been armed or unarmed? Resisting arrest, planning the death of other Americans, or sworn to become a pacifist?

    Murder?! What do you think warfare involves? Why can’t the US instruct US troops to kill Bin Laden on sight? Vigilante justice? Hardly. His guilt is beyond reproach–there doesn’t need to be a court hearing, he admitted (unprompted) that he planned and carried out the death of 3000+ innocents. Should there have been a general order to kill Hitler on site (there was, we tried to execute him by poison, assassination, etc). Oh but that would be state-sanctioned murder. Wow, just wow.

    1. To understand why people might object to the idea that it was an assassination, you have to go back to the arguments that supported why the US signed a treaty refusing to use assassination to resolve differences.

      There have been several Executive Orders
      prohibiting political assassination:

      Executive Order 11905: United States Foreign Intelligence Activities
      February 18, 1976
      Pres. Gerald R. Ford

      Executive Order 12036: United States Intelligence Activities
      24 Jan 78
      Pres. James Carter

      4 December 1981
      Pres. Ronald Reagan

      …the text of which, in each case, read:

      “Prohibition of Assassination. No employee of the United States
      Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political

      The only question here is, why Jerry considered Bin-Laden to fall under the category of “political assassination”.

      I don’t rightly think it qualifies.

      that said, I too do not see the difference between Americans celebrating the death of Bin-Laden, and that video of people in the streets of Afghanistan, celebrating the death of Americans after 9/11.

      Can someone explain, in detail, if there even IS a difference in the mentality behind it, and if so, what exactly that entails?

      1. Seriously? You can’t see the difference between celebrating the murder of innocent people and celebrating the killing of a terrorist mass murderer?

        1. Seriously? You can’t see the difference between celebrating the murder of innocent people and celebrating the killing of a terrorist mass murderer?

          YOU viewed the americans as innocent. Right or wrong, the people celebrating 9/11 did not.

          so, you failed to see what the argument actually is.

          try again?

          1. As should be blindingly obvious to you, the belief that the victims of 9/11 deserved to die is one of the things that makes the mentality of the people celebrating their deaths so different from the mentality of Americans celebrating the death of bin Laden.

            1. Actually, if you speak with people who actually view your average american as being responsible, considering they CAN vote, then it becomes not so “blindingly obvious”.

              what IS becoming obvious, is that you apparently have some serious blinders on yourself!

              1. No, difference I described should be blindingly obvious to you, period. I don’t know if you really can’t see this difference, or if you’re just playing silly games.

              2. blindingly obvious to you, period.

                apparently, it’s so blindingly obvious, you can’t even describe it.


      2. “…a difference in the mentality behind it…”

        This phrase could be better written. As it is, it reads as if you are asking something like “Is there even any difference between a guy who can lift 10 pounds and a guy who can life 200 pounds?” Some people able to lift 10 pounds are able to lift 200 pounds, while everyone able to lift 200 pounds can lift 10 pounds. So it won’t avail you to imagine someone who can lift 200 pounds (who celebrates the death of innocent civilians) and ask yourself if such a person would also be able to lift 10 pounds (celebrate the death of an enemy military leader who targets civilians for death), notice that they would, and conclude there is no difference between the two people (groups).

        Not everyone who celebrates the death of a man who targets civilians for death based on nationality and religion would also celebrate the death of civilians who are members of a population controlled by a group with whom their nation is at war.

        1. you too fail.

          the people celebrating 9/11 do not view the average american as an innocent.

          past that, your analogy compares a quantitative thing with a qualitative one.

          the expression I used might not be the clearest, but surely you can at least try to understand it is not quantitative in nature?

          1. oh, and since you added a quantitative aspect to it, as did the person before you…

            How is someone in the Middle East to compare the numbers between Bin-Laden and the US?

            To them, surely it must look like the score is an order of magnitude in favor of the US on the death count?

            1. Every analogy contains differences, as well as similarities. If there were no differences between the analogy and the case in question, it wouldn’t be an analogous case, but rather the same case.

              The objection that the analogies are different can apply to every analogy. Here, the difference is not an important one. But since you apparently aren’t able to reason so abstractly, let’s try again.

              “that said, I too do not see the difference between dictators advocating the death penalty for criticizing the regime or anything worse, and American copyright laws that fine people who illegally reprint books. whine whine whine”

              1. Every analogy contains differences, as well as similarities.

                irrelavant. Yours was a category error.

                I too do not see the difference between dictators advocating the death penalty for criticizing the regime or anything worse, and American copyright laws that fine people who illegally reprint books. whine whine whine”

                wow, that’s an even bigger fail.


                Would people who are as clueless as yourself please not bother responding?

                thanks ever so much.

                as a final wave at you, I would point out that the issue here is celebrating the death of someone.

                If you can’t see that there ARE similarities, then sadly, it is you are forcing yourself to be blind.

              2. “If you can’t see that there ARE similarities, then sadly, it is you are forcing yourself to be blind.”

                Speaking of logical errors: the presence of relevant similarities is not precluded by the presence of relevant differences.

                In general, if you can’t stop thinking in black-and-white terms about moral issues, please stop talking about them.

      3. @Ichthyic Don’t be rediculous. Sure the same xenophobia probably underlies it, but that is a disgusting and bogus comparison. Even the craziest people in our governments don’t actively seek the deaths of afghan civilians. Bin Laden basically created a religion out of the practice of blowing yourself up in the most crowded places you could find.

        1. Sure the same xenophobia probably underlies it,

          then you’ve answered my question.

          the rest is superfluous.

      4. You’re correct. Osama bin Laden holds no political office or government position. We didn’t murder him as Jerry absurdly contends, we did the moral thing of preventing future deaths of many innocents.

        We killed the fokker and good riddance.

  63. I think this is one of those cases where you don’t really worry too much about the law… one of sam harris’s cases where you go ahead and do something ‘illegal’ that will turn out better for everyone and hopefully nobody shows any will to prosecute you for it. Who cares if it was an assassination or murder or execution. It was called for.

  64. I think at this point it would be appropriate tore-post a comment from another site to which I subscribe:

    “D. E-Platt says:
    May 2, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Personally, I feel that while any leader of a group of terrorists must be taken down in order for others to feel safe – celebrating his death seems callous at best. The job is done and it would be more appropriate to light a candle for peace & for the hope of better days ahead than anything else.

    I for one will say that President Obama, has done what he said he would do & gave the necessary order for this mission to be carried out. The decision to address what had to be done was his & he did not shy away from doing it. Those who took part in this military action are to be congratulated for a job well done. All parties involved should have our respect. And may all those who have lost family & friends, both on 9/11 or in the war that followed, find some sense of resolution & closure in their lives.

    May we all strive do our part to make this world a better one, as they have done, so that one day our children & grandchildren will inherit a more peaceful planet.”

    You can see that post and its attendant comments at

    My candle is lit.

    1. Maybe it seems callous to you. It doesn’t seem that way to me. I think he deserved to die. I think the world is a safer place without bin laden in it. Justice has been served.

        1. It’s ironic how those who complain about people celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, of all people, express total lack of concern for human beings who merely disagree with them.

          1. why not prop up some strawmen while you’re at it?

            oh, wait. You just did.


            carry on.

      1. hmm.

        do you celebrate whenever a prisoner on death row in a given state is executed as well?

        According to the laws of such state, “justice was served”.

        so… do you celebrate those executions as well?

        I’m betting you don’t

        the question is though, why not?

        1. “do you celebrate whenever a prisoner on death row in a given state is executed as well?”

          No. Prisoners on death row are rarely mass-murdering terrorists, a difference between them and Osama bin Laden to which you seem oblivious.

          1. …and you seem entirely oblivious to your own behavioral filters.

            not surprising, but interesting nonetheless.

            1. Ichthyic,

              You may not realize it, but you come across as an arrogant troll. If you want to make your points resonate, focus on putting forward logical arguments/responses, not cute put downs…doing so does not advance the discussion. This is a fairly serious board and these are particularly serious topics…please don’t continue to waste our collective time with nonsense.

  65. According to MSNBC, there was NO firefight in the building housing bin Laden. A small firefight happened with the courier in ANOTHER building.

    1. “According to the officials’ account, as the first SEAL team moved into the compound, they took small-arms fire from the guest house in the compound. The SEALs returned fire, killing bin Laden’s courier and the courier’s wife, who died in the crossfire.

      The second SEAL team entered the first floor of the main residence and could see a man standing in the dark with one hand behind his back. Fearing he was hiding a weapon, the SEALs shot and killed the lone man, who turned out to be unarmed.

      As the U.S. commandos moved through the house, they found several stashes of weapons and barricades, as if the residents were prepared for a violent and lengthy standoff — which never materialized.”

  66. I am not clear how we know that the mission was to kill and not to capture. We can’t conclude that was the intent just because that is what happened. We could conclude that there was a cock-up; or that Delta Seals are trigger happy; or that is was a necessity under the circumstances which unfolded; or – possibly – that it was what the intent all along.

  67. Who says this was an operation by law enforcement to bring a criminal to justice? Why do you think that what police do, or what criminals are entitled to are good models for what should have happened in this case?

    We have police, domestic and international. And we have the military, who’s job is to apply maximum violence in the service of national interest.

    In a military operation you have responsibilities of care on the enemy only if they actively surrender. In the absence of that, there is absolutely no requirement that you ‘take someone alive’. That’s just daft.

    Ibn Laden was killed because the US engaged in a military operation against him. This was not ‘capture the fugitive’, but ‘defeat the enemy’.

    If you don’t like it, fine. But let’s not pretend that our military is something other than it is.

    1. The US is not, and was not, as war with Pakistan. As such military action on Pakistan soil without the consent of the Pakistani Government was not legal under international law.

      1. Yes, I’m sure the Obama Administration is quaking at the terrifying prospect of the awesome power of “international law.”

      2. Quite. But you’re mixing up the legal framework for the state’s instigation of that action, and the legal framework for the action itself.

  68. Late in the day, so probably nobody will read this, but Andrew Sullivan in a good blog post today puts his finger on one very good reason why Sam Harris’s arguments about torture, however intellectually watertight (which I don’t think they are) are likely to lead, in the real world, to results that I don’t think SH and his supporters would like:


    5 May 2011 12:28 PM “Torture Creep”
    ‘Remember the days when Republicans only defended torture in the case of a ticking time bomb? Funny how now the debate on the right has moved – so quickly and without any evidence – to defending torture as a permanent policy to find small nuggets of information that could help in developing leads in anti-terrorism work. Those of us who warned of such slippery slopes are vindicated. And that the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden should immediately prompt unfounded Republican celebrations of torture reveals how morally degraded the discourse has become after the despicable policies of Bush and Cheney.’

    1. No, I don’t remember the days when “Republicans only defended torture in the case of a ticking time bomb.” As far as I’m aware, there have always been some people, including some Republicans, who have defended the use of torture in broader circumstances than ticking time bombs. Sullivan is alluding to a past that never existed.

      Sullivan is just repeating the slippery slope argument, the claim that if we allow any torture at all, it will inevitably become more common over time. Harris addresses this claim in his piece. To paraphrase his reply: there is simply no empirical basis for this claim. He cites the examples of capital punishment. Instead of expanding it, we have actually restricted its use to a progressively narrower set of crimes.

      Sullivan is a smart guy and I often agree with him. But there are some issues on which he is highly irrational. Religion is one. Torture is another.

    2. “The interrogator has to keep going himself one better for so long as there is resistance, and eventually there is a point where death becomes preferable to life for the subject. Once that point is achieved, it becomes something of a race between the two of them, with information as one goal and death the other.”

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