I think it’s worthwhile to consider the arguments against killing Osama bin Laden in a raid. It is not a trivial thing for a government to target a person, send a highly trained military team to a faraway place, and then assault them. It’s a shocking and dramatic thing.
But once you’re face-to-face with that person, what’s the right thing to do? Michael Moore opposes killing bin Laden:
“We’ve lost something of our soul here in this country. And maybe I’m an old school American who believes in our American judicial system, something that separates us from other parts, other countries, where we say everybody has their day in court no matter how bad of a person, no matter what piece of scum they are, they have a right to a trial. And this man was a mass murderer, he was responsible for the deaths, at least in this country, of nearly 3,000 people. And, you know, after World War II, we just didn’t go in and put a bullet to the head of all the top Nazis. We put them on trial. We took them to Nuremberg and we put them on trial, and we said ‘no, this important for the world to see . . ‘”
Michael is a good man, and he makes good points. But I differ with him. Perhaps if we were living in a more perfect world, we could have taken, rather than killed, bin Laden. I suppose that’s possible. But this ignores two realities: it’s far more dangerous to capture someone, and the terrorist mastermind was still at war with the United States.
I just don’t think it’s wise to demand your SEALs capture the guy. You’re sending them into a foreign country whose defense forces could, by reasonably assuming the Americans were carrying out an international assault, kill every one of the team, legally and without hesitation. The bin Laden security cadre would certainly kill them all, it’s their job. Bin Laden himself would happily kill them all, if he could, and then boast of it on video. The difficulties and dangers facing the operation team were so great, I find it difficult to fathom. So, I think it’s imprudent and unwise to make the ‘capture’ demand. It displays a recklessness I’d hope a sensible president would avoid.
More importantly, we’re at war with bin Laden and Al Qaeda. This is where Moore’s argument falls most flat — nations at war don’t have the luxury of trying every soldier their military comes across. Instead, they kill the enemy in order to defend their citizens and to end the imminent threat. This is the essential truth about bin Laden: he was a soldier who killed Americans in the past, and he planned to kill Americans in the future. As the commander of an effective military and terrorist organization, he’s an especially dangerous warrior. It’s absolutely fine, if not a moral imperative, to shoot the guy in the head.
Yes, certainly, we didn’t kill Nazis after the war, but then the threat was over. Only days earlier, we were killing them as fast as we could find them. Being at war with Al Qaeda’s terrorists makes the difference.
Now for an argument less thoughtful — John Yoo’s, from the Wall Street Journal:
” . . bin Laden was still issuing instructions and funds to a broad terrorist network and would have known where and how to find other key al Qaeda players. His capture, like Saddam Hussein’s in December 2003, would have provided invaluable intelligence and been an even greater example of U.S. military prowess than his death.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Monday that the SEAL team had orders to take bin Laden alive, ‘if he didn’t present any threat,’ though he correctly dismissed this possibility as ‘remote.’ This is hard to take seriously. No one could have expected bin Laden to surrender without a fight.”
So they should have, err . . come again? What? Yoo seems to be making the argument that the SEALs should have done anything (everything) to capture bin Laden. Sure, of course, he would have fought back — so what? He asks the team members to sacrifice their lives. But for what, exactly?
After maybe getting a couple Navy guys killed, John Yoo gets to jam some battery cables into bin Laden’s mouth? Yep. Yoo will say anything to steer the conversation toward an embrace of his beloved torture.
. . if they were going in with no options other than to kill him, then I do think that’s a problem . . it does seem from the initial reports that a deliberately small force was sent in and there wasn’t a lot of thought given to the idea of capturing him.
If they’re only going to kill bin Laden, what a problem. They should have thought about capturing him — but, oh, that paltry force. Yes, well, look at how badly everything went, it’s a shame.
John Yoo seems to think there’s no sacrifice great enough, no obstacle too big, to prevent our military from stuffing a guy in a bag and dragging him back to American soil. The mysteries wither.