Reflections on the Killing of Osama bin Laden

It is a little over a year since Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals, so this is an appropriate time to reflect on the action and the reactions to it. I continue to think that the killing was a major mistake in two dimensions as to the way that the attack went down: 1) there was no need to kill him; and 2) the Pakistani government should have been notified in advance that we knew where he was and then a joint operation arranged. Based on the Navy Seals’ account, they killed an unarmed bin Laden, who was in their control, and he could have been captured and hustled into the waiting helicopter. Instead, we as a nation, revealed to the world that we would kill a wanted person in cold blood, as it were, and expose our constitutional right of due process before the taking of liberty or life to be a hollow pretense. Trying bin Laden in a court of law would likely have been a very complicated affair, but core values can’t be jettisoned just because they are hard to keep.

The chief argument against including the Pakistanis is that they may have spirited bin Laden away before the operation took place. This was a possibility that skilled diplomacy could have lessened in advance. As it was, the attack created a huge rift with our supposed ally, which still lingers today.

It is not good when you profess to believe in a nation’s sovereignty and then violate it to the extent that you send a military force deep into that nation’s territory.

Some of Obama’s supporters have focused their fire on the Obama critics who accuse him of politically exploiting the killing of Osama bin Laden by celebrating it in a re-election campaign ad. These supporters accuse the critics of hypocrisy for previously labeling Obama as soft on terrorism and now not wanting to give Obama any credit for getting rid of Osama. Obama critics should feel free to make the case that President Obama is unduly taking political advantage of the killing; however, those who had previously labeled Obama soft and weak on terrorism should also acknowledge that their prior assessment had been faulty. Yet I also fault the Obama supporters who focus exclusively on the hypocritical opponents of Obama and who don’t express some introspective uneasiness about the killing of a wanted man clearly in the control of his attackers. Also, that uneasiness or concern should extend into our military subversion of another nation’s sovereignty, when defense of it is supposed to be another one of this nation’s values.

 

 

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