Friday, May 6, 2011


The meme of potential US wrongdoing with regard to killing bin Laden is so pervasive, it even pops up in a story about President Obama meeting with the SEAL team:

Meanwhile, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights called on the U.S. to disclose details surrounding the killing of bin Laden.

"In respect of the recent use of deadly force against Osama bin Laden, the United States of America should disclose the supporting facts to allow an assessment in terms of international human rights law standards," the commission's special investigators, Christof Heyns and Martin Scheinin, said in a joint statement.

"For instance, it will be particularly important to know if the planning of the mission allowed an effort to capture bin Laden."

On the one hand, in a society of law, it's essential to extend the protections of due process to all people, however universally despised and however certain we are of their guilt. The principle exists for a reason, and compromising that principle even in the clearest circumstances has the potential to erode the protections most important for guaranteeing the freedom and liberty of all individuals.

On the other hand, kiss my ass. The fucker needed killin'.


  1. Osama bin Laden was not a criminal in the usual sense; the closest he got to a category subject to law was as a brigand or pirate. I would understand him to have been an enemy of our nation as a representative of the Taliban regime, upon which the Congress of the United States authorized the use of military force.

    That having been said, I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least a token amount of planning for capture, given that (as I understand it) an order to not take prisoners is itself an unlawful order under the UCMJ

  2. The legal situation may have been clearer if the US had issued a proper letter of marque and reprisal against bin Laden, as Ron Paul suggested back in aught-one. I have only a Wikipedia education on the subject, so it's possible there are serious issues with application here.

    The official line is that the SEALs were ordered to capture him, but that he resisted and was shot in self defense. Yes, this is very convenient and we'd frankly rather have him dead than alive. And yes, the threshold for self defense was set lower than Europeans would have liked (bin Laden was evidently unarmed at the time). But it's also entirely plausible. The leader of a terrorist group famous for using improvised weapons and explosives and suicide attacks, fighting in a compound he's had years to prepare, presents a potential deadly threat when he's standing still with his hands in the air. At any sign of resistance at all, shooting for instant incapacitation is the only reasonable response. Europe can second-guess the SEALs all it wants; I'm satisfied that they did what they had to.

  3. The (infamous) AUMF from 2001 would appear to cover the situation; the SEALS wouldn't require a LoM&R as they are military agents.

    Researching something else, I stumbled across another tidbit: that there was congressional approval for the Barbary Coast incident where the Marines went "to the shores of Tripoli," essentially similar to the AUMF, rather than an outright declaration of war.