I have it on good authority that Navy SEALs put a premium on capturing targets because they’re taught that information is the true prize. Then why, we continue to wonder, did one of them shoot Osama bin Laden, especially since indications are that he’d already been captured? Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan explains.
SEAL Team Six was told to accept surrender only “if he did not pose any type of threat whatsoever,” and if troops “were confident of that in terms of his not having an IED [improvised explosives device] on his body, his not having some type of hidden weapon or whatever,”
But Americans weren’t aware of that when they were celebrating what sounded like a cold-blooded shooting. Even here: Jubilation Erupts in Harvard Yard As Obama Tells World Osama Bin Laden is Dead. (In a side note . . . young men — want a true test of how yoked to violence your sexuality is? Young women cheering bin Laden’s killing: major turn-on or turn-off?)
How does Americans celebrating bin Laden’s killing look to the rest of the world? An NBA player, of all people, has an idea.
[Chris] Douglas-Roberts [was] disturbed by the ensuing celebration. It reminded him of the response in Afghanistan — which was also captured on television — following 9/11. “We just looked like the Afghan people, a decade later,” he said.
As you’re no doubt tired of seeing me post, a court case would have been preferable. Many claim that a trial would be a “circus.” At the Independent (via Duck of Minerva via the Progressive Realist) Geoffrey Robertson writes:
I do not minimise the security issues at his trial or the danger of it ending up as a squalid circus like that of Saddam Hussein. But the notion that any form of legal process would have been too hard must be rejected. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – also alleged to be the architect of 9/11 – will shortly go on trial and had Bin Laden been captured, he should have been put in the dock alongside him, so that their shared responsibility could have been properly examined.
Failing that, Robertson adds
Bin Laden could not have been tried for 9/11 at the International Criminal Court — its jurisdiction only came into existence nine months later. But the Security Council could have set up an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, with international judges (including Muslim jurists), to provide a fair trial and a reasoned verdict.
This would have been the best way of de-mystifying this man, debunking his cause and de-brainwashing his followers. In the dock he would have been reduced in stature — never more remembered as the tall, soulful figure on the mountain, but as a hateful and hate-filled old man, screaming from the dock or lying from the witness box.
At its most elemental level, legality exists to mitigate man’s brutality to man. A court case would have spared us Americans (including President Obama at Ground Zero) making a brutish spectacle of themselves.
Returning to bringing bin Laden back alive, at Time’s Swampland, Massimo Calabresi writes:
John Yoo, who wrote the brief [for the Bush administration] that provided legal cover for waterboarding, sleep-deprivation and other harsh interrogation methods, wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal . . . arguing that bin Laden’s assassination “vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden’s door.” . . . Most provocatively, Yoo asserts that by killing bin Laden, rather than capturing and interrogating him, the Navy Seal team made a grave error. “Special forces using nonlethal weaponry might have taken bin Laden alive . . . [and] one of the most valuable intelligence opportunities since the beginning of the war has slipped through our hands.”
It’s mortifying when John Yoo gives voice to one’s sentiments. But, no matter what his motivation is, when he’s right, he’s right.