Quick Thoughts on Bin Laden Killing


Any morally calibrated person felt a sense of justice delievered upon hearing that mass murder Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US Special Forces. An important measure of justice comes from the realization that Bin Laden was not killed instantly from a cruise missile attack. Rather he must of had time to realize that the Americans had found him and his last sight was of an American SEAL.

I was a little surprised to see the street celebrations in Washington and New York City. At first glance, there was a superficial resemblance to the celebrations in the Islamic world after the 9/11 attacks. It does not take too much thought to see the difference. Americans were celebrating killing a mass murderer, the radical Islamists were celebrating mass murder of the innocent. Americans were waving their own flags, radical Islamists were burning the American flag. Americans chanted “USA’’ into the evening air, radical Islamists shot AK-47’s into air. I am not personally given to such street demonstrations, but for anyone upset at these rather modest celebrations after the killing Bin Laden — live with it.

Kill or Capture

In old westerns and cop shows there were many times when the criminal had been captured, but has not been shot by the heroic protagonist. It would not be morally right for the “good guy’’ to shoot the “bad guy’’ in cold blood. However, writers sometimes used the convention that the bad guy would start to shoot at the good guy and be killed in self-defense. The plot device maintained more clarity.

Perhaps in keeping with this sort of narrative, early this week spokesmen in the Obama Administration suggested that Bin Laden had gone down fighting Americans. Later he was said to be reaching for a gun. This effort only served to undermine the Administration’s credibility and competence after it had executed the extremely competent mission to get Bin Laden.

The attempts to construct a story missed the point. The mission to get Bin Laden was not a criminal enforcement with the primary goal of apprehension, it was an tactical strike in a war Bin Laden had declared. The goal was to kill the enemy. The only way that Bin Laden would not be shot is if he immediately and conspicuously surrendered. In war, an enemy combatant are typically shot on sight.

Enhanced Interrogation

During in the Bush Administration, arguments about “enhanced interrogation’’ techniques, the claim by some was it doesn’t work. In turns out that one of the threads that began to unravel from the pull of “enhanced interrogation’’ led to information about Bin Laden’s couriers and ultimately to Bin Laden himself. One can argue against enhanced interrogation from a variety of stand points, but one can no longer make the argument that such techniques don’t at times work. This does not make enhanced interrogation legal or moral, but does suggest that there may be a moral dilemma associated with their use. Perhaps the arguments about enhanced interrogation now can be made with more intelligence and less righteous bluster.


The Obama Administration has correctly decided not to release photos of a dead Bin Laden. The photos are surely gruesome and need not be released. Americans should not display vulgar trophies of victory. If there are people who believe Bin Laden is still alive, they would not be convinced by photos which a skeptic could dismiss as easily as other evidence. If there are some people foolish enough to believe Bin Laden is still alive, let them.

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