Osama bin Laden killed in a covert operation. Now what?

Osama bin Laden

NY Times:

President Obama announced late Sunday that Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, was killed in a firefight during an operation he ordered inside Pakistan, ending a 10 year manhunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist. American officials were in possession of his body, he said.

We occasionally discuss national/international issues and events here on LoGro.  Not often. This is one of those times.

47 thoughts on “Osama bin Laden killed in a covert operation. Now what?”

  1. Griff,

    I thought it was surreal – a presidential announcement that we (America) murdered a Saudi Arabian in Pakistan. No matter how necessary, you should never brag about killing someone.

  2. Obama was going down in the polls due to the economy, jobs, etc. He needed a big fix to go into the next round of run for President. We have known where Osama has been for a long time. We held back due to the possible disruption of the Pakistan government amongst other cultural balancing acts around the Middle Eastern countries. We needed cooperation and we got it now that the Middle Eastern countries are taking down their old ways for the love of democracy as the young people get to their power from education and technology. The time was ripe to go in and the Obama administration figured that out…based on what I have heard and read and figured out.

    I hope this will help to end the fear, hatred and revenge mindset we have experienced and the beginning of a happy round of love and peace and forgiveness around the globe.

    (Pope John the XXIII taught us forgiveness when he looked into the eye of and forgave the man who shot him. He asked us to learn to forgive those who have offended us. It is a more sure path to an orderly society than the strife and loss of life caused by war and destruction of honorable institutions.)

  3. I agree David. Obama is a wordsmith, and I was shocked by his brazen choice. “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.” Then later… “Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against…” This is the President of the United States chest-thumping over his kill and broadcasting it to the world. A premeditated, well-executed murder is just that: reason and context don’t change the facts. ‘Wanted dead or alive’ language may have rung a tone for justice, but it doesn’t change the fact that a human being was gleefully killed. The Bin Laden assassination punctuates the UN killing Gaddaffi’s son & three grandchildren in their home. Stakes and passions are high, and sides are being drawn. Communist and Socialist countries are increasingly speaking as allies against the Imperialism of the West, oil-rich Venezuela included. Saudi Arabia has stated preference for oil markets in China, Russia & India. Violent political acts are catalysts of polarization and war at home and abroad. We have powerful internal elements more committed to securing oil from the Middle East than to human rights. As U.S. citizens, we’re asked to fund wars with the legal enforcement of tax dollars and the blood of our children while monolithic, profit-motivated corporations and wealthy owners take control of government and intentionally undermine democracy. We’ve had ample opportunity, technology and resource to wean ourselves from an oil-based economy, but powerful political forces oppose the interests and security of our citizens in favor of profit. As a consumer, I’m weaning myself from the products of big corporations. As a taxpayer, I expect an accountable tax structure or will stop paying taxes. This was the real impetus behind the Boston Tea Party: a revolt against government’s taxation of citizens to subsidize corporations. Withdrawing resource from systems that no longer work to build a strong local economy–where resources, compassion and accountability co-exist in the same community–is an act of peace.

  4. bin Laden’s death is as good a thing as one could hope for among the available alternatives.

    David … Yes, it’s a bit “surreal” for the US to kill a Saudi Arabian in Pakistan, but hardly more so than the 9/11/2001 events themselves. And while killing may be nothing to “brag” about, I found President Obama’s remarks pretty measured. Did something there strike you as gratuitously brag-like?

    Bright … Global political situations change, and may plausibly have played some role here. But since you offer no scintilla of evidence for any link to Pres. Obama’s domestic political fortunes, I find this part of your analysis far-fetched.

    Forgiving those who harm us individually, as the Pope did, is certainly admirable. It’s less clear that the Pope or the President (or I) have “standing” to forgive those who harm others.

    1. Paul,

      Obama was indeed measured. But, there was something strangely eerie about a “measured” statement about a murder that you ordered. Consider the following statement:

      Yet today’s achievement is a testimony to the greatness of our country, and the determination of the American people.

      It is weird to suggest that murder is an achievement that attests to the greatness of our country.

      1. David,

        Are “killing” and “murder” identical?

        I’m not necessarily disagreeing; just interested in your definitions.

      2. how many gamer points did he get for that achievement?

        at first i thought that someone got a 5 kill killstreak and then dropped a predator on him.

        Now I see that someone quick scoped the sniper rifle and hit him in the left eye.

        btw david, tell the people at ground 0 it was murder.

      3. David- I agree with what you are saying. This statement in Proverbs 24:17 directs us to a “greater” greatness, if you may:
        “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;”
        The other side of the coin is that bin Laden did reap what he sowed. The effect of 9/11 on the country, though, makes it difficult to walk out this proverb on the international level. If, for instance, Obama had chosen to not eliminate bin Ladin, and it be found out by the general US public that he passed up the chance, that action would have been political suicide, IMO.

      4. Paul,

        Killing is the broad category; murder is a killing with the specific intent to cause death without an element of self-defense, accident, or agreed upon combat.

      5. John,

        I understand why Obama felt that he had to kill bin Laden. I just wish he had taken full responsibility and showed some contrition.

    2. Paul, I offer no hard evidence, and that is why I wrote, ‘based on what I have heard and read and figured out.’

      As for Obama’s domestic political fortunes, I say it was a time when the stars all lined up to make for Obama to take a stab at greatness, to be remembered for having Osama bin Laden taken down during Obama’s watch which cannot hurt his political standing neither here or abroad.

      I mentioned Pope Paul because people are saying he isn’t saint worthy because of the pedifile issue ‘coverup’, and I am saying, there is a policy of forgiveness that allows one to atone for their sins before being cast before the stone throwing crowds, which disrupts the peace and bonds of the community. It’s like when the Supreme Court rules against a threat to the individual in order to protect the community at large. This is the hope I have for Americans and others who clench their teeth and never let up until the enemy is ruined.

      Hope that explains it.

      1. Bright,

        In ref to 5.2 …

        Yes, Osama’s death confers some political advantage on the President. It’s quite another thing to assert, as you do in message 3, that the President timed this event cynically, for political advantage. Such an incendiary charge seems to me to deserve some evidence, hard or soft.

        I’m not sure what you’re getting at on the Pope front, or what it may have to do with Osama bin Laden. I’d just repeat that forgiveness is a good thing, but it’s for victims, not third parties, to grant.

  5. I find this quote fitting for the events of yesterday.

    “Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice, assured of the rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come.”
    George W. Bush – September 21, 2001

    God Bless the U.S. Military!

  6. I think there are some good perspectives expressed here. This is one of those situations that really doesn’t leave anyone feeling really good about the outcome, or, without trying to denigrate anyones’ opinions, anyone predisposed to rational thought. The next thing about which I am the most concerned is that this will generate retribution. Trying to eliminate al Quida by taking out bin Laden is a little like trying to eliminate a pea vine by chopping it into 40 little pieces. You end up with 40 separate pea vines instead of one. The only way I can see to change the direction of ANY radical group is to affect a change in the hearts of the adherents. How that can be accomplished is fodder for much discussion.

  7. I would remind those who are so concerned about the killing of bin Laden, while possibly problematic, that most American states and the federal gov’t murder (David’s phrasing) dozens of people each year. People on death row do not pose an imminent public threat and can be (and already have been) jailed. Bin Laden could not reasonably have stood trial — even if captured alive, followers would potentially attack the courthouse, prison, etc. While boasting about a death is problematic, let’s keep it in perspective with the far-less-guilty, far-less-dangerous people our government kills every year.

    1. Actually, there is a huge difference between killing and murder. States that execute people kill them. Criminals that kill people murder them. Churches have long distinguished between “Thou shall not kill” murders and “an eye for an eye” executions using this difference.

      One of the most difficult things for a civilized person to do is kill someone over ideas. But it is pretty clear that if you are a total pacifist you will sleep well at night only because there are rough men and women standing ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. To believe otherwise is to fool yourself, to act otherwise is to accept your own demise.

      When Gandhi argued that pacifism in the face of the Nazis was the moral high ground, he did so knowingly believing that extinction was preferred to life with a stain of moral ambiguity. I am not as certain, and I lament that difficult choice between using some of the tools of the monsters to protect myself.

      Footnote: I recently read that it is widely believed (in the Islamic community) that the Mongol invasions set back Islamic culture for centuries. (See a randomly found history) which states:

      The Mongol invasion of the Islamic heartland had mixed effects. On one hand, the Islamic world never regained its previous power. Much of the six centuries of Islamic scholarship, culture, and infrastructure was destroyed as the invaders burned libraries, replaced mosques with Buddhist temples, and destroyed intricate irrigation systems. In fact, the irrigation equipment necessary for farming in the Mesopotamian desert was not rebuilt until the 20th century.

      which I hunted down after reading about this culture-ending event in a modern book about Afghanistan.

      1. By the way, this does not mean that I favor capital punishment, since our modern legal system makes it very much more expensive than just warehousing criminals till they die. I do object to providing any health care beyond palliative to such types, though, and I am sure than many prisoners so caged would prefer death, but that too is a completely separate issue.

  8. Most of the world would have rejoiced if Hitler had been killed in 1943, and millions of lives would have been spared. I do rejoice when one who has planned, and will continue to plan, the death of innocents is destroyed.

    1. Phil,

      There is no such thing as a law of war, or even international law. There is only the law of the powerful.

      Obama invoked God’s name a number of times. I think that Obama would have struck the right tone if instead of ending with, “May God bless the United States” he had ended with, “May God have mercy on my soul.”.

      1. David, if you trying to make a greater point, that’s fine. However, “law of war” is a term commonly used to describe the body of law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war (jus ad bellum) and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct (jus in bello). Because it exists, US armed forces members typically undergo annual Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) training. http://lawofwar.org/USAF_Policy_Directive_Law_Armed_Conflict.htm

        International law is the term commonly used for referring to laws that govern the conduct of independent nations in their relationships with one another. The Berkeley Law School, in describing their International Legal Studies program, actually call themselves “one of the leading institutions in the nation for the study of international law and politics.”

        If you wish to say I used the phrases “law of war” or “international law” incorrectly, that’s fine; I’d appreciate the chance to expand my knowledge base. But to say “There is no such thing as a law of war, or even international law” appears to me to be a false statement. Perhaps further elaboration would help me understand why you feel your statement is correct.

      2. David, Phil is correct, there are many many laws of war and our military trains to, and enforces, those laws as well or better than any nation on this planet. However, I will extend your criticism of President Obama invoking God. I would place his repeated use of “God” as if God were on our side right up there with President Bushes use of the phrase “Bring ’em on”. A taunt that rolls off the backs of western sensibilities but is as a red flag to a bull to the enemy, and one that plays right into their siege mentality playbook. A recruiting tool par excellence.

        For my earlier perspective, consider the 5-th item on the “From the Desk of God” todo list. By the way, since then I have had to rethink whether we really did get much of a peace dividend out of the fall of the USSR.

      3. Phil,

        My larger point is that international law and law of war are fluid concepts, the definition of which largely depends upon the who has the largest weapons.

        Since the United States has become the world’s most powerful military might, it is has virtually ignored any concepts of law of war or international law in favor of American interests. Hence, waterboarding and other kinds of torture have been accepted. Imprisonment without trial, such as Gitmo, has been tolerated. Military invasions, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, have been conducted on the pretexts of fighting an enemy who has no geographic borders.

        I don’t fault Obama for what he did as Commander-in-Chief. But, I think that it is stretch to say that it is justified by international law.

  9. In 1996 bin Laden issued a fatwa entitled “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.” In the minds of many analysts with backgrounds in both international law and the law of war, as the operational leader of Al Qaeda in an ongoing conflict with the United States, bin Laden was a legitimate military target to be captured or killed at any time under the law of war. To me that pretty much lays to rest the idea that he was “murdered”.

    Regarding the president’s demeanor during his speech, I saw no evidence of bragging. I’d say that such an assessment would be valid only to the person making it.

    Personally, I do not rejoice in what’s happened. I feel no sense of “closure”. I just hope that one day we will look at things that have happened in the last 10 years and still be able to see them a worthwhile.

    1. The President’s speech was very considered, and I appreciated that. And we are not yet celebrating the end of this war.

      1. Bruce,

        I wouldn’t consider myself a pacifist. I am trying to put bin Laden’s killing into perspective.

        First, to be clear – There is no “war”. Almost 10 years ago, the United States invaded a sovereign nation without any international sanction, and without any provocation from that nation in an effort to located the alleged perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks.

    2. Bruce…We are not celebrating the end of this war, but we are celebrating a victory. I read here those who can not ‘rejoice’ from any man’s death. Fine. Perhaps the religious connotations of that word make it inappropriate in regard to killing. Still, I was ‘gladdened’ when I heard the news, and I find it hard to believe that everyone posting here did not feel the same, despite their after the fact soul searching and intellectualizing.

      1. William,

        I seem to be in a minority of one, even amongst the flaming liberals. I did not feel any “gladness” in hearing of lin Laden’s death.

      2. On this issue, I’m with David. I’m glad it is over, but celebrating a person’s death–even Osama’s–seems inappropriate to me. I get why maybe this is the best resolution, I get why the SEALS may have had to kill him, but I can’t bring myself to grab a flag and start chanting….

  10. This is an issue which has legitimate differing responses because of personal involvement, i.e. if one of my loved ones had been killed in that idiotic but successful attack on the towers, I might be saying get the SOBs, no matter what…
    But that is why we strive, (not always successfully, and not always morally[ I agree with Sean about the wrongness of the death penalty] )… why we strive to be a nation under the Rule of Law.

    I would have felt more comfortable with the solution of Bin Laden being captured and tried in the World Court; so many deaths , in so many places across the globe , attributable to his ‘inspiration’, would seem to ask for a world judgement.

    I am also sure that there is much that ‘we’ don’t know about this situation at this point, we need to listen to the advice of historians , and develop some perspective.

    I did not see President Obama’s speech, but did read it. From what I have observed of him speaking on many occasions, I cannot imagine that there was any gloating or self-satisfaction expressed. From my POV he is, if anything, almost preternaturally fair.

    1. Sorry Kiffi, but the prospect of a years-long trial with the jackals dredging up every error we made so they can pretend to be “balanced” is just plain and simple sickening beyond words.

      1. But Bruce… we do not throw out the process just because it’s often FUBAR…

        I prefer the SEALS to win over the “jackals” in a court of international law.

        To David Ludescher: If there is no such thing as international law, under what law does the World Court operate?

        To Phil Poyner: Thanks for the explanation of the law of war; for those of us who tend to be mostly pacifists (although never UNwilling to get in a good fight here) it is very good to have that explanation. Your insights about the military have been very enlightening, and I don’t consider them to be a ‘snow job’.
        Thanks again.

      2. Kiffi,

        The world court operates under a treaty-like structure whereby nations agree to be bound by the decisions of the international tribunals. The United States is not a signatory. Individual nations retain jurisdiction over the prosecution of any crime committed in their country.

        That is why Professor Erlinder could be jailed in Rwanda for stating that he did not believe that what happened in Rwanda constituted genocide. The international community was powerless to get him out because he had violated Rwandian law.

        Because the U.S. is not a signatory to the document, none of its citizens can be prosecuted for crimes (unless they happen to be in a country that is a signatory).

      3. Thank you, david… makes me want to read more about the operation of the World Court…

  11. David

    I take offense to you calling this a murder. It is in no way shape or form murder. It was a military operation to either capture or kill an enemy of the United States. UBL coordinated, funded, and order the attack that cost 3000 American lives and did unimaginable harm to our economy and psyche.

    As a person who was personally and professional affected by the actions of Bin Laden I do not revel in his death but I do celebrate this victory of the United States.

    Your referring to this as a murder also does a disservice to the military members who carried out this operation. These men put themselves in harms way. With no regard for their personal safety they carried out orders from the President/Commander and Chief. They are not murderers. I have worked with these guys, they are absolute heroes. These are definitely the type of men I would be proud for my sons to grow up to be.

    As to your comments that he is the alleged perpetrator. Are there any doubt he was behind this?

    By the way from reading a few accounts printed in papers not exactly favorable to the former President it looks like intensive interrogation techniques paid off in this instance.

    My hats off to President Obama and his national security team for making the tough decision and green lighting this operation. Congratulations to the men who put this operation together and executed it to perfection.

  12. Bruce,

    I must admit to mixed feelings about lin Laden’s killing. The attack was executed to perfection, and lin Laden got what he deserved.

    But, that does not change the fact that we killed a Saudi Arabian in Pakistan without consulting the Pakistani government. Nor does it change the fact that the moral justification for the killing is questionable.

    1. David, in WW2 we killed a lot of Germans in Italy without asking the Italians. Your point? Oh, right, the Pakistanis are supposed to be our allies. Well, they may be (at the highest and lowest levels), but espionage is a matter of onesies and twosies, and OPSEC trumps notification, once we had a general agreement permitting us to prosecute this fight on Pakistani soil.

    2. Bruce,

      My point is that America needs to set some limits on what it is willing to do to fight this “war” on terrorism.

  13. David,

    You say:

    I seem to be in a minority of one, even amongst the flaming liberals. I did not feel any “gladness” in hearing of bin Laden’s death.

    Methinks you focus too much on how people felt about the ObL news: glad, sad, triumphant, etc. Seems to me almost any immediate reaction to such news is human-ly defensible, or at least natural.

    The more important questions, IMO, are about policies, future prospects, etc. I don’t think you’re unique in these respects — e.g., in thinking that some limits need to inform our responses to terrorism and other issue.

    1. Paul,

      You are probably right about the emotions. However, I did not get any sense from Obama that there are limits to American military power to fight the “war” on terrorism.

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