Why Was Osama bin Laden Killed and Not Captured?
Michael S. Rozeff
Why was Osama bin Laden killed and not captured? This has always been a question of central importance surrounding his death at the hands of U.S. bullets. It is a question that has ethical, legal and pragmatic significance. If a suspect of any inhumanity or crime is executed summarily without judicial procedures, does that merit moral approval or condemnation? Is killing a suspect who can be taken prisoner legal or illegal? Was killing the chief suspected terrorist of the time and a potential source of information wise or unwise?
There is a deeper question. How does the execution of bin Laden reflect upon the condition of America’s federal government and its administration of power? Anything less than good and strong reasons for bin Laden’s execution places the American system of power and government in a bad light. Anything less condemns both the decision to kill and the system that allows such a killing and does nothing about it. Anything less condemns Americans who approve and applaud such an execution.
My first blog on bin Laden’s death on May 2, 2011 raised this question at the outset. Others raised the question too, but it quickly was lost in the attention paid to other details of the story. We now have a second chance, because of Seymour Hersh’s new article, to focus again on this question: why was Osama bin Laden killed and not captured?
Several thoughtful articles appeared immediately after bin Laden’s killing that looked at this question. On May 3, Geoffrey Robertson countered Obama’s assertion that “justice was done”, pointing out that the execution violated laws. In addition, he argued on pragmatic grounds that capture was a superior option. He punctured the notion that execution was better than the challenges of going through legal procedures...