Killing bin Laden

“I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling, because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done in those circumstances.” — Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

I have no moral objection to killing bin Laden on sight. But I would have prefered classified capture; thorough, detailed interrogation; classified battlefield military tribunal; classified execution; announcement of capture, tribunal and execution a month later.

Not sure how the Archbishop of Canterbury would feel about that, but if it was my call my conscience would be clear.

Bin Laden is/was a historic personality, along the lines of Hitler or Carlos the Jackal or Che, but with a lot larger following/cult and in an active asymmetrical war against Western civilization and modernity. A special case, he needed special handling.

So, killing him on sight was a mistake, but there was nothing morally wrong with it. It was fully justified and it was justice. Given who is in charge in the Executive Branch, it might have been the best we could get.

Next day update: This dispatch from Reuters, published in today’s New York Times, reinforces my view that killing bin Laden, though not unjustified, was a mistake. There were things in his head that we needed, that are not going to be found on his computer drives. Things that likely only he could tell us.

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