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May 06, 2011

The Economist: America, bin Laden & killing abroad.

Our take? We are at war; the killing of bin Laden Sunday was a legitimate, straightforward and better-than-usual U.S. military operation. But do see "Assassination: A Messy Business" in yesterday's The Economist. It begins:

Killing quickly in combat, when large numbers of soldiers are fighting according to the laws of war, is sad but legal. Change any of those parameters, and things get tricky. Some lawyers have denounced the killing of Mr bin Laden, unarmed and in his home, as an extra-judicial murder. Others see it as a wholly legitimate military operation.

Every country allows soldiers to use lethal force against a declared enemy in wartime, just as police may, in some circumstances, kill criminals. But America is at war with an organisation, not a country, and though al-Qaeda is not a state it is (by its own account) at war with the United States. Purists argue that the criminal law is the right weapon for defence against terrorists; pragmatists would differ.


Posted by JD Hull at May 6, 2011 11:59 PM


I fully agree. It is hard to imagine a more legitimate target in a war. It makes me laugh to think of the a Seal Team Six member stopping and deferring to his favorite lawyer who says, Mr. Bin Laden, you have the right to remain silent.... The Seal Team Six member would then have two targets!

Posted by: Patrick Lamb at May 6, 2011 09:22 AM

It's a laughably inane question that only a hand-wringing lawyer could love. Could be a good filtering interview question for Hull McGuire hires. Any answer other than "are you fucking kidding me?" or "who cares?" results in disqualification.

Posted by: Josh King at May 6, 2011 12:34 PM

pathetic stuff out there, showing how bad our "conservative" lawyers are--they have turned legal thinking into mush

the guy was killed in Pakistan.

I haven't seen any sign that Pakistan thinks it was a crime. No arrest warrants for those in the photo, all of whom aided, abetted, counseled, or encouraged

As for US law, there is a stat, 18 USC 2441 which provides, "Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime"

War crimes require a War. While the Bill O'Reillys of the World see ratings in call what we are about a War, we are not at War in Pakistan or with Al-Qaeda. We are not at War in Afghanistan--the gov't wants us there. We are likely no longer at war in Iraq. War requires an adverse foreign nation. Our Civil War was no war, but Libya might be a war.

Last, while only Congress can declare War, like any power, it can acquiesce in a War by not stopping it

Posted by: Moe Levine at May 7, 2011 02:03 AM

Disagree, Moe. We're at war--but with an organization, technically several, and not a nation. War rules apply. Exec branch emergency powers in play.

Posted by: Dan Hull at May 8, 2011 08:14 AM

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