The Killing of Bin Laden

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The commando raid was the result of intensive intelligence work which started more than 10 years ago. The U.S. admitted that the commando attack on Bin Laden was with the express authorization of President Obama.

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There have been concerns raised on the circumstances surrounding the killing of Bin Laden. After the U.S. admitted that Bin Laden was not armed when he was shot and killed, questions were raised on the legality of the execution. Is it legally correct to kill an unarmed, defenseless man? Is this not putting the law into one’s hands? Does the fact that he is a terrorist – or even the head and founder of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda – justify the application of a different set of rules against him, in violation of the fundamental human right that nobody should be deprived of life without due process of law? Or that the law applies to all, or to none at all? Bin Laden was never given the opportunity to establish his innocence in a court of law.

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Another revered legal principle which comes into play is the principle of equal protection of the law. As well stated by Willoughby on the Constitution of the United States (second edition) p. 1937, the requirement of equal protection of law applies to all persons similarly situated. Is not Osama Bin Laden entitled to equal protection of the law, as every other human being?

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We have been taught that, except in self defense or when other justifying circumstances are present, the killing of a person is a crime, regardless of who he is. Even the most incorrigible criminal must still be properly arrested, charged, tried, and sentenced accordingly. That is the rule of law which the United States, and other countries follow. That is why we have seen in police movies that when the police confronts a fugitive or a criminal suspect, the police does not shoot on sight, but first warns the suspect to “Freeze” and fires only if the suspect makes a threat to the policeman’s own life.

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I, too, have been bothered by these arguments. But, after a careful analysis of the surrounding circumstances, it is my humble opinion that the SEALS commando unit was perfectly correct in killing Bin Laden on sight. It must be remembered that this was not a police operation – it was a military operation. The members of the SEALS unit were not policemen. U.S. President Obama signed an order for them to chopper onto the compound under the cover of darkness. In all probability, their mission was not just to take in custody Bin Laden, but precisely to kill him.

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War of gigantic proportions is now waged against the United States by Al Qaeda, headed by Osama Bin Laden. On September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the buildings. Both towers collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C., to target either the Capitol Building or the White House. There were no survivors from any of the flights. Nearly 3,000 victims and the 19 hijackers died in the attacks. According to the New York State Health Department, 836 responders, including firefighters and police personnel, have died as of June 2009.

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Because of these, and other attacks perpetrated by Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda operatives, the United States has also declared war against terrorism. It cannot be questioned, then, that the United States is actually at war. It has been said, in this regard: “That the political department of a State government is the sole judge of the existence of war or insurrection, and, when it declares either of these emergencies to exist, its action is not subject to review or liable to be controlled by the judicial department of the State.”

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As the head of the terroristic organization with which the U.S. is at war, Bin Laden is an enemy combatant. The killing of an enemy combatant committed in time of war does not constitute an infraction of the general penal or criminal laws. It is an act of war done in the enforcement of military orders, by command of the President of the United States, the commander-in-chief of its armed forces. The Commander in Chief has the right to order the killing of the head of an enemy organization in times of war, as a consequence of his duty to defend the State and is reciprocal with his duty to defend the life, liberty, and property of the citizen. The exercise by the President of his war powers granted by the Congress cannot be interfered with by the courts.

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War is governed by a different set of rules — the laws of war and of international law. There are no presumptions of innocence insofar as enemy combatants are concerned. There is no due process of law. A court trial is not required before an enemy combatant may be deprived of his life or liberty. For instance, during the last global War, if a squad of Allied Soldiers encountered German soldiers, would you require the Allied soldiers to first shout “Freeze!” before shooting? Soldiers don’t do that. They just shoot at the enemy. If they do not immediately fire, the enemy will certainly shoot them first. Soldiers do not care about the constitutional rights of enemy combatants.

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So, it cannot be said that Osama Bin Laden was denied equal protection of the laws. He was dealt with in exactly the same fashion he deals with his enemies. He was a soldier who fell in the field of battle, as countless other soldiers in the history of mankind have fallen before him.

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