Bin Laden assassination vindicates targeted killings

The targeted killing of Osama is being applauded all over the world, and rightly so. But what happened to the voices of opposition, primarily from European states, who in the past have denigrated Israel for the far more regulated targeted killings of Hamas terrorists?

Osama Bin Laden 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer/Files )
Osama Bin Laden 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer/Files )
The decision to target and kill Osama Bin Laden is being applauded byall decent people. Approval to capture or kill this mass-murderingterrorist leader was given by Presidents Obama and Bush. It was theright decision, both morally and legally.
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Although Bin Laden wore no military uniform and held no officialmilitary rank, he was an appropriate military target. As the titularand spiritual head of Al Qaeda, he was the functional equivalent of ahead of state or commander in chief of a terrorist army. From thebeginning of recorded history, killing the king was the legitimateobject of military action. The very phrase "check mate" means "the kingis dead," signifying the successful end of the battle.
Yet there are those who claim that all targeted killings are immoraland illegal. These critics characterize such actions as "extrajudicialexecutions" and demand that terrorist leaders and functionaries betreated as common criminals who must be arrested and brought to trial.
The operation that resulted in Bin Laden's death was a military actioncalculated to kill rather than to "arrest" him. It is possible, thoughhighly unlikely, that he could have been captured alive and brought totrial. The decision to employ military personnel with guns, rather thana drone firing rockets, was probably made by generals rather thanlawyers.
Had it been militarily preferable to fire a rocket, that option wouldalmost certainly have been selected - as it was by the NATO forces thatrocketed Gaddafi's compound. A rocket attack would have been a puretargeted killing with no possibility of live capture. The operationdirected against Bin Laden may have been designed, in part, to havepreserved the theoretical option of "arrest", though the likelihood ofa live capture was virtually impossible under the circumstances. Indeedit is likely that Bin Laden's death was deemed preferential to hiscapture and trial, because the latter would have raised the probabilitythat Al Qaeda would take hostages and try to exchange them for BinLaden.
Indeed, a US national security official has confirmed to Reuters that"this was a kill operation" and there was no desire to capture BinLaden alive. This was a targeted kill appropriate for a militarycombatant but not for an ordinary (or even extraordinary) criminal.
Nonetheless, the government felt it necessary to announce that BinLaden was shot after he allegedly resisted thus suggesting he was notkilled in cold blood. But it is clear that he would have been killedwhether or not he resisted, since this was a kill operation from theoutset and it is unlikely he was ever given the opportunity tosurrender an opportunity not required under the laws of war.
Accordingly, those who have opposed the very concept of targetedkillings should be railing against the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Among others, these critics include officials in Britain, France,Italy, Russia, the EU, Jordan, and the United Nations. Former BritishForeign Secretary once said, "The British government has made itrepeatedly clear that so-called targeted assassinations of this kindare unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive." The French foreignministry has declared that "extrajudicial executions contraveneinternational law and are unacceptable." The Italian Foreign Ministerhas said, "Italy, like the whole of the European Union, has alwayscondemned the practice of targeted assassinations." The Russians haveasserted that "Russia has repeatedly stressed the unacceptability ofextrajudicial settling of scores and 'targeted killings.'" Javier Solanahas noted that the "European Union has consistently condemnedextrajudicial killings." The Jordanians have said, Jordan has alwaysdenounced this policy of assassination and its position on this hasalways been clear." And Kofi Annan has declared that "extrajudicialkillings are violations of international law."
Yet none of these nations, groups or individuals have criticized thetargeted killing of Osama Bin Laden by the US. The reason is obvious.All the condemnations against targeted killing was directed at onecountry. Guess which one?  Israel, of course.
Israel developed the concept of targeted killings and used iteffectively against the "Osama Bin Ladens" of Hamas, who directedterrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, killing and wounding moreIsraelis, as a percentage of its population, than the number killed byBin Laden. It was when Israel managed to kill the head of Hamas, thatthe international community, with the striking exception of the UnitedStates, decided that targeted killing was illegal and immoral.
But now that it has been used against an enemy of Britain, France,Italy and other European nations, the tune has changed. Suddenlytargeted killing is not only legal and moral, it is praiseworthy (except, of course, to Hamas, which immediately condemned the US killing of Bin Laden).
Well the truth is that when used properly, targeted killing has alwaysbeen deserving of approval - even when employed by Israel, a nationagainst which a double standard always seems to be applied.
Indeed, in Israel, the use of targeted killings has been closelyregulated by its Supreme Court and permitted only against terroristswho are actively engaged in ongoing acts of terrorism. In the UnitedStates, on the other hand, the decisions to use this tactic is made bythe President alone, without any form of judicial review. So let theworld stop applying a double standard to Israel and let it startjudging the merits and demerits of military tactics such as targetedkilling. On balance, targeted killing, when used prudently againstproper military targets, can be an effective, lawful, and moral tool inthe war against terrorism. 

The writer’s latest novel is The Trials of Zion.