Lee Wrights: The killing of Osama bin Laden

by R. Lee Wrights

BURNET, Texas (May 3) – It will not be a popular thing to say, but the truth is the truth. I am deeply saddened by the death of Osama bin Laden. His demise is not cause for rejoicing, in my opinion. That is why I am perhaps even more troubled by the spectacle of Americans celebrating and dancing in the street to the chant of “U.S.A, U.S.A,” whipped up into a patriotic frenzy and oblivious to the reality that this was an illegal and immoral act which offends the very values which makes us who we are.

I must admit, this is one of the most troubling things I have experienced in my lifetime. The patriot in me wants to breathe a sigh of relief that the war is over and we can go back to life before Bin Laden. But reality ruins the moment as I realize what has happened, and know life will never be the same again. This military action ordered by the President of the United States not only violated every fundamental belief our nation’s founders cherished, it may have destroyed any hope that we will ever learn the truth about 9/11.

What happened to the foundation of jurisprudence in America — innocent until proven guilty? Where is the requirement to produce evidence in order to convict? What about the right to face your accusers and answer charges brought against you? What has happened to the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution? When was the power to convict and execute individuals transferred solely to the Executive branch?

Rather than using a trial to prove to the world that Bin Laden was guilty of the acts the United States accused him of, and that the U.S. was justified in the actions taken in retaliation, the president took upon himself the authority of judge, jury and executioner. He ordered U.S. military forces to kill Bin Laden — and then dump his body into the sea. No evidence was presented. No arguments were heard for and against. No jury deliberated. No judge ruled. The accused was not allowed to defend himself in any court. I can’t help but think that this is the way you act when you have no evidence to convict.

The president even had the audacity to claim that “Justice has been done.” There was no justice done, Mr. President. Justice was not only cheated by this act. Justice was not just denied. Justice was raped by this act.

Osama bin Laden may have been the most evil person who ever walked the face of the earth. He may have been guilty of the most horrendous acts of inhumanity every perpetrated by anyone in history. But we will never know. President Obama has made sure of that. His action was not just a rejection of everything this nation stands for; in the name of justice, he has committed a greater injustice.

Bin Laden is dead, but with him may also have died the last hope that the United States can reclaim the moral high ground in international affairs. It’s no coincidence that this killing occurred just days after three innocent grandchildren of another person (Gadhafi) who the United States has declared to be “evil” were killed in a military operation aided by the United States.

The death of Osama bin Laden unfortunately will change very little about the war on terrorism. Rather than putting an end to this sordid chapter of American history, this immoral and illegal execution will inevitably result in even greater hatred, and an even greater threat to America and the world. The world is not a safer place because Bin Laden is dead, Mr. President. You have made it a more dangerous place, especially for those who dare to speak truth to power.

R. Lee Wrights, 52, a libertarian writer and political activist, is seeking the presidential nomination because he believes the Libertarian message in 2012 must be a loud, clear and unequivocal call to stop all war. To that end he has pledged that 10 percent of all donations to his campaign will be spent for ballot access so that the stop all war message can be heard in all 50 states. Wrights is a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and co-founder and editor of of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., he now lives and works in Texas.

Lee Wrights for President Committee
Contact: Brian Irving, press secretary


58 thoughts on “Lee Wrights: The killing of Osama bin Laden

  1. Steve Kubby

    President Obama has shown the world that our form of justice won’t be deterred by national sovereignty, international law, bleeding-heart court trials or nonsense about the rights of the accused. No, America is tough and will just kill them all and let God sort it out. Long live the Homeland!

  2. Kimberly Wilder

    Excellent article.

    Yes, I feel like so many Americans are so misguided, and so full of the negative, brutal energy of our government.

    With the newspaper headlines, and gangster talk about what happened, I feel like it is all a nightmarish scene out of “Lord of the Flies”. Or, a scene from the Trojan War — barbarians glorifying as Hector’s body is dragged behind a chariot.

    It amazes me to think who my neighbors are. I am a little more frightened than usual about any hope left for the world.

  3. Kimberly Wilder

    Lee- I wonder if you have any campaign team yet? I believe that I sent you some questions privately about your positions, and did not receive a reply.

    I just went to the NY State Libertarian convention. Of all things, I ran into someone else who supported you, but said he was waiting for you to answer some questions he pitched.

    Not sure what the other person wanted to ask.

    My main question is…Does your campaign have a position on the issue of women’s reproductive rights?

  4. AroundtheblockAFT

    Most Americans, most Libertarians, believe OBL was a piece of shit to be scraped off one’s shoe.
    Yes, capturing him alive and putting him on trial for his alleged crimes, and executing him swiftly if convicted, would have been the preferred solution. Do we know that Obama ordered him killed instead of captured alive? Do we know if OBL fought back or was ready to surrender meekly? It may be too early for Mr. Wrights to make categorical statements which, let’s be honest, have the potential to rip the LP asunder.

  5. Thomas Hill

    @8 Taking a strong, ethical, principled approach like Mr. Wrights does not endanger the LP. Soft peddling GOP Lite flag waving fluff IS ripping the LP asunder!

  6. Robert Capozzi

    9 TH, it seems you’ve set up an either/or here that seems false to me. Wrights’s stance seems “strong, ethical, principled,” but surely his is not the ONLY one that is so.

    In this case, I happen to largely agree with Wrights, though I would not put it the way he did.

  7. Thomas Hill

    @9 No where in my post do I imply Wrights is the only one that takes strong, ethical, principled stands on this issue.

    The only other self -described libertarians that I have read on the death of bin Laden is Gary Johnson and Wayne Allyn Root, along with the official LP release. I was disappointed by all three of those releases…

  8. Robert Capozzi

    11 TH, I’d say it’s a world filled of disappointments, even coming from people I generally admire and/or agree with. I even disappoint MYSELF with some regular frequency!

    In this situation, I found Wrights’s message somewhat disappointing because he leads with an unpopular, probably alienating, view, then proceeds to justify it. He jars mosts readers, I suspect, then acknowledges that OBL may have been “evil.” This shock-first approach is not optimal rhetoric, as I see it.

    I say this even though I largely agree with him. In politics, HOW you say something counts as much or more than WHAT you say, IMO.

  9. Michael H. Wilson

    bin Laden should have been brought to trial, but this was not going to play out any other way. The government most likely didn’t want to give him an opportunity to speak.

  10. Robert Milnes

    Reports are that the Seals 6 orders were to identify & kill Bin Laden. Then take his body to the carrier. It looks to me like they found him in his bedroom & just shot him in the head.
    I’d have a lot more respect for the seal 6 team if they had defied their orders & brought him to the carrier alive to face trial.
    No one on the carrier would have summarily executed him then. Even Bin Laden.
    But such a scenario would have been very difficult to accomplish because the team was in direct real time contact with the White House Operations.
    The libertarian message should be the same as the anti-war message. That there are alternative ways to deal with terrorism & war. Starting with different leadership.
    We must vote out the warmongering dems & reps & vote in alternative candidates.

  11. Robert Milnes

    paraphrasing Obama, we are safer and better off with Bin Laden dead.
    No, we are neither.
    Bin Laden is now a martyr. There will be retaliation. The cycle of violence will continue.

  12. Robert Milnes

    The back up third helicopter may very well have been there as part of their orders to make sure the other 2 copters followed their orders.
    In other words in order to defy orders the seal 6 team may well have had to shoot down the third copter. That is how difficult it would have been to defy the warmonger orders & direct involvement of the president et al.

  13. To Match-The Real Bin Laden's Kidneys died almost a decade ago! !

    LOL – It’s tough to try a frozen corpse or a CIA double under worldwide scrutiny. A man dying of kidney disease can live on the run (sometimes in caves) for a decade. LOL – give me a break people !!!

    Among others, former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright (an INSIDER of INSIDERS on Fox news) over eight years ago said that OBL was dead and put on “ice” and would be rolled out when needed! Bush didn’t need to use his corpse for re-election. B.O. does need the boost in poll ratings !~

    When your kidneys quit you die of poison, unless you have the machine to clear the poison. Anyone heard anything about the machine in the “compound”? I would think libertarians would show more scepticism than the asses of the masses. A CIA, body double, plant could have well functioning kidneys that need no dialysis.

    “The CIA owns everyone of any significance in the major media.” – William Colby – Former CIA Director

    “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” – William Casey, CIA Director 1981

    “Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the State.” – James Angleton – Head of CIA Counter Intelligence 1954-1974

    “I never would have agreed to the formulation of the Central Intelligence Agency back in forty-seven, if I had known it would become the American Gestapo.” – Harry S. Truman

    “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” – Adolph Hitler


    Libertarian National Committee has passed resolutions calling for U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan: http://www.lp.org/military-withdrawal-resolutions

  14. JT

    Milnes: “I’d have a lot more respect for the seal 6 team if they had defied their orders & brought him to the carrier alive to face trial.”

    I’m sure they care about earning your respect.

    Milnes: “paraphrasing Obama, we are safer and better off with Bin Laden dead.
    No, we are neither.
    Bin Laden is now a martyr. There will be retaliation. The cycle of violence will continue.”

    And if Obama was brought back for trial and convicted, he’d be considered by many in the Middle East to be a political prisoner. That wouldn’t end the cycle of violence either.

  15. Robert Milnes

    JT, if I were president, Seal 6 would be interested in my respect. But then they wouldn’t be on such a warmongering mission. Their orders would be to bring him to the carrier alive.

  16. Robert Milnes

    True bringing him back alive for trial would make him to some a political prisoner. But that is a much better position to be in than killing him/martyrdom.
    Ending the cycle of violence will not be simple or easy. That is clearly far beyond Obama’s capabilities.

  17. Gene Berkman

    I will never support Lee Wrights for any public office or any leadership position in The Libertarian Party. Such a disconnect from reality, such an unfamiliarity with the world we live in, does not serve the Libertarian Movement.

  18. Gene Berkman

    P.S.: Mr Wrights, you are not Robert Taft and this is not a profile in courage.

    You should read “Prophets on The Right” to see what Senator Taft’s real attitude about executing Nazi war criminals was.

  19. Robert Milnes

    @17, I am open to the possibility of many such scenarios. Unfortunately as long as skeptics are out of power, it is very difficult to get the real facts.

  20. Thomas Hill

    @21, It’s a damn shame when some self described libertarians believe in cold blooded murder and blood lustful revenge.

    I am damn proud to call Lee Wrights my friend; a friend who abhors murder and seeks truth and justice and mercy!

    I believe you need to check your own reality. My reality is this; principles and values matter above all things…

  21. Thomas Hill

    @22 PS, Mr. Berkman, you have that backwards…

    Robert Taft is not Lee Wrights. Regarding murder, Taft was dead wrong.

    Lee Wrights is one of the most courageous men I know, unlike some self described libertarians who lower themselves to politically benefit from the ignorance and flag worship of the mainstream masse

  22. John Jay Myers

    It’s a great read, unfortunately Americans can’t understand it. I have never seen an article so hated on the LP blog, and I remember posting my pro Mosque article.

    Is it like we are poking people in the eye? Kind of.
    Great article when it is for the right audience, but I think we have to keep in mind we have to win people over to educate them.

    But that brings up another issue, where do you start educating people… I mean if war is bad, why is it bad? Should we not tell people our wars are all bull shit? Just thinking out loud.

    Here was my take on this issue:

  23. Tom Blanton

    It never seems to occur to some people that honest, authentic and genuine ideas, even if unpopular, can be presented without negative ramifications as opposed to the waffling, dissembling, and ambiguous statements made by 99% of the politicians – which leave nearly all people with a bad taste in their mouth.

    Politicians and their too-clever-by-half sycophants imagine they are winning the hearts and minds of the average person through perception management, when in fact nearly everyone understands they are being bullshitted.

    My impression is that Wrights is stating what he believes as opposed to some noncontroversial platitude that he thinks the Big Mac eating American Idol watching demographic will want to hear.

    The LP is in big trouble when libertarians demand that their candidates spew meaningless bromides for fear that clowns shouting USA! USA! USA! will be offended.

    Speaking of meaningless bromides, Wayne Root’s comment falls into that entirely predictable cesspool of unthinking mediocrity.

    I am so proud to know these brave men and women are protecting our country and my children as we go to sleep tonight.

    What a crock of shit! Oh, but clever Wayne has said what people want to hear – another crock of shit. He said what he thought he was expected to say by people who think that is what other people want to hear. Root offends me by insulting my intelligence with his phony patriotic pablum.

    Wrights make some serious points. Root makes no point at all other than that he is a shameless bullshitter ever willing to play the role of politician and pander to rubes too damn stupid to realize that assassinating Osama does nothing to promote national security (aka peace to sentient human beings).

  24. John Jay Myers

    Just so we are clear, I have no problem with Lee’s comments, or his thought process here.

    And Wayne’s was just a fluff piece that served no real purpose and no one cares.

    If I had to choose a piece it would be Lee’s.
    Had I wrote it, I probably would have toned it down a bit….. just so people could swallow it one bite at a time.

  25. Gene Berkman

    Be sure to watch the Youtube linked @ #30.

    Dick Cheney clearly is referring to Saddam Hussein when he makes a slip of the tongue to say the “Usama Bin Laden was never involved in the planning of 9/11.”

    The context is clear, the question that led to his response is about Iraq & 9/11, and he made a slip of the tongue, not some admission of Bin Laden’s innocence.

    Then the video editor made a loop of Cheney’s comment to make it seem that he repeated his statement several times on Bin Laden not being involved in 9/11

  26. Robert Capozzi

    28 tb, I see no one here “demanding” anything, particularly “meaningless bromides.” Defend the accusation.

  27. Thomas L. Knapp

    I disagree with my good friend Lee Wrights on this, but only to a degree.

    I am glad that Osama bin Laden is dead.

    Regardless of to what degree he may or may not have been deeply personally involved in any specific al Qaeda operation or action, he:

    1) Indicated — publicly, believably and on multiple occasions — a desire and intent to murder innocents in pursuit of his goals; that is “an offer to do harm.”

    2) Organized, built and led an organization of armed operators for the publicly stated purpose of acting on the aforementioned desire and intent. That is “assault.”

    To whatever degree he may or may not have been specifically culpable for any specific “battery” — the third element of the crime(s) following those first two — there’s no doubt whatsoever that he was a proud and declared force-initiator.

    I’m glad he’s dead.

    Would I be happier to have seen him captured and put on trial according to some objective criterion of the rights of the accused, so that the charges could be publicly proven beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury?

    Yes, I would.

    However, it was also reasonable to presume him to be actually or vicariously “armed and dangerous,” and to act accordingly.

    We don’t know exactly what happened in that compound, and probably never will, but unless solid evidence comes out that he actually surrendered and was then murdered in cold blood, I’m willing to give the benefit of doubt to his killers that he was violently “resisting arrest” — personally and/or through proxies — at the time he was killed.

    I’m glad he’s dead.

    Not glad enough to excuse a decade of military aggression at the cost of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands or millions of foreign civilian lives, $2 trillion in stolen money pissed down the rathole of military adventurism, the exponential growth of the US police state domestically, etc. …

    But glad he’s dead.

  28. Andy

    This all assumes that the government is telling the truth. I’m skeptical myself.

  29. Marc Montoni

    Osama bin Laden was a thug. There is little doubt about that. I place little faith in US government statements about him; however, the first-hand interviews he gave and the translations of his illegitimate ‘fatwas’ and video exhortations confirm what kind of person he was. Like Tom Knapp said — Obama…. er… Osama made his intent and activities known.

    The truth of the matter is that the United States government created bin Laden, and created the conditions necessary for him to be able to recruit followers and execute his plans. Just as the US government needed a bogeyman in order to whip up patriotic fervor so the masses would ignore the thuggery going on within our borders by our own government, bin Laden needed the US bogeyman in order to whip up religious fervor and win power and prestige from his followers.

    The one way for the US government to prove its “justice” was different from that of every other regime on earth would have been to arrest bin Laden alive and give him a speedy trial. If found guilty by a jury of average Americans, he should have served his sentence with average American criminals (eg with no special treatment, subject to the same conditions as any other violent murderer), or with a swift and humane execution.

    That was the one path the government chose not to take.

    But more important, the government should not have created its bin Laden in the first place. There is only one way to eliminate new threats (and rest assured the government will find a new bogeyman soon): by disengaging from the world stage.

    As immediate reforms to increase the safety of Americans in the short term, the US government should:

    1) Remove all US troops from *all* foreign nations; discharge the majority of US troops to the [productive] private sector.
    2) Demobilize the military and place most of the US fleet in mothballs
    3) Continue developing defensive capability for deployment on our own borders
    4) Discontinue *all* foreign aid, not just the foreign aid that goes to one particular nation or another — we don’t need a bigoted aid policy
    5) Discontinue all government protection of US individuals and businesses overseas, instead allow them to purchase insurance for their own protection
    6) Reduce or eliminate tariffs and most export/import regulation and subsidies; EXCEPT prohibit the importation of stolen goods or those made with slave labor

    Taking US house organs off the international stage would eliminate most of the reasons others have to hate Americans.

    Couple the above reforms with implementation of a true Libertarian society and the Statue of Liberty will once again be the symbol of the freedom movement for the entire rest of the world.

    The Middle East has a host of centuries-long, simmering problems, not the least of which is the continued 6th-century treatment of women and religious and ethnic minorities, as well as a socialist economic system that makes it all but impossible for the hoi polloi to start new businesses and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

    The region will not be our problem much longer. China’s harassment and suppression of their Muslim minority coupled with China’s increasing hunger for oil and other resources, puts the two peoples on a collision course — and they share a border. Look at a map. We have to use airplanes and ships to project force. The Red Army, in contrast, needs only to go on a hike.

    Whether we withdraw or not, we are going to play a bit part in that conflict when it comes around. The most we will accomplish by continuing to meddle in the area will be further inflaming both a neo-superpower China and a rich Arab world.

    Once US government policy is non-interventionist, all subsidies to Big Oil, including the military umbrella, as well as all subsidies (such as “free” roads) to people driving cars, can be repealed. These are among the few internal reforms that would push real — and voluntary — reductions in energy use by Americans.

  30. Thomas L. Knapp

    Andy @ 35,

    I agree that skepticism is warranted.

    I am provisionally assuming that the government is telling the truth on the factual claim of Obama being dead.

    I am also provisionally assuming, to a shade less certitude, that the government’s account of his death in the round (last weekend, in a firefight with Seal Team Six in Pakistan) is true.

    I’m more than willing to consider evidence that either one of those claims is incorrect, and every claim of detail above and beyond those I consider even more open to question.

    So feel free to tacitly preface anything I say on the matter with “if what the Obama regime says is true …”

  31. Thomas L. Knapp

    Marc @36,

    I agree with you 110%.

    I’m not utopian. I don’t believe that if the US withdraws from all foreign military presences, every terrorist in the world will put away the Semtex and gather around the campfire for a round of “Kum Ba Ya.”

    There will still be attacks and atrocities, and some of them will still be directed at the US. They may even increase in tempo and intensity for awhile, if for no other reason than that the terrorists’ financing and popular support rely on being able to provoke the US into stupid responses, so they’ll do their damnedest to do that.

    But if you’re in a hole and want to get out, the first step is to stop digging. There is no other way.

  32. Jose C.

    The question to ask Lee Wrights and other candidates seeking the nomination for President of the Libertarian Party is, “As President under what condition(s) will you call for the use of the military of the United States?”

  33. Robert Capozzi

    39 jc, that feels like a gotcha and assumes the candidate can actually win. Ls should consider the reality of the situation, recognize that our candidate won’t win, and determine who best carries a L message in the most compelling way.

    That said, who can best challenge the status quo of multiple wars? Who can question the R and Ds assumptions in a way that points voters in the direction of peace while attracting more to our way of thinking?

    Getting wrapped around our axles about the fine points of an optimal direction is not, IMO, the LP standardbearer’s job.

    So, a L candidate could say, “Ls would only use the military in cases where there’s a clear and present danger. Unless the threat was imminent, we would end the practice of fighting wars without a declaration of war, as has been the case in Afg., Iraq, and Libya.” Pinning a LP candidate down on whether the Canadian invasion forces were at the border or 1 mile away is a counterproductive question, IMO.

    Our prez candidate is NOT angling to be Pope of the LP!

  34. National Political Conference

    On several occasionas, testifying to Congress, the FBI indicated that they did not have good evidence on your question. The planning mastermind appears to have been found and it was someone else.

  35. Jose C

    . . . that feels like a gotcha and assumes the candidate can actually win. Ls should consider the reality of the situation, recognize that our candidate won’t win, and determine who best carries a L message in the most compelling way.

    Not at all. We should know where our candidate for president stands on the issues.

    What do you propose you will do as President to stop inflation, reduce the national debt, improve education, etc? What will you do to improve individual rights, solve social problems such as poverty, illiteracy, and urban blight?

    Presidential candidate Ed Clark said about foreign relations, ” . . . favors a foreign policy of non-intervention: that is, staying out of the internal political affairs of other countries. America’s past interventions have caused anti-American feelings in the Middle East and other areas of the world. as an alternative policy [I] proposes free, open trade and an emphasis on developing peaceful relations with all other countries.”

    About military spending Ed Clark said, “[I] will do what is necessary to keep us out of another war such as Vietnam. . . . [I] oppose increasing the military budget and oppose the draft and increasing tours of duty, for those can only lead to more intervention, more conflict, and higher taxes. . . [I] favor a strong defense for the United States itself, but believe that we should not spend billions of dollars as we do now to defend highly affluent highly developed nations which are perfectly capable of defending themselves.”

    We know what Ed Clark’s view was on foreign realtions and military spending. What is Lee Wrights’ view on these issues? What will he do as president concerning these issues?

  36. Robert Capozzi

    43jc, in comment 39, you’re not asking about a stance on an issue, but a hypothetical, as I read it. I certainly want to know how a prospective candidate frames and articulates positions.

  37. Andy

    “Art Olivier // May 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    A question for those who believe that bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11. What evidence is there?”

    Anyone who believes that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind 9/11 is extremely naive.

  38. Jill Pyeatt

    Andy and Art: Thanks for speaking out. I also don’t accept that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11. There are compelling reasons I believe this, and I’d be happy to share my information for anyone who is sincerely interested.

  39. Jill Pyeatt

    As far as this latest Theater of the Absurd re: the death of the already-dead Osamasbin Laden, I recommend buying Jon Krakauer’s latest book: “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman”. The book describes the extent to which top military and government officials went to, to create a myth about Pat Tillman’s death.


    How do we really know Osama Bin Laden died recently. Maybe he was already dead some years ago. How do we know that he wasn’t in house arrest and they already knew where he was for quite some time. Oh I forgot. Some people around believe everything the news Media put out so I guess it must be all true.

  41. Thomas L. Knapp

    OB @ 49,

    How we “know” anything is one of the big philosophical questions.

    Personally, I’m with Popper. It’s all provisional, and the real question is one of lesser or greater relative certitude.

  42. Robert Capozzi

    50 tk, yes! Provisional, based on current perceptions and the fact set deemed salient. We do our best based on those.

    (btw, I saw George Soros at Cato last week, and he was a student of Popper’s. He still holds to Popper’s ideas.)

    I would be interested to hear how one can be a Popper provisionalist AND an absolutist. On its face, they seem mutually exclusive.

  43. Capozzi's Mythical Absolutist

    Capozzi: “I would be interested to hear how one can be a Popper provisionalist AND an absolutist.”

    You must first find someone who CLAIMS to be both “a Popper provisionalist AND an absolutist.”

    I have yet to meet ANYONE who claims to be an absolutist.

    I realize that Capozzi enjoys battling his mythical absolutists, but one has yet to be spotted in real life.

  44. Robert Capozzi

    52 I distinctly recall Tk saying he’s absolutely an absolutist.

  45. Thomas L. Knapp

    @52, @53,

    Yes, I am an absolutist.

    I do not necessarily agree, however, that absolutism necessarily subsumes all the qualities Mr. Capozzi imputes to it.

    I’m also something resembling a critical rationalist, a/k/a “Popper provisionalist.’

    If it’s really that important to understand where I come from, try thinking of that place as the space between two curvilinear asymptotes — ZAPsolutism and Popperian provisionalism.

  46. Starchild

    I’m pretty much with Tom Knapp @34.

    I think Christopher Schmidt of the San Mateo (California) County LP also put it very well when he wrote on a local list:

    “I would argue that there are almost 7 billion people on the planet whom it would be wrong to kill this way; a small handful of people it would be
    right to kill this way, and a few hundred, or maybe a few thousand, on a ‘slippery slope’ in between. I freely admit that a slippery slope problem exists, but bin Laden (and his bodyguards) weren’t, in my opinion, on it. This is a case where I think we can safely say ‘We [upon my pointing it out, Christopher acknowledged this as an inadvertent use of the nationalist “we”] tried everything else first’. (And a lot of those things were worse.)”

    And as someone else pointed out, bin Laden chose to pursue his agenda not through the courts, but through violence. Given that choice, I think it was reasonable for the U.S. government to treat him as an enemy on the battlefield.

    To insist that the only proper course of action was to capture him and put him on trial raises the question of how far this philosophy should be taken. Would you have had the Allied soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944 use only non-lethal violence against the defending Germans, in order to capture them and bring them back to face individual trials in the United States and Britain?

    In my view, to even ask that question is to realize the absurdity of the proposition. Yet probably none of the Wehrmacht soldiers who died during the D-Day assault were guilty of acts as horrific as those ordered and supervised by Osama bin Laden. And it seems quite likely that any attempt to capture bin Laden alive in what was obviously a risky raid would have carried more risk to life and limb of the soldiers on that mission than would a shoot-to-kill approach.

    Ironically, for all the revulsion expressed at “the spectacle of Americans celebrating and dancing in the street to the chant of ‘U.S.A, U.S.A,’ whipped up into a patriotic frenzy” by my friend Lee Wrights and others, I think their reactions *also* carry the whiff of nationalism (or “reverse nationalism” as I have termed it for want of a better phrase).

    “How dare OUR government commit this killing in OUR name?” goes the reverse-nationalist thinking. “WE need to follow OUR Constitution. How dare President Obama ruin the chances for WE, the United States, to claim the moral high ground in international affairs?”

    Yet its apparently high-minded values notwithstanding, this perspective implicitly rests on a notion that Americans should be judged differently than others. After all, no one complains that Osama bin Laden’s actions were a “rejection of everything this nation stands for”. Since he was not considered to be “an American”, he was exempted from the burden of living up to whatever noble values that “we” are supposed to stand for. Never have I heard anyone condemn bin Laden for failing to adhere to due process when authorizing the 9/11 attacks. Yet “no evidence was presented” against those who died in those attacks. “No arguments were heard for and against. No jury deliberated. No judge ruled.” The “accused” were “not allowed to defend themselves in any court.”

    The bin Ladens of the world are almost always spared such criticisms, I contend, because it is taken for granted, consciously or otherwise, that they are vicious, brutal terrorists who would never bother with anything like due process. Unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook this double standard and fall into a mindset that says “terrorists will be terrorists”, but “we” on the other hand (i.e. governments that in the nationalist worldview are seen as in some way being extensions or reflections of ourselves) “know better”, and are therefore acting more evilly when failing to uphold civil rights than terrorists are when they fail to do so.

    I however do not believe that laws or moral standards should stop at borders. I say that where laws and governments exist, they should treat all human beings equally, and that this, not a nationalist worldview of double standards, is the proper aim of libertarianism.

    All that being said, I never held any particular animosity toward Osama bin Laden. In fact from looking at pictures of his visage, my admittedly superficial and possibly mistaken reading of him was of a person who was sensitive and idealistic by nature (this nature being quite possibly the tragic source of his misguided fanaticism).

    My positive feelings upon learning of his demise stemmed not from any hatred or desire for revenge, but simply from the knowledge that his death was a victory for justice and a setback for global terrorism (i.e. for a cause that embraces deliberately killing innocents and bragging about it as a political strategy).

    While I acknowledge with Christopher Schmidt the “slippery slope” danger inherent in governments killing people in this manner, far better to have a “surgical” operation that goes after a few leaders, than a mass attack that kills hundreds or thousands of ordinary people, or a passive fear to seize the moment that delays justice and lets terrorists survive to kill another day.

    Had I been on that mission and not had the ready option of capturing bin Laden alive, I hope I would have been ready and willing to pull the trigger and kill him myself. But had I done so, I certainly hope I would not have taken any pleasure in it.

  47. Robert Capozzi

    54 tk, interesting. I’m not sure how that works. Do you stake out an absolutist view, based on your provisional best approximation?

  48. Art Olivier

    “Never have I heard anyone condemn bin Laden for failing to adhere to due process when authorizing the 9/11 attacks.”

    Again, I ask what evidence is there that bid Laden authorized the 9/11 attacks?

  49. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob @ 56,

    Knowledge is provisional, but some knowledge either:

    a) Has remained apparently valid through enough falsification attempts that the “asymptotic space” between its provisionality and an absolute declaration of it as fact is infinitesimal; or

    b) Constitutes part of the “knowledge framework” within which critical rationalism itself resides, and is therefore not worth questioning on a workaday basis.

    In the latter class, I’d put stuff like a metaphysics and epistemology that take an objective reality for granted.

    Yes, it is possible that we’re in a subjective “Matrix” reality in which gravity might suddenly stop working if the programmers so decide. But speculation on that matter is of limited value, since if it is the case and we do discover it, they could presumably just “run the program back” a few steps and put in some new code to prevent the discovery (as a side note, I suspect they have imperfectly done just that).

    My politics is one of looking for those infinitesimal spaces between a and b, and attempting to be the spark that leaps across that gap.

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