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David Sirota
David Sirota
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Bid Laden Mission Evokes More Questions Than Answers

Comment

If the mission to neutralize Osama bin Laden were a blockbuster movie, the screen would have almost certainly faded to black as soon as the accused terrorist's death was announced. No doubt, the credits would roll to Queen's "We Will Rock You" and then the big "The End" would appear.

Alas, real life is not one of Hollywood's many Pentagon-sponsored flicks — and as hard as President Obama tried to portray last week's events as proof "that America can do whatever we set our mind to," the mission and its cloudy aftermath have raised troubling questions about the "whatever" part. Among the most important of those queries are:

— Is it legal for a president to issue extrajudicial "kill only" orders — that is, orders to kill but not capture a suspect, even if that suspect surrenders? United Nations investigators are now asking this very question after Reuters cited an Obama administration official in reporting that U.S. troops were "under orders to kill (bin Laden), not capture him."

Tellingly, the revelation of the possible "kill only" order came as the administration was retracting claims that bin Laden was armed and resisting arrest, and just as the British press reported on bin Laden's 12-year-old daughter alleging that her father was first captured alive and then summarily executed.

— Who is the president now prohibited from executing sans due process? At first glance, the answer might seem to be "anyone not named Osama bin Laden." Except, days after the bin Laden mission, Obama ordered the assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, even though Awlaki hasn't been charged with — much less convicted of — a crime. If this is now acceptable, whom else can the president order killed without judicial review?

— Why were the Nazis entitled to due process, but accused terrorists aren't? Nazis killed millions of innocents and were convicted at the much-celebrated Nuremberg trials.

Yet, many insist bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders must be executed or detained without a similar trial because a courtroom drama would supposedly generate a circus (this, as if Nuremberg were some low-key affair).

Why the double standard in confronting the Nazis and al-Qaida? Is it because since bravely facing down Hitler, we became a nation of cowards? Are we today so intimidated by the possibility of al-Qaida retribution that we're willing to subvert the ideals enshrined in our Constitution? And if so, isn't that letting the terrorists win?

This is not easy stuff to ponder, especially in a nation that has so radically changed over the last century. Whereas World War II America strove to embody Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" painting of the patriot standing up and asking questions, America circa 2011 is more a country of Howard Stern and "South Park" — a society that implores fellow countrymen to "shut up, sit down!" and tells inquiring citizens that "if you don't like America, you can get out!"

But regardless of such ubiquitous vitriol, we still need answers — and not just because the international community wants them, but because Americans have a right to know what "America" is, beyond just the "A" in a drunken "USA!" chant.

Is America a nation "of laws, not of men," as John Adams promised? Or has it become another synonym for lawless tyranny?

Is "America" a place that obligates its leaders to respect the Constitution? Or is America governed by Richard Nixon's notion that "if the president does it, that means that it is not illegal"?

And perhaps the moment's most disturbing query is the simplest of all: Is America a country where self-reflection is valued? Or are we a country where these critical questions are no longer permitted?

David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and is a contributing writer at Salon.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

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Comments

7 Comments | Post Comment
This kill or capture order was open to interpretation by the SEALS based on what was happening at the time of their raid. If just one SEAL was shot at, they were put in a defensive mode during that raid. Taking out Bin Ladin was therefore justified. Would you have exspected a SEAL to wait until he was shot dead before he fired at Bin Ladin? Stop second guessing the guys who put their lives on the line to do this mission. Bin Ladin had ample opportunity over the last ten years to surrender and ask for a trial. FACT IS HE DIDN'T and tthus deserves the consequences of the risk he took. Stop trying to denigrate the Obama administration for doing a wonderful job. A job that George W. Bush said that he didn't care about on March 3, 2002.
Comment: #1
Posted by: robert lipka
Fri May 13, 2011 8:09 PM
Almost ten years ago, Osama bin Laden, oln 9/11/01, ordered the death of almost 3,000 Americans, confessed to the fact and bragged about itg publicly time and time abain through video releases. He made war against the Unjited States of America as well as most of the non-fundamentalist Muslim world. He confessed to his crimes and theqawtened further crines
The President of the United States of America, as Commander in Chief of the United Srtates military forces, had boith the legal and the moral duties to destroy the threats of the future, in the person of bin Laden, and to order his death for his crimes confessed to.
Justice is the result of proper action, not the word of a political jurist. The action taken on the order of President Obama, had they been taken nine years ago would have saved more than 5,000 more American lives and physical injuries to tens of thousands of American military - in addition to mental stress injuries to more than 100,000. It also
caused and average of American military suicides of 18 a day.

Justice has been served, and I am thankful we finally had a President who learned how to fight the war against terrorism.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Lee Dimin
Sat May 14, 2011 8:52 AM
I don't know, Mr. Dimin; it seems to me that you're just a big Obama fan who wants your guy to win - for once!
That notwithstanding, let's go through your argument.
First of all, in the first video featuring Obama, he hardly "confessed." In fact, he denied any complicity with 9/11. In the videos subsequent to 9/11, a shorter, fatter-faced, right-handed Obama brags about his exploits. FBI director Mueller refused to list 9/11 on Obama's "10-most-wanted" credentials because there was no direct evidence linking him to the event. So much for evidence.
Secondly, even if he were still a vibrant world-class criminal mastermind at this point (which I doubt) wouldn't it have made some sense to try take him alive? If he HAD to be killed, e.g. he pulled a Scarface on 'em) shouldn't they at least preserved the body until proper identification had been made by a civilian authority?
Thirdly, the POTUS does NOT have the right - "legal" OR "moral" to summarily execute without trial someone who has not been charged with a crime. Like Mr. Sirota says, we - the great United States of America, a respecter of laws, not men - provided a trial to the greatest bunch of war criminals the world has ever known. Why not Bin Laden?
Lastly, we did not go to war with Iraq because of Bin Laden. Chances are, the shock-doctrine-capitalists would have gotten us into Iraq even if Bin Laden had been killed. (Just as community-organizer-turned-Tarzan Obama is carrying on illegal warlike operations against Libya today.)
I for one - a left-libertarian - don't understand this fanatic chest-beating that is taking place in the liberal world lately. Can you just imagine a smirking George W. Bush (idiot grin and all) announcing to the TV cameras, "Yep. I did it because I AM THE DECIDER!" The Rachels, the Schultzes et al would have been hysterical (and rightly so) over this violation of the rule of law.
Could it be, to get back to my original point, that "liberals" need something to take comfort in, some sort of security blanket with which they can shelter themselves from the royal screwing Mr. "Yes We Can" is giving us?"
Comment: #3
Posted by:
Sat May 14, 2011 12:51 PM
Oops. In the previous post I said "Obama" instead of "Osama" referring to the videos.
Duh. My mistake.
Comment: #4
Posted by:
Sat May 14, 2011 12:57 PM
So here it is again!
I don't know, Mr. Dimin; it seems to me that you're just a big Obama fan who wants your guy to win - for once!
That notwithstanding, let's go through your argument.
First of all, in the first video featuring Osama, he hardly "confessed." In fact, he denied any complicity with 9/11. In the videos subsequent to 9/11, a shorter, fatter-faced, right-handed Osama brags about his exploits. FBI director Mueller refused to list 9/11 on Osama's "10-most-wanted" credentials because there was no direct evidence linking him to the event. So much for evidence.
Secondly, even if he were still a vibrant world-class criminal mastermind at this point (which I doubt) wouldn't it have made some sense to try take him alive? If he HAD to be killed, e.g. he pulled a Scarface on 'em) shouldn't they at least preserved the body until proper identification had been made by a civilian authority?
Thirdly, the POTUS does NOT have the right - "legal" OR "moral" to summarily execute without trial someone who has not been charged with a crime. Like Mr. Sirota says, we - the great United States of America, a respecter of laws, not men - provided a trial to the greatest bunch of war criminals the world has ever known. Why not Bin Laden?
Lastly, we did not go to war with Iraq because of Bin Laden. Chances are, the shock-doctrine-capitalists would have gotten us into Iraq even if Bin Laden had been killed. (Just as community-organizer-turned-Tarzan Obama is carrying on illegal warlike operations against Libya today.)
I for one - a left-libertarian - don't understand this fanatic chest-beating that is taking place in the liberal world lately. Can you just imagine a smirking George W. Bush (idiot grin and all) announcing to the TV cameras, "Yep. I did it because I AM THE DECIDER!" The Rachels, the Schultzes et al would have been hysterical (and rightly so) over this violation of the rule of law.
Could it be, to get back to my original point, that "liberals" need something to take comfort in, some sort of security blanket with which they can shelter themselves from the royal screwing Mr. "Yes We Can" is giving us?"
Comment: #5
Posted by:
Sat May 14, 2011 1:03 PM
David
Very well said and written by a psuedo-conservative. LOL

I do not miss Osama, and the fact that he is dead, I can live with. He chose his path to his ultimate demise.

I am uncomfortable that our military may have been the tool in this, as it now appears to be, assinanation. While we do not know all the facts, I do know that if a military target surrenders without equivacation, the military is obligated, by conventions of war, to take that person prisoner. We need more evidence in order to fully understand what took place in Pakistan, at that time.

With regards to Al-awlaki, the attempt to kill him using stand-off weapons, I would not view as an assination. He is an enemy and was a target of opportunity. This is no different than "enemy in the open." If he does not wish to be a target then he can surrender to US authorities at any time, and should be dealt with accordingly.

Don't forget that FDR found an opportunity to remove the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto and approved a long range, well timed, attack mission that resulted in his death. That was, again, not an assination. He was a viable military target.

That being said, "IF" military personnel could have taken a surrendering Osama, they should have done so, in spite of an unlawful order to the contrary.

We are a nation of laws, even within the miltary, when at war.

Again, well done. Thank you.
Fred Gucker
Comment: #6
Posted by: Fred Gucker
Sat May 14, 2011 5:42 PM
testing
Comment: #7
Posted by: Feral Popcorn
Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:59 PM
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