Last night President Obama announced that 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden had been killed in a compound near the capital of Pakistan. I'm a little taken aback by the jingoistic glee that bin Laden's death sparked in so many Americans. I see his killing as a lost opportunity to capture and try him.
If Bin Laden went down fighting as a fugitive from U.S. and international law, well fine. Taking him alive was never a sure thing, even if U.S. forces had the noblest intentions of dragging him back for trial. Somehow, I doubt capture was ever an option. On the campaign trail, Obama pledged to kill Bin Laden, not to capture him. As several commentators have already noted, bin Laden probably didn't want to be taken alive--which is a good reason to wonder why Americans should be so thrilled that the U.S. gave him his preferred exit.
Americans have just decided that it's okay to kill suspects without trial if it seems obvious enough that they're guilty of terrorism. That was a terrible precedent set under George W. Bush and I'm sad to see it continue under Obama. The pursuit of bin Laden and the 9/11 conspirators should have been a police action from the beginning, not a "war" or "terror" itself.
The fact is, Bin Laden hadn’t orchestrated a terrorist attack in years. Taking him out was just for bragging rights at this point. Politically, this is good for Obama because it cuts off a lot of GOP opportunities to demagogue about national security in 2012.
The ramifications of the U.S. killing Bin Laden in a mansion outside of Islamabad are potentially horrible.
Adele Stan writes in AlterNet:
Those who think the killing of Bin Laden signals an end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan may want to think again, for it's quite possible that Pakistan will be further destabilized by Bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. forces on a compound so close to the capital. At this point, the Afghan war is no longer about Afghanistan, which many believe to be a lost cause; it's about the nuclear-armed Pakistan, and maintaining a U.S. presence in a tinderbox region that could blow up a good part of the world.
The stability of the regime in Pakistan is way more important than the head of Osama Bin Laden on a pike.
[Photo credit: Young women celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden in Washington, D.C.. Theqspeaks, Creative Commons.]