Time Columnist Wonders: Hey, Why'd We Kill Bin Laden?

Posted: May 03, 2011 3:51 PM
The actual headline of this piece from Time's Michael Crowley is, "If Bin Laden Was Unarmed, Why Was He Shot?"  The column appears under the heading, "controversies."  Crowley seems terribly concerned over conflicting reports about the nature and ferocity of bin Laden's reported resistance before he was, er, controversially dispatched by American special forces.  This is not, to my knowledge, a parody:

A major question lingers unanswered at the center of this story: Why was bin Laden killed? Michael Scherer has reported that the Navy Seals who landed at Osama bin Laden’s safehouse were not given orders specifically to kill, but were on a “kill or capture”mission. That implies they were prepared to accept bin Laden’s surrender. It didn’t work out that way. But despite earlier reports to the contrary, including from White House counter-terror adviser John Brennan, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that bin Laden was in fact unarmed. (“Resistance does not require a firearm,” he said) So, what happened?

...What exactly was bin Laden doing in the moments before he was gunned down? Did he threaten the SEALs who confronted him, perhaps by reaching for a gun? Did he have an object that looked like a weapon but wasn’t? Or did someone have an overwhelming human impulse to dispatch perhaps the most hated man in America with a quick “double-tap.”

Was this, in other words, a combat death–or, in all practical terms, an execution? The White House needs to explain this in clear detail as soon as possible.

If this raid was, "in all practical terms," an execution...so what?  As Crowley even allows in his piece, we take out lesser jihadis with drone strikes on a regular basis.  Hell, we even have an Obama-authorized standing kill order on a US citizen, radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.  I seriously doubt the question of whether bin Laden was denied due process -- to which, as an international terrorist who targets civilians, he wasn't entitled anyway -- is "lingering" in many Americans' minds.  I'm also quite confident that US special ops forces putting a bullet through the brain of a monster whose hands are stained with the blood of thousands of Americans isn't a "controversy" much beyond the cloistered quarters of elite media newsrooms.    

For a good chuckle, click through to Crowley's piece and peruse the comments section.  My personal favorite:  "Why was bin Laden killed?  Because he was THERE."

UPDATE - Politico joins the fray: "Was Killing bin Laden Legal?"