The Force of the Deed

The killing of Bin Laden was an extraordinary achievement that put to rest a gnawing American self-doubt.

Comments: 125

  1. Mr. Cohen, I echo your "oh please" sentiment as well. I consider myself a strong liberal but being upset about bin laden's burial or not being taken alive is too bleeding hurt even for me.

  2. Roger Cohen forgot to give any credit to President Bush, who established the successful protocol for the War on Man-Made Disasters, including waterboarding.

  3. You call it a "deed" but you don't or can't define it: that's kind of strange. For some of us in the U.S., the "deed" was murder plain. Bin Laden was not armed: and this feeds the appropriate idea that Obama ordered the murder, no chance of capture or surrender, this so the U.S. could have op-ed writers all over the country sing the praises of the party in power. This is continuous with the policies towards the Philippines in the early 20th c. and Vietnam, to name the obvious historical "precedents." I think the killing of Bin Laden shows the Democratic party needs a "war on terror" just as much as the Republicans do: to sustain our military State. It's going to get a lot worse for the next generation, as they will be even more hated in the wider world than Americans already are.

  4. Mr. Cohen, thank you for this article. In the midst of the current media circus on this issue, your's stands out.
    I am appalled at the mainstream TV media for choosing to interview only those who would find fault (any fault) with this mission - dozens of them are in the parade.
    Unlike most of these unthinking individuals (and the media which, in my view purposefully and mischievously, encourages them) you have tackled the basics rather well.
    The President chose the best possible of all the options presented to him, with enviable thoroughness, and had a spectacular success.
    Instead of being proud of the moment as Americans, most of these mischievous 'talking-heads' want to diminish it. Some cloaking themselves in the patriotic flag!!
    Thank you again for this very thoughtful article.

  5. I've spent the last week listening to so much of the back-and-forth debate over whether the taking-out of Osama bin Laden was justice or revenge that I've come to my own conclusion. The killing of bin Laden was an act of neither justice nor revenge nor murder. It was an act of survival because, when all was said and done, it came down to this one basic fact: It was either him or us.

  6. Obama admitted having given the order to kill bin Laden.

    It is a curious thing that, while ostensibly fighting against bin Laden, after having fought in his company, in the end, the government of the USA agreed with Bin Laden on the most important subject. Ethics. Obama won Osama's ethical fight by killing him the way he did: I kill therefore I just.

    Our formidable, worldwide civilization progressed in no small reason because of ever more sophisticated notions of justice. The American president has decided to throw them into the trash. It is an ominous victory of primitivism over wisdom, in a country with global pretentions.

    Assassinating bin Laden assassinated any hope to get to some of the truth.

    Obama got rid of bin Laden, because he was afraid that a trial would expose the duplicity of the masters of the USA. Don't forget that the USA attacked Afghanistan (secretly) on July 3, 1979, shortly after the CIA recruited bin Laden, and well before the Soviet intervention. The rest is noise. I am preparing an extensive essay on the subject which is proving difficult to write.

  7. Killing Bin Laden, or weighting the mission heavily towards kill vs capture was logical. Pakistan is an 'ally' that can't be trusted, whose intervention may have interfered with the successful capture of Bin Laden. Killing him significantly reduced the chance of any variables preventing the objective from being achieved. Obama was concerned about Pakistani intervention during the mission, hence the large number of Seals to deal with a potential conflict. Obama made the right choice.

  8. Americans' "self ??? doubt?" Americans are strong and resilient. The doubt has been fueled by, and is still being fueled by, having a "leader" who tells us we are not exceptional. Who punishes success. Who will not follow the law, the Constitution, and does it with seeming impunity.
    Congratulations to these fine soldiers whose extensive training, fitness, and planning led to this successful mission. How irritating that the "commander in chief" chose to use their success for his own gains, with a victory tour. And worse yet, with revealing where they are based.
    How ironic that Eric Holder (and Obama) think waterboarding is so terrible that they attack those very people (and ruin their lives, and decrease the morale of CIA employees) who used it under full cover of legal assurance; yet think it is just fine to kill an unarmed man.

  9. This is a great article.
    I'm happy and thankful for our President and for these courageous Seals who have rid our world of this venomous mass murderer and pyschopath.It was especially satisfying to see the captured video showing an unkempt Bin Laden huddled under a dirty blanket in his dump of a room, watching a gussied up version of himself on tv.
    The burial at sea was way too good for him. Respect is not owed to mass murderers.

  10. After Saddam was captured by US forces, he was held incommunicado by the Bush, Jr. administration until Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006, then he was handed over to the Shiites, who promptly hanged him.

    I was with a Sunni and a Shiite. The Shiite cheered that Saddam had finally been given the justice he had denied to the Iraqi people (or at least to the Iraqi Shiite people).

    The Sunni said America had murdered Saddam to keep him quiet, and had done so on Eid, a day on which Sunni Muslims believe executions must be suspended. Why was Saddam never allowed to speak to the world or the press?

    The same question applies to Osama.

    Pakistan does not allow private ownership of guns, and it is clear from the fact that not one Seal was injured that, in order to keep a low profile, there were no guns in the compound and the CIA agents swarming all over Abbottabad for the year before the raid had informed President Obama of this fact (had the CIA agents reported a heavily armed, probably booby-trapped compound, Obama would have ordered an airstrike, followed by a CIA search of the rubble for body parts from which they could do the DNA testing to prove they had killed Osama).

    The first 'official' White House story was a fierce firefight, with a number of mujahadeen shooting, but the Seals managing to miraculously kill them all without a single injury, without so much as a scratch, while bin Laden hid behind a woman while his men fought and died. The story, very carefully scripted long before the raid took place, was to show the Muslim world that bin Laden was just a hypocrite living in a multi-million dollar palace, not a martyr, while Obama and the Seals were great heroes. We now know none of that story was true, except for the fact that the Seals killed bin Laden. We also know, from the way it was scripted, with the camera lovingly showing the faces of the White House staff as they watched TV, lingering over Biden fingering his prayer beads, that the White House watched and taped the entire raid on CCTV, that they saw everything, that it wasn't a matter of sitting in agonising suspense in the dark waiting until the first runner made it back and panted out an early but inaccurate version. Everything was carefully scripted, and everything went according to plan (except for the need to destroy one helicopter that wouldn't start, and the need to revise the official story on a daily basis as reporters found out a few inconvenient facts).

    Now we know from the bodies of the three dead mujahadeen that the Seals arrived, captured the four men, applied enhanced interrogation using a titanium toothed dog for about 40 minutes, then forced the four to kneel and shot them in the back of the head, Chinese execution style, so the White House could spin the stories as it liked without fear of any defence testimony.

    Some of us are suspicious, with no idea what's going on.

    The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with Mr. Cohen: nothing matters except that bin Laden is dead.

    Most of the Arab world now believes, based on what has leaked out, that bin Laden was a martyr who was killed in order to silence him, to ensure that his secrets will never be revealed, and wonders what those secrets might have been, those dark, dark secrets that so terrified Obama that he insisted they be buried at the bottom of the Arabian Sea.

  11. What's most appalling is to watch officials from the previous administration as they attempt to take credit for the success of the bin Laden operation, claiming that their "enhanced interrogation" techniques (such as water-boarding) generated valuable information. When on the contrary, it's well documented that such techniques generally produce much lower quality information, compared against less violent methods of interrogation. Not to mention that our use of such forceful methods became one of Al Qaeda's primary recruiting tools. It's also appalling to remember that it's just such low-quality information that led us to mistakenly invade Iraq in the first place. All those errors we made, believing that Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda, that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, etc. Those errors resulted from the false confessions generated during enhanced interrogation sessions in the wake of 9/11. And the tragic consequences: thousands of precious American lives lost, hundreds of billions of dollars spent, our country still groaning under the unpaid bills for the war, and even after all that, we're about to leave Iraq in very shaky condition (talk to anyone who's actually been there recently).

    Compare that against Obama's meticulous preparation for the bin Laden operation, every detail carefully researched, patiently planned, expertly executed. Obama himself insisting on deploying sufficient resources so that no man would be left behind. Intelligent assessment of the risks involved. Brilliant success.

    How can the previous administration dare to claim credit? What amazing chutzpah!

  12. Oh Roger--you were doing so well until you wrote "Bin Laden has been humanized." Why do we have this obsessive compulsion to posthumously humanize one of modern history's biggest monsters? Gee, Osama Bin Laden wasn't such a bad guy now was he? Those Navy Seals had no business storming the home of an unarmed man and blowing his head off.

    Look, let's get get a grip and have a reality break for just a second, ok? The minute those planes hit the World Trade Center Osama bin Laden knew he spend the rest of his life on the run. Osama bin Laden had just murdered 3,000 innocent, unarmed people who were just going about their business on 9/11/01. Therefore, it stands to reason that Osama bin Laden already knew he was a marked man and sooner or later he would get an unwelcome visit from someone looking to exterminate him with extreme prejudice. Sure there are alot of Bin Laden wannabees out there, but we chopped off the head of the snake and, for the moment, we can breathe a little easier.

    I don't understand all of this absurd tea and sympathy for Osama bin Laden. Quite frankly Osama bin Laden got just what he deserved. Justice was done!

  13. Mr. Cohen, like so many others, is lauding the killing of Laden. It really doesn’t matter what term is applied… killing, murder, hit, assassination, execution, or termination.

    The intelligence/military community, once getting a bead on Laden months ago, had to analyze what actions/options that they might take, and equally as important (and perhaps more important) the ramifications of taking those actions/options.

    Going on the assumption that a plethora of experienced experts must contain some intelligent and savvy people, I think that they concluded (and advised the President) that Laden captured alive would engender more negative ramifications than Laden dead.

    Dead or alive, they realized that either predicament would set radical Islam aboil. Many have pointed out that Laden in captivity, awaiting trial, would set radical Islam not only aboil… but engender their taking hostage/civilians world-wide, in order to press for Laden’s release.

    A very messy situation, that could be avoided by not taking Laden alive. Terrorists don’t take hostages to demand the release of a dead man. They’d still nevertheless be on the warpath, but that outcome was a foregone conclusion in either scenario.

    But Laden alive is far more valuable than a dead Laden, to our intelligence agencies, who have national security as their highest imperative. In my naiveté, I’d suggest that if I had been CIC, I would have ordered that Laden be captured alive at all costs, and then secreted to a black-op detention center for interrogation…with no eventual trial being a possibility.

    He has to be perceived as being dead by the public, including the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the others that sympathize with them.

    I think that we’ve all been spun, the spin-masters appealing to our basic (and sometimes baser) proclivities for vengeance, perceived justice, sense of closure, nationalistic patriotism, and desire to have something to feel good about when we haven’t had anything to feel really good about for years, as individuals, and as a nation.

    Additionally, a dead (Perceived) Laden spins (hopefully to some) the President as being a decisive hawk, and not soft on terrorists. Obama gets a boost in the polls while on the campaign trail, (a nice ancillary benefit) ,millions of people are heartened by the supposed killing, and meanwhile the CIA et al are in the process of waterboarding Laden to extract everything he knows about the terrorost network(s).

    Obama may be a hero to some. Some people are still celebrating Laden’s “death”. They, and you Mr. Cohen, should revel while you can over this “victory“ that has no true depth… because Laden’s death hasn’t detracted from jihad and upcoming terrorist attacks, and will do nothing to deter them… on the contrary, its empowered it and energized it.

    Just review the levels of threat alertness by various Homeland Security’s all over the non-Muslim world. The virulent demonstrations have already begun in a growing number of locations worldwide... including a very nasty one in London at the US embassy. The signs of the Muslim “protestors” said: "Islam Will Rule The World".

    How accommodating and tolerant the England that you’ve visited so many times can be. Hundreds of emigrants, and perhaps some who have attained citizenship, advocating for the downfall of England and the West, and doing it right in downtown London.

    One wonder why the NYTimes and other US media aren’t focusing more upon this and other related stories… or are we all too still wrapped up in the warm glow of joy over the “death” of Osama bin Laden?

    Final point Mr. Cohen. Speaking earlier of trials. Do you not think that there is an onus upon the US to live up to the standards of enforcing the law, and not in summarily executing someone? Many liberals have stated that Laden was an enemy of the state, and his killing was justified.

    If this is acceptable, then why don’t we apply the same principle to other perpetrators that we have in detention that were responsible for the Embassy attacks and the first WTC attack? For that matter, why don’t we apply this principle to those that attempted to wreak havoc and death, but were luckily for us caught… like the Detroit underwear airline bomber, the Times Square bomber, those arrested for the “multi-airliners over the Atlantic” plot, the Portland Oregon plot? And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 911? And others.

    I’d be as much in favor for that course of action, just as it was applied in the justifiable execution to enemy of the state… bin Laden.

    One good "deed" deserves another.

  14. Roger Cohen’s column captures the essence of the quiet satisfaction most Americans felt on hearing of the successful raid in Abbottabad. It is a time for us to reflect upon the value of teamwork, competence and a resolute spirit.

    How pathetic it has been to see the television screens filled the past few days with Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other Bushies – all claiming a share of the credit for Obama’s dispatch of bin Laden and, worse, all trying to use the event as justification for torture.

  15. It's not courage to, armored from crown to toe and possessed of the most modern armament, murder without trial an unarmed old man, whatever his crimes. That's called executive murder, lynching on command.

    And let me do Kerry and all the other noxious politicians one better - if they find Zwaheri or Omar, I'd be glad to be the guy walking unarmed up those stairs to see if I can bring them down for trial, how's that? The way I learned my business, it's the job of the detective to take a few risks to prevent lynchings, not execute them.

    Which, in fact, is the theme of countless westerns made in this country from, what, the inception of film into the Seventies? What has happened to America that we now applaud assasination, and the murder of criminals without a trial?

    I guess they don't have to hate us for our freedoms anymore -we've sold them for a craven sop to our terrors; and Cheny's twenty million pieces of silver.

    The Detective In The Mirror

  16. "The force of the deed" occurred at Guantanamo where al-Qaeda members were rattled into identifying that courier. Indispensable though it was, it was part of an ugly routine and nothing to romanticize or mythicize.

    So too that raid.

    Since the late 1960s most of our large towns and cities have had police Swat teams. They are daily in action across our country raiding the hide-outs of gangsters, tackling hijackers, overwhelming hostage takers, dealing with lunatics who hold their families at gun point. They use fancy guns, including sniper rifles, and trained to rappel from helicopters. There are an estimated 50,000 such deployments a year in America.

    Granted, police Swat teams don't helicopter 150 miles into other countries, but otherwise they do exactly what the Seals did. And the sheriffs or police captains who command them have the same tough calls to make, as had President Obama except they often do so as active participants.

    Actually, it was not really a tough call. It was the easiest call imaginable, one the president surely itched to make. Tough would have been to veto the raid and be subject to recriminations.

    So what does Cohen grow lyrical about? That a compound housing mainly women and children, and one old man who dyed his white beard black, was easily overwhelmed, and two men firing pistols were killed without loss to our large Navy swat team. Sure, OBL was a mass murdering fanatic, and his demise discourages our Islamist opponents, and encourages us. It calls for a bravo, but not for a Song of Roland.

  17. Very well said. An admitted, an bragging, mass murderer, met the fate he so richly deserved. As you pointed out, the whole operation was handled superbly. I'm not a big fan of the death penalty - to many horrendous mistakes have been made. But in certain situations, where there is NO mystery, and the crimes so heinous, it is the most appropriate solution. This was exactly such a situation. Obama promised to do this as a candidate, and thankfully kept his word. He deserves all the credit he is receiving, along with our dedicated soldiers.

  18. It was the compassionate thing to do. For those of us familiar with Eastern philosophy, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna counsels, coaxes and convinces Arjuna, who faced a moral dilemma and confusion, to enter the battlefield and confront his own cousins, to perform his duty and dharma by bringing universal harmony and restoring "dharmic order in the cosmos". Even the Dalai Lama suggested this deed and act to be a counter-measure for someone on a destructive path. It was an act of compassion both for bin Laden who would have continued on his destructive ways, and also for humanity as a whole who were victims or vehicles of his terror, his divisive, hatred filled, violent ways. The swiftness and surgical precision with which the deed was done was also the most compassionate thing to do, for something that had dragged for more than a decade-and-a-half of terror filled existence. It was the wise thing to do. Mother Earth is relieved, perhaps the Universe is relieved. To use a Star Wars analogy, bin Laden was lured to the Dark Side of galactic cosmos, we are better off that the Force (kind, compassionate, benevolent) came to our President and his troopers.

  19. Very fine column, Roger Cohen, thank you. The work is done, Osama lies full fathom five, he was human and he was assassinated by a brilliant incursion into a foreign country that insists it had no idea that Osama bin Laden was hiding out with his wives and children and cronies next to their West Point, just north of Islamabad for the past 6 years. How can the Pakistanis have been so blind to the Al Qaeda leader living in their midst? Like not seeing or mentioning the humongous elephant in their living room? The Pakistanis are not our friends, even if they are playing around with nuclear weapons. Even if we've lavished billions of dollars on their failed democracy. The former head of Pakistan's CI stated on TV that he did not believe that Osama bin Laden was dead, that the Americans did not kill him. Though I am glad, nay proud, that Navy Seals took out Bin Laden, and glad that an eye for an eye was dealt to the greying Saudi Arabian leader hunched over looking at himself on TV, I also wonder how we Americans might feel if some bunch of helicoptering ninjas dropped down into some building in some American town and murdered whatever Representative, Senator, Judge or higher governmental office-holder resided there? Wouldn't that get our dander up? Wouldn't we slaver for revenge (even though the act itself was revenge for something or other - felt acutely by the invading party - such as Americans felt after the ravages of Bin Laden's 9/11?)- and plan some sort of attack on stealthy invaders to continue the fight?
    Pride in the spectacular American achievement of finally dealing out death to Al Qaeda's revered leader is merited - but pride goeth before a fall. And I wonder if the angry warriors of terror from the Middle East are planning to drop another shoe? and when?

  20. Spot on, Mr. Cohen!

    The people writhing on the head of a pin will never be happy with anything. They are like some people I know personally - people who are never happy unless there is a crisis, or something to wring their hands about. It's a Culture of Agony, and is the only way some know how to live. They are the same people who make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    Long ago, someone told me, "You don't pull the wings off a bee, you swat it." That's exactly what we just did to Osama. That man's misguided minions murdered 3000 innocent people in a single day, most all of them unarmed. At that point, I ceased to be concerned about any "rights" he may claim to have, at all. I am glad he is gone, and in a well-planned, well-thought-out exercise. Good job, all!

    The world is a much better place with one less murderous lunatic residing on it.

  21. President Bush had nothing to do with President Obama's success in getting Osama Bin Ladin. But he was part of the necessity for the wars in general to begin with. We act as if 9/11 happened in a vacum and that we were atttacked because people hated our values. I don't believe this is true. When it happened, as onerous as it was, I was asking why. I've been focussed on finding out why since then. The truth is not pretty. But then it is always thus in human affairs. To say there is righteousness in going after other innocents who also had nothing to do with the causes of violence is equally wrong whether it is Osama Bin Ladin's terrorism or G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton bombing and starving innocent Iraqi's. This whole scenario is not about "democracy" versus terrorism. It is a push back from desperate people who have been exploited in the name of "democracy". "Democracy" has become a euphanism for the massive control exerted around the world by big money to control commerce. The whole Middle East and the United States have populations pushing back against exploitation by the plutocracies and tyrannies of the world, many tyrannies whom the U.S. has directly supported. You have said so yourself right in these columns. President Obama has a less than wonderful job, elected to make decisions that best benefit the people he leads, at least supposedly. Those decisions are often violent and difficult. He also, is dealing with circumstances and cultures of politics in place for generations of foreign and domestic policies that are not so easily changed, so he has my understanding up to a point. But it is time for America to take a different path. We are stretched to the limits and our people are suffering from unemployment and an energy crisis. Chasing after the last bits of oil, isn't what we should be doing either in the Middle East or off our own coasts. We need immediate mandates that take seriously the importance of conservation. We need mandates that will bring jobs back to our country that can make more efficient use of the energy we do have. There is no reason why we can't do some of what Germany is doing, and even Sweden, as a goal and begin right now to change the cause of wars we are involved in, and that is energy. Why allow the gratitous use of energy that is wasted on the "globalization" of economies. It is a system that no longer is affordable. So the killing of Osama Bin Ladin didn't happen in a vacum. It is important, even if only mildly symbolic that he is no longer a factor. But it is a human tragedy that an execution of an unarmed man, humanized the way you describe him, is executed. Somehow, we are all guilty when something like this happens. He dehumanized Americans in the 9/11 event, but for a country that prides itself on its rule of law, this was not an example we wanted to display to the world showing our disregard for that rule of law. Because this was a "declared" war, as some say, all is fair in love and war. Is this really where we want to go? Is this really what we would want? Because what we dish out, we will get in return. There ain't no free lunch.

  22. The deed indeed. Today we are pommeled not with the deed in and of itself but the impressions of the deed, the political implications of the deed, the reaction to the deed, how we can spin the deed, how we can aggrandize one person or philosophy based on the deed. It results in a confectionary of media manipulation posing as true experience. We end as RD Laing put it suffering from a poverty of experience in that we are never allowed to truly experience the thing itself and it is only through that experience that we can ever come to know ourselves, our world.

    We are ultimately the things we do not the things we say. This was well done. Enough said.

  23. There's not much I could dispute with your column, so I'll just point some things up.

    For a lot of people, justice means being tried for one's aggression against the nation. Death was the easy way out, both for bin Laden, and for America. We seem to have an aversion towards going forward with the concept of rule of law, and even though bin Laden deserved to die, those adversely affected by his actions certainly have the right to desire to see proper justice. Obviously, the proper justice is the same end, perhaps with different means, but no one actually believes that this man, if tried in any court in the world, would have escaped the death penalty.

    But that is just a factor of closure. My wife or husband was killed by violence, and as a adherent of the rule of law, I want to see the perpetrator tried for his crimes. There's a fine line between the two outcomes, but one can see that bin Laden's end by violence only continues the process of violence. And a lot of Americans see it that way.

    On and personal basis, as I've said in my comments here in the NYTimes, I am unconcerned that he is dead, and I'll now add that I'm unconcerned how he died. I would have taken kidney failure as much as the electric chair or a bullet to the brain.

    But I have no skin in the game. After almost 10 years I know of no one I even knew in any of the sites who died on 9/11. I still cried over three days, though, at the memory of the falling bodies, the people just escaping as the buildings came down, all of those circumstances which have tainted our view of Islam, of Muslims, and of difference.

    We are a nation in need of catharsis, and not all will accept nor admit to themselves that the killing of bin Laden is that cathartic event. It's too distant, it's too clandestine, there's no visible proof, there were too many failures to make this feel like success, and many wanted to see the man brought to justice in a court of law, not a flurry of fast moving circumstances.

    Catharsis is a slow process in normal circumstances. How not that people would react in so many different ways because of the belief structures that suppose a word such as "justice" means only one thing? After all, we are a country run under the rule of law.

    Roger W. Norman

  24. I am in total agreement with your article. 9/11 was an act of war. It changed so many things in the United States. The horror of it has lasted and lingered, with no closure. I really believe that the incisive way that the compound was taken and the job done was necessary for success, and we definitely wanted success. Now that Bin Ladin is gone hopefully there will be a change in the Middle East. Tunisia and Libya have stood up for freedom and entry into the modern world. Many educated Arabs want a life with employment and a future. President Obama is the one to help them achieve this. Someone said that he has a 90% approval rating in the world. It is only in America that he is constantly criticized.

  25. I am sorry that bin Laden chose to live the kind of life that led to his being killed by our military. But it was his choice to go ahead with a plan that involved hijacking four planes and using them as weapons of mass murder. He did not have to resort to terror as a method of making his point. And I am proud to have President Obama in office. He showed the world and this country a quality that we have not seen often enough in our leaders: patience, persistence, and when things were accomplished, dignity.

  26. The wealthiest nation in the history of the world, with the most sophisticated and expenseive military ever assembled, killed and old man in his bedroom.

    I am not impressed.

    When we feed our hungry, shelter our homeless and care for our neediest and most vulnerable citizens, then I'll be impressed.

  27. It is gratifying to read as thoughtful a piece as this one through the politically-charged cacophony of the past few days. The individuals who planned and executed this operation are heroes of the best and most uncommon kind - capable and anonymous. I only regret that it took so long.

    And to those whose first reaction is concern that George Bush isn't getting enough credit - spare us, please.

  28. Roger,

    Cezanne has always been one of my favorite artists. He was methodical, cautious, and narrowly focused, while at the same time historically inventive and prolific beyond measure. Never in a million years would I have linked his work - his way of working - to Obama's. What an interesting and apt analogy. The two are now linked as members of the "cool school" forever in my mind's eye. Thanks.

  29. Whether murdering a murderer in the name of western values was necessary or not I cannot decide for my own, for we do not have enough independent informations concerning the options considered by the decision-makers. But being a "post-modern agonizing" German I dare to ask questions. I read the Bin Laden killing in the context of "war against terrorism": Do you think, that this war was an appropriate answer to 9/11? Hundreds of thousands mostly civilian victims of the freedom-mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some thousand dead Ally-soldiers and too much injured and traumatized; hundreds of billions of US$ burnt or stick into the pockets of swindlers for the price of the decline of US currency and reputation. - Not so much people here can see, that Presid. Obama tries courageously to get out of the trap he was given by his predecessor. But it seems to be a fact. So hopefully the Hollywood-like showdown of Abbottabad will give him the homepolicy-backing to accomplish the mission by declaring victory, what seems to be necessary in order to heal the injured American self-esteem.

  30. As finely drawn a reflection on the events a week ago as I've read. There will always be the faint-of-heart wringing their hands over the harsh realities of violence. Bin Laden made war on the US. He has killed thousands of Americans and tens of thousands in South Asia and Africa and elsewhere. His acolytes will carry on and try to kill many more, and now and then they will succeed. But the hand-wringers, those exquisitely and sensitively foolish dreamers like Henry in San Francisco are unable to face what Francis Parkman observed in his chronicle of the Oregon Trail, that while they "may sigh long for their peaceful millennium, from minnows to men, life is incessant war."

  31. The deed is indeed done. In 75 years the curious can get the photos from the archives. The burial was reasonable given imperfect choices. Surely less profane than the barbarous acts that unleashed the manhunt to begin with. Kudos to the team and thanks for their safe return.

  32. One of the most elegant and astute editorials I have read in some time. When we begin worshipping and making a fetish of death, we become a bit unholy ourselves. We seem to have lost the ability of restraint;to allow something vital and important to breathe and take on meaning and nuance over time. Immediacy and instant analysis is important on some things. But sometimes the reflection in the mirror is clear.

  33. September 11 was not an "act of war," it was the criminal act of a "super-empowered angry man" (Friedman).

    We made a mistake in dignifying Bin Laden as an 'enemy'. He and the entire world should have been addressed through the airwaves, loud and clear: "This was not an act of war, it was a criminal act. Bin Laden is a mass murderer, and we will not rest until we hunt him down and shoot him in his hole like a rabid dog. We will take him dead or alive, wherever we find him, armed or not." Bin Laden spared no thought for the thousands of lives he took and the thousands more he shattered. Armed or not, he deserved to be shot on sight, and I'm glad they took him out. This is one occasion when the expression, "Shoot them all--and let God sort them out" certainly applies.

  34. Well, this time we had a president who thought about what we are doing before we did it.

  35. War does not look like it used to. Its not green uniforms over there and brown ones opposing, killing each other over some piece of ground.

    War now is 'amongst the people' (thanks Rupert Smith). By its nature it is now assymetric - airplanes full of people are flown into buildings full of people, commandos cross borders in the middle of the night to kill the enemy and ten years in between spent on finding and stiking at the enemy's capacity and will to fight. And always the second guessing by armchair generals.

    Thank you Mr. Cohen for your words on this. It may be sad that we've been reduced to this. But such is war, no matter its method.

    "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to commit violence on their behalf" George Orwell

  36. KS, in post #19 says our leader says we are not exceptional. Why should we be exceptional? To be an exception to all international rules? Patriotism is love of our countries institutions. Nationalism is a blood and soil chauvinism that both provokes, blinds and makes us worthy of the disdain of others. American exceptionalism is merely how one says Deutschland uber alles in English. The belligerent nationalism that is the manifestation of American exceptionalism is no better than those seeking a Greater Serbia in the 90's or any other time people think they are so much bette than those try share a planet with. I do not worry that we did not treat Bin Laden with kid gloves as he actually assaulted our country. That cannot be said of the countries of Afghanistan, Iraq or other parts of our empire. We would do well to return to a patriotic love of our institutions and and away from a nationalism that is seriously beneath us. Or at least should be beneath us if we are exceptional and all that

  37. #3, Henry: I think your sense that any killing is murder is commendable, and I'm very grateful to live in a place where people who share your convictions can happily live out their days in peace. But not everyone thinks as you do, and some of those people would like to see us dead. We killed Bin Laden, armed or not. There were alternate plans, and if he'd waved white flags and prostrated himself before the Navy, perhaps we'd be talking about where to hold his trial before we killed him. But we would have killed him in the end, because in the world where people want us dead, it really matters whether people who attack us can get away without vengeance and retribution. Bin Laden declared war - explicitly, whether he was backed by a state or not - and war is what he got. We are not better people for having waged war or for killing Bin Laden - by your calculus, we're almost certainly worse, our karmas blackened by whats been done our names - but we are done with Bin Laden, and there's a lot of good in that.

  38. Why, Mr Cohen, do you not see the broader implications of the world you are advocating? Do you want a world in which it is fine--even laudable--for powerful nations to be able to march into any country they choose and assassinate anyone they deem to be "evil." How many people around the world have been mangled and pulverized by decisions made in Washington DC? Millions? Tens of millions? By your logic, those who perceive themselves to be victims of US foreign policy should be allowed--indeed, encouraged--to assassinate those deemed responsible for the massacre of their loved ones and countrymen. Which means that there is always an injured and aggrieved party somewhere in the world who feels that the US president deserves to be assassinated. By your logic, these people should feel good about themselves if they succeed and should dance in the streets. This is not about whether Bin Laden deserves to live or die--I could care less that he is dead. This is about how we should pursue justice in the world. And if the US has the right to assassinate its enemies and revel in their death, then so does every other nation, many of whom consider us their greatest enemy.

  39. Thanks, Roger, for an intelligent artical on Ben Laden's execution. I can't understand what's going on in the minds of those who say he should have had a fair trial. Do they think he might possibly be found not guilty of mass murder, when he's been boasting for years about having committed it? The only regret I have is that we weren't able to do this years ago.

  40. The execution of a man without trial is unacceptable in any society, however evil he is alleged to be. And alleged is all it ever was because he was not brought to trial. Never forget, it is just possible, and we will of course never know now, that he was not guilty. It saddens me to see jubilation at this deed. What have we become?

  41. My only nit to pick is the reference to "Pakistan". Using the word as though it were a country like say Norway hides the complexity of army, intelligence, religious, judicial, executive and legislative collectives that have little coordination. "Pakistan" is a geographical unit only in that Britain took a crayon and drew a border. It is a political unit only to the extent that various factions are not in open conflict. So keep in mind that the intelligence units in Pakistan are likely the ones that attacked India and that the ethnic people in the northwestern mountains are not Pakistanis and that the religious impulses are all over the map.

  42. The idiocy surrounding the current debates about how Bin Laden was unarmed or whatever is of the same character as the one arguing that sending serial killers to execution is "inhuman". There is a point at which the world can become too soft, and it's also seen every time that I see a politician in my country steal billions and get a sentence of 6 months (or a pat on the back).

    Thanks for your thoughtful article.

  43. A question I wish I had the answer to: if we hadn't given Pakistan all those billions would it be any different? The ISI has been tilting toward the Taliban for years and the govt gave free rein to the tribal areas. The struggle in Pakistan is between the educated middle class and the uneducated underclass--sometimes kept that way by the remains of old systems of land ownership and control; until education and jobs and rights--to women, for example--are extended to those who don't have them, is it really possible that billions of dollars in military aid will transform the country?

  44. Sustained purpose is admirable as long as the purpose makes sense. I refer to our efforts against the great threat to world peace called the Taliban, who couldn't care care less about destroying the U.S.; and the bribing of the Pakistani government into not letting terrorists steal a nuclear weapon. You'd think it would be in their best interests to prevent this anyway. However, the way things are going, they may encourage the terrorists to do so, like they are protecting certain members of the Taliban now.

  45. Would Osama Bin Laden's execution have been more acceptable had it ocurred in a cave in Tora Bora? I see no difference between an Afghani cave and a million dollar complex in Pakistan. It was no secret that the USA was out to get this guy, in the words of of President Bush "dead or alive". So what's the big hoo haa? Those that are objecting to this clean neat operation should have spoken up before the inevitable finally ocurred. Hands off Bin Laden unless he is holding a gun in some non-sovereign country.

  46. Let's also give much credit to the intelligence people who tracked him down, and then observed his safe house until the time came to strike. The commandos were the noisy part of the operation, but finding bin Laden was the most difficult part of it.

  47. I do not mourn Bin Laden.

    I also do not take pride in the effectiveness of a team of murderous assassins. Ugly work, necessary work, but not hero work.

  48. I take a contrarian view and distance myself from all the celebrating of the bin Laden killing. The world may be better off by the Al Qaeda leader's demise, but the America of justice and law has suffered a grave setback. Contrary to the President's victory summation, it was not justice but vengeance that was done. Those who value the rule of law will hesitate to celebrate the resort to mafia hit-squad tactics, even in a so-called war on terror.

  49. A reality check - European public opinion is split on the killing. From polls published in the UK papers, 40% of the British public think the killing was wrong. President Obama might think they need their heads examined, and that might be true. But I'd be willing to guess that even higher numbers of Arabs and Pakistanis think that capturing, charging and trying Bin Laden, would have been justice - that in killing, America got revenge, not justice.

  50. Mr. Cohen, you might give some further consideration to the thought that Osama bin Laden should have been tried. Americans, and the world, deserved to see the cool, calm and deliberate workings of the American criminal justice system grind his myth into dust. Instead, it was one final opportunity squandered, to add to a decade of missed chances.

  51. Bin Laden was obsessed with his own personal security, yet he stayed in one place with his wives and children for five years without a bodyguard. He had cut a deal with the highest levels of the Pakistani government. There is no other plausible explanation.

  52. Compensation is important.

    In the heroically charitable world of restoring communities' economic and social health, there would be MANY anonymous heroes if funding were available for committed people to earn living wages doing so.

    That such compensation for anonymous heroism occurs most confidently in military efforts is a tragedy.

  53. Obviously, Osama bin Laden felt so comfortable, so safe, so protected in his compound that he did not sleep in a room where he kept a gun to defend himself against any attack.

    Had he raised his hands and said "I surrender" he would probably have been taken alive. It was his choice to not do so, and his death should not cause anyone any concern.

  54. This action restored Americans' confidence in our ability to
    get something real done about a problem instead of merely
    throwing billions of dollars at it. What's more there was complete
    moral clarity of purpose. Congratulations!

  55. Excellent editorial. You might have mentioned the Seals also protected the women and children in the raid which makes us prouder of the "deed" and their silent humility.

  56. There is nothing new in the criticism of Obama. We no longer live in a world of one America. Instead we get protagonists who denigrate ALL actions. The raid was brilliant in all aspects, flawlessly executed by brave men. And Bush had nothing to do with it as he said so many times earlier "Who is Bin Laden?" Bush had eight years to do something and failed miserably
    Of course this is war. Since when do we bury our opponent's casualties in a war except for our own purposes?

  57. I have no problem with our assassination of Osama Bin Ladin. He deserved it and we our collective psyche deserved it.

    What I do have a problem with is the attempts to maintian our holiere than thou more moral than thou image of ourselves.

    We are NOT a nation that lives by morality. We are a nation that lives by self interest, winning no matter what it takes. Let's stop lying about it.

  58. Mr. Cohen, thanks for an excellently written article that sums up how I, a Canadian feel about the demise of this monster. Kudos to President Obama, the Seals and others who were involved in this very risky undertaking. That they succeeded, is in itself remarkable.
    The only outcome to my mind was for the death of OBL, to have taken him alive would have continued the myth of this creature and created more mayhem around the world by his supporters who would have turned him into a martyr which he's not.

  59. If hunting down bin Laden and al Qaeda had been the main response of the US in reaction to 9/11 I would agree with this post. But we also went into Iraq and started a war that killed a bare minimum of 100,000 civilians (tens of thousands by our own troops) and probably far more, while driving 4 million people from their homes. You supported that war, Mr. Cohen, along with a great many other "liberals" along with the "conservatives" who oppose big government except when it is creating a bloody chaotic mess overseas. And Mr. Obama has the blood of at least hundreds of innocents on his hands as well, because not all of our responses are as careful as this particular raid in avoiding civilian casualties. So you will understand if I don't think it is morally legitimate to isolate this one act from the years of bloody context both before and after 9/11.

    I see the summary above says the killing of bin Laden put to rest a gnawing American self-doubt. If true, that's an incredibly sad comment on our national narcissism, that the killing of one evil man can make us feel so good about ourselves.

  60. It's unfortunate that the Rilke metaphor re doggedness might be applied to bin Laden, an old dog worrying the same bone--attacking the U.S. No masterpiece there. I don't think it works for Obama. Conviction is different from obsession.

  61. Why does the USA feel it has the right to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants and yet feel it also has the right to condem other countries for the same illegal activity?

  62. For an encore we should work closely with Israel on a pre-emptive strike on Iran's burgeoning nuclear weapons facilties. A stitch in time saves nine.
    That will not go unnoticed by the equivocating Pakistanis as well, who are getting quite chummy with the expanionist Chinese, tellingly.

  63. #3: "Bin Laden was not armed:"
    Well, yes. In hindsight. Honestly, who could have been surprised had he detonated a suicide vest, along with the other occupants of the hideout? It's an old tactic by now, and why terrorists require one or more head shots with no further ado.

  64. Osama Bin Laden was an enemy combatant. That in itself was enough to consider him armed at all times, whether or not he had a gun in his hand.

  65. Excellent article as usual, although I think the quote at the end was superfluous and detracted from the rest of the article.

  66. Obama deserves credit but then so does Bush. That includes the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that contributed to OBL's capture.

  67. Beautifully expressed, particularly your commentary on ego, both America's --- and bin Laden's obsessions with it. Ah humanity, would that we had the dolphin's social graces.

  68. Beautifully expressed

  69. Roger,

    A beautifully rendered piece. Thanks.

  70. I for one couldn't care less if this person was "murdered". He didn't care when he helped make a plan to kill thousands of other people. I'm just seriously tired of hearing about it.

  71. Hate to be the cynic here, Roger, but I'm willing to wager that within a year or two, there will be a book deal and cable circuit interviews for the man who put the bullet in bin Laden's head.

    btw, love Rilke but that quote is ... well, obscure.

  72. "How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed!" - Walt Whitman, 1860.

    Well said, Mr. Cohen.

  73. He's dead. We did it. He had it coming. End of story.

  74. You are a great writer and this is a fantastic column.

    Dignity, something the rich pretend and the poor abide can be a facade of false armor.

    To the quick this deed
    and so he mounted his steed
    road out into the land
    to fulfill his demand

    So often drawn and quartered
    Leaders with false orders
    A risk few can abide
    he and his thoughts alone by his side

  75. Like Chancellor Merkel, I too am glad that bin Laden is dead. Still, if (a big if, to be sure) there was a reasonable chance of taking him alive without undue risk, that would have been preferable. Somehow, we managed to put many of the leaders of the Third Reich on trial. Doing the same for bin Laden would have better served the interests of justice and the rule of law.

  76. Do these people know which US city would even allow a trial of Bin Laden to happen within its precincts? Which city would risk the suicide bombers who would flock to their master's defense, costing us a fortune in security? And why give Bin Laden more fame, which he obviously feeds upon, or increase his "martyrdom" by an extensive trial and conviction? Or would they have been more satisfied if Bin Laden had been armed so as to have a "fair fight", and perhaps killed one or more of our Navy Seals? Like an commentator, I am as liberal as they come, but I now see where we get the the bad name of "bleeding hearts" .

  77. Interestingly, not all Germans appear to be "post-modern and pacifist" in the way that Mr. Cohen contends. To be sure, quite a few - media commentators and talking heads included - shook their heads at the public cheering of Bin Laden's demise broadcast from the U.S. But "Der Spiegel", a liberal weekly newsmagazine and bellwether publication, published a piece (in German) entitled "Why America Is Allowed to Cheer Bin Laden's Death" - here's the link:,1518,761407,00.html
    In a country that has started two World Wars many now prefer that force no longer rule in international relations, which doesn't strike me as a bad thing. Admittedly, the German left has always had trouble with the U.S. "policing" the world, but who on the more dogmatic left hasn't. Still, Bin Laden has so much innocent blood at his hands, it is safe to say most Germans are satisfied he got what he deserved, if short of cheering. He had ten years to surrender, and he didn't and wasn't about to. At some point, things go bump in the dark, and whoever commits an act of war, and that's what September 11 was, must expect retaliation in kind, rule of law or not. The truly amazing thing is that he lived peacefully in Pakistan for six years, a hop, a skip and a jump from a military base, which raises the question what games the Pakistanis are playing. But that's a different story.

  78. Over the past week I've been reading dozens of versions and suppositions about the death of Bin Laden. I have no interest in the debate on whether the killing was moral or not. But I have my share of doubts regarding the "official" version, and the only way I'd be convinced of its accuracy would be to watch the same video of the raid that the White House watched "in real time". (Which, by the way, could only be done if one of the SEALs was wearing a video camera on his head. If there is another way, I sure would like to hear it). But I digress.

    My problem with the official version is this: unless Osama was totally deaf - and most of the household with him - how could he have missed all the commotion going on: first outside (where I understand the only shots at the SEALs were fired), but mostly as the fighting continued on the first and second floor of the house. They eventually reached Osama on the third floor, and apparently he was not asleep, not barricaded inside the room, and had an AK47 at arm's reach, but not in his hands, and never even tried to use it. Unless he intended to let himself be taken alive, this doesn't make any sense. And I do not believe Osama would have ever allowed himself to be captured. To what end? To be humiliated, tortured probably, be made a spectacle of in front of the entire world, and eventually executed?. I don't think so.

    My guess is that when he found himself cornered he shot himself, in the head. Maybe one the SEALs got in the second shot, and that could be the one that actually killed him, who knows.

    I doubt I'll ever get to see the live video, but perhaps Osama's wife, who was the only witness, will clarify the events, assuming that she'll ever be allowed to talk.

  79. I don't think its a matter for choosing secrecy of their deed, but because they're forced to out of safety concern. Their lives would be put at risk if their names were released.

  80. I concur with comment #1 and with the overall spirit of the article completely. Great sentence -- the air filled with their souls.

  81. Another of Roger Cohen's pitch-perfect columns - lucid, encompassing and true. One point among several excellent ones: "If the country were not nuclear-armed, America would not give it another dime."

    He's right: we are already living under the threat of nuclear blackmail from the Pakistanis, that they will sell or otherwise allow their weapons to wander, to attack us. Our task should be to de-nuclearize Pakistan by any means, turn to growing, thriving democratic India, and set ourselves free.

  82. Exactly right and a prime example of the leadership, broadly defined, of President Obama who has been pitch perfect in his part of this drama.
    So much for the fatuous rants of Republican wannabes complaining about "decisiveness".

  83. Simply extraordinary. Just when I think you cannot state things more eloquently, more deeply, you raise the bar again. Thank you Mr. Cohen. Thank you for the honor you bring to journalistic commentary.

  84. America's great achievement is to illegally penetrate a sovereign country to commit an assassination? Good grief. What has become of us? Imagine a Pakistani army team sneaking into Vermont to assassinate someone in Burlington? Would we think that was a great Pakistani achievement?

  85. How odd, and beautiful, the quote from Rielke: thank you.

  86. And then there are the small-minded people like Rush Limbaugh who hate Obama so much that they spin the story by saying that Obama had nothing to do with the mission. This is pure trash talk denigrsating the presidency, the troops, and the country. Limbaugh, Mister Ego himself, criticized Obama's announcement of the rescue because he used the word "I" as if he were taking full crdit for the mission, when in reality he said he was announcing that US forces had succeeded. No spiking the ball for Obama. This is a time when all Americans should be proud and grateful yet the demagogues try to tear that down.

  87. No doubt, America and the world have become a better place without Osama Bin Laden. And there is reason to be grateful to the soldiers involved in this action.
    However, I cannot see that "justice has been done". When the Israelis captured Eichmann, it would have been easier for them to kill him in Argentina and claim justice instead of giving him a fair trial in Jerusalem. When Hitler committed suicide, the immediate reaction was regret about not being able to bring him to court in Nuremberg and sentence him as a war criminal.
    Had Bin Laden committed suicide, the regret would be that he was not killed by American soldiers. That is the difference between justice and revenge.

  88. This pay-Pakistan-because-they-have-nukes is conventional wisdom and utterly fatuous. They have nukes because we funded them, knowing they'd skim from the mujahedeen funding but letting them be the middlemen anyway; because Reagan and Bush shut down a CIA sting and a Congressional investigation into Pakistani nuke part buyers in the U.S.; because every U.S. president including Obama has sidestepped Congressional mandates, certifying with dark mirth that Pakistan does not promote terrorism. They have nukes because we sped them on their way, and whipping up fear of jihadis and demanding money is their military's entire biz model. If you want peace in Pakistan, stop backing the dictators over the civilian government, stop the flow of money to their military, get out of Afghanistan and lower textile trade barriers. Then tell them we'll deprive them of the nukes-- we've made such plans and issued such threats before for unworthy goals like backing a dictator and a dumb war-- unless they exit the business of terrorism.

  89. The calls of murder and violations of sovereignty are misplaced. Pakistan needs to understand that as long as it fails to control its army and intelligence services, and as long as those services covertly support terrorists to conduct shadow wars in Afghanistan and India, Pakistan will never be a sovereign state. Sovereignty, like respect needs to be earned, and I am hopeful that Pakistan will one day have a strong and legitimate civilian government which can reign in its army and restore civilian control to the tribal areas. Until then, the Pakistanis should get used to repeatedly being humiliated by foreign intervention, drone strikes, etc. If Pakistan were a true sovereign state, the US would have given the Pakistani government all of the intelligence on OBL and allowed them to make the arrest and extradition. The Pakistanis are exercising self criticism, but their self criticism is misplaced. They need to be asking why is the Army, not the government calling the shots. Who's country is it anyway?

  90. What a surprise, you're satisfied and grateful. Very interesting to me that people who feel like you do about Bin Laden's death feel the need to proclaim it so loudly and excoriate anyone who doesn't feel like having a party. (If you're so sure of your rightness, why do you even care what anyone else thinks?) It's not about feeling sorry for Mr. Bin Laden or thinking his body wasn't disposed of properly. It's more about not trusting the government's ever-changing narrative and being repelled by the knock-knock-you're-dead approach to "apprehending" him.

  91. I write this from Madrid, where I live on and off. I was here during the commuter train bombings that killed nearly two hundred people and wounded nearly ten times that number. I was also here during the trials of the men who planned the operation and put the bombs in place, in sum, the authors of the crimes.
    The Spanish justice system has many faults, as does its political system, but this is neither the time nor the place to dwell on them. What is undeniable is that both the political system and the judiciary functioned remarkably well under enormous pressure in bringing the criminals to a trial that in virtually every regard can stand as a model for countries that value the rule of law. Our country, on the other hand, has failed visibly to uphold that standard, beginning with the eight-year homicidal dunciad of Mr. Obama´s predecessor, continuing through the grotesque simulacrum of law in Guantánamo, and culminating in what Mr. Obama calls "justice" in the shooting of Osama bin Laden. Justice is what was done here in Madrid. Can we not do even half as well? To date, the facts of the case suggest that we can not because we have neither the political will nor a decent regard for our system of justice. Lacking both, we seem willing to settle for what the former professor of constitutional law who is our president calls "justice", and that doesn´t come close.

  92. I totally agree with Mr. Cohen's sentiments. It is right to take satisfaction in the acts of our silent warriors. UBL was an illegal combatant and is subject to being killed under international law as codified by the UN.

    The Rilke quote is a terrible selection and its applicability is beyond any stretch of the imagination.

  93. Having lived through 9/11 and watched the towers fall, walked home to Brooklyn with a sea of others, saw and SMELLED to smoke, stepped over papers blown onto my street from the WTC... I have no sympathy for bin Laden. ZERO.

    The almost matter of fact way he was killed is nearly poetic.
    One quick shot to the head. Done. Gone.

    The burial at sea, with no trial. No media circus. No handwringing or finger pointing (almost).
    Done. Gone. Let's ALL move on.

  94. Obama had an opportunity to demonstrate higher civilization by capturing Bin Laden and subjecting him to due process of law and the criminal charges pending against him in New York since 1998 (and adding more charges) rather than declaring, in vigilante voice on 60 Minutes, that Bin Laden "got what he deserved" backdropped by thin justifications for shooting an unarmed human being in the head. The Seals are either highly trained or they are not; the "lunging" wife was spared and she posed as much if not more of a threat than Bid Laden. Obama has not revealed what orders were given to the Seals or whether the rules of military engagement pertaining to unarmed targets were ordered and followed. Prof. Stephen Carter of Yale Law School has urged that this killing is part of Obama's wider killing program (which includes the secret targeting of at least one U.S. citizen) and should be called what it is: assassination without accountability. To blunt his lawlessness Obama has opportunistically pandered to 911 bloodlust and declared that anyone who questions the Bin Laden killing "needs his head examined." Obama has stooped to the moral level of Bush/Cheney and, more damning, of Bin Laden himself. On a practical level, Bin Laden was as much if not more a source of information than the highly touted "trove" of computers and DVDs which were captured undamaged. Finally, by depriving Bin Laden of his day in court, Obama sealed off (pun intended) a potential public airing of Bin Laden's two reasons for declaring Jihad against the U.S.: the imperial presence of U.S. troops on Moslem soil and U.S. military and financial support for Israel to the great disfavor of Palestinians. In conclusion, Obama decided against a shining moment on the high road of leadership and civilization and in doing so has put many in the U.S. at greater risk from the coming wave of revenge attacks. None of this has been questioned by the Republican opposition (the original party of 911 bloodlust) or a doting corporate media, including Mr. Cohen.

  95. All along I have been thinking that Obama cherished other values.
    And you too, Mr. Cohen, as a matter of fact.
    Thank you for waking me up to your western cowboys movies. Really deeply dissappointing. Self doubt? Oh please!
    "We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
    "It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial".
    Thank you Noam Chomsky.

  96. Can you imagine America simultaneously buying Pakistan's and India's nuclear weapons and capability?

  97. A moving and well-written column, Mr. Cohen -- thank you. I am the most liberal of liberals, but even I can only shake my head at those who denounce the killing of Bin Laden as "murder." If given my druthers, perhaps I wouldn't choose another death; there have already been far too many, Americans and Afghans and Iraqis alike, since 9/11. But I do not mourn the death of this terrorist. It is done. Finally. The war on terror may be endless, but we need our small endings, our halfway points and our mental codas. I want it all to be over: terror, the war on terror, the hunt for terrorists. Anyone who would rather see Bin Laden alive and locked up in Guantanamo has no desire for anything, including the bitterness that 9/11 has spawned, to be over. "Oh, please," indeed.

  98. The USA has forces of occupation in two countries(Iraq and Afghanistan). It has joined in an attack on Libya. It regularly attacks parts of Pakistan. Its government has,like the government of Israel, adopted assassination as an instrument of state policy. It currently keeps citizens of other states incarcerated without the possibility that they will ever be tried in a court of law. The costs of the American Banking swindle are currently being shifted onto the poorest in the USA. What ever America officially stands for in reality it ain't no prize package. And as anyone who has lived through the decline of British power will know shrill nationalist celebrations of the formerly great state will grow in frequency and volume. And anyone who considers the killing of Bin Laden as one of the 'greatest military operations in American history' is either ignorant of the spectacular American military operations of world war two or a liar.

  99. Your column was a relief with all of the second guessing that seems to be going on in the press.

  100. Brilliant. Kudos to you for saying what so many of us feel, and doing it tastefully. The nameless nature of the heroes does make it feel more powerful.

  101. Excellent article. As an American ex-pat for 20 years, I see things maybe more like you than folks who live all their lives in the US.

    Second-guessing the President and the team that went in, with statements such as "Bin Laden was unarmed, so this was murder" s just pointless know-it-all/Monday morning quarterbacking. Storming a real house filled with real terrorist mass murderer madmen is not an episode of "Alias", where you know just who and where everyone is, and you know in the end that the bad guy will get it without blood on the screen.

    Great job team! Great job Mr. President sending those extra two helicopters. I don't wish anyone death or harm on a cosmic scale, but sick animals need to be culled from the herd. Just like we need wolves in the wilderness, I'm glad the President has his wolves, and that they all came home safely.

    The world is better today without Bin Laden in it. Period.

  102. I agree with your thoughtful commentary...and I thank you for it. There is however a point where I differ. "Acts of war" -as I understand that term - applies to countries. The 911 attacks were acts of terrorists. I believe that it is important for us to continue to recognize the difference. (When the attacks occurred the Bush administration was very quick to attach the label "acts of war" and the press went with it. )

  103. "Osama bin Laden mission agreed in secret 10 years ago by US and Pakistan." Declan Walsh in Islamabad, Monday 9 May 2011 19.06 BST

    Another W victory--unacknowledged, of course, by this administration and the MSM.

  104. If George Bush had taken heed of the warnings he received before the tragedy of 9/11 we would not be having this conversation right now.Many,many people who are now dead would still be alive and our country would not be in the dire state that we now suffer.No we do not give George Bush credit for anything,rather we give him the blame,for which he deserves.He too,like bin Ladin should have to suffer the consequences.

  105. Ditto to the 'oh please'. The same people who are calling it murder claimed that 9/11 was 'chickens coming home to roost'.

  106. Mr Cohen, I have never read one of your columns and not found something with which I profoundly disagree. Until now. You are dead on correct in everything you've written here and you've done so eloquently as well. Thank you.

  107. One can understand the very idea of Mr. Cohen's article, but ...! While there is absolutely no doubt about CIA's mujahid truned Terrorist OBL's being THE face of TERROR, I am amazed how this bad guy has been transformed from a 'suspect' into a 'convicted' in 9/11 episode. I could not find any court of law having announced him a 'convict' either in America or elsewhere. It is even more amazing that American people have bought Obama's 'justice been done' with ferver and zeal as if he happens to be the chief judge too! Perhaps this very fact that American courts will never 'convict' a 'suspect' without a solid and tangible evidence, OBL was ordered to be killed even though he was 'unarmed' and posed no resistence. Further, OBL may have been humanized Mr. Cohen but you disregarded the fact that by killing him and burying him in the sea without following proper rituals, as would be admissible under the International law to even those who are killed during war, the doers have de-humanized themselves. The rational minds who are not swept away by the emotions are at a loss: who to sympathise with? Those rejoicing the killing or the one who is killed? Alas! the irony is that a face of terror has been afforded an opportunity to be sympathized with.

  108. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. Thank you, Roger, for putting my thoughts to paper.

  109. Per the news reports, the team that did "the deed" had options in the plan and the elements in place to bring ObL out alive. But being a retired Army officer, I know the fog of war requires split second decisions, and I will not second guess the SEALs that were in the room with him and took the action that they did.

    This was not someone who had been fingered as the suspect who had shot a clerk at the local 7Eleven. ObL had taken credit for 9/11 and other terrorist actions that had resulted in significant deaths of innocents all over the world. He had declared war upon the US and had been instrumental in implementing acts of war upon us and the Free World. His death was a direct result of his declaration and actions.

    If he had been taken prisoner as some now advise, would they then take responsibility for the many lives that would have been lost as innocent people were grabbed to be used as ransom in attempts to gain release of ObL? I don't think so!

  110. Roger C. your are my hero!

  111. Thank you! I fully identify with your writ. It is a fact that those "talking-heads" are a mere nuisance easily dismissed by the USA, while they shape policy towards the less powerful players in this anti-terror war. Well, quod licet Jovis non licet bovis.

  112. Fatuous is the perfect descriptor for one who would characterize killing Osama as murder. I heard one such "constitutional expert" argue that he should have been arrested and tried like the Germans at Neurenberg. Hogwash. Would we have killed Hitler during WW II if we had the chance? Do I need to answer that question?

  113. Thank you - you (and Maureen Dowd) have given me hope that all the country is not crazy. Living in the Bay Area, there has either been no discussion of the deed or the inane discussion of whether this was planned murder. Honestly. Actions do speak louder than words and I am ever-weary of the "paralysis by analysis" condition of our times, both locally and globally. President Obama and the Seals are heroes and class-acts and your words are an excellent tribute to their actions.

  114. Thank you Mr. Cohen. You are so correct in pointing out that some do, some just talk. I'd rather have some cattle with the cowboy hat, thank you very much. The very large men who planned the mission and executed Bin Laden know what they have done and what service they have provided. They do not need small people on TV or elsewhere to approve or commend them. As you inferred, it is so refreshing to have the deed stand alone. We can make our own judgement on it.

  115. Bravo! Well said.

  116. I have two words for those that decry the killing of Bin Laden: Isoroku Yamamoto. He was the Japanese Admiral that led the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1943 American P-38's ambushed a transport plane carrying Yamamoto who was on an inspection tour of Japanese island bases. They shot down his plane and killed him. The morale of the American people got a huge boost from Yamamoto's death and no one questioned the killing of an unarmed man. Bin Laden got what he deserved.

  117. Amen.

  118. Bin Laden was at war with us; thus, he was a war casualty, not murder victim. Thank you for this article. I also am liberal -- fairly radical in some respects -- but lordy lordy, folks, stop with the sanctimony. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    If the SEALS could have arrested him and brought him out alive for a trial, it might (*might*) have been better, but as Cohen points out, they had no way of knowing that the entire compound wasn't set up to self-immolate.

  119. Well said.

  120. Eloquent. Thank you.

  121. The only problem is that it could have been accomplished ten years ago in Tora Bora if someone in the White House hadn't canceled the plan to encircle bin Laden's small force by coming in from the Pakistan side of Tora Bora.

    "Delta developed an audacious plan to come at bin Laden from the one direction he would never expect."

    "We want to come in on the back door," Fury explains. "The original plan that we sent up through our higher headquarters, Delta Force wants to come in over the mountain with oxygen, coming from the Pakistan side, over the mountains and come in and get a drop on bin Laden from behind."

    "But they didn't take that route, because Fury says they didn't get approval from a higher level. "Whether that was Central Command all the way up to the president of the United States, I'm not sure," he says."

    It also in no way justifies the 4000+ dead American troops in Iraq, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed there, or the lies about Saddam's WMD program. The claim that Saddam had to go regardless is disingenuous - as the situation in Libya shows, it's likely that the Iraqi people would have eventually gotten rid of Saddam. The only real reason that Bush and Cheney went into Iraq was in a bid to control the oil output.

    In addition, the decision to go into Iraq meant that Afghanistan was left open to the Taliban, who regained all their lost ground within a few years. Several thousand coalition soldiers have been killed as a result - and around ten thousand Afghan civilians have also died in the crossfire, many as the result of coalition air strikes.

    As far as why Bush ignored bin Laden and went for Saddam instead? That seems pretty obvious - if bin Laden had been captured or killed ten years ago, it would have been a lot harder to sell Operation Iraq Oil to the American public. Of course, a key selling point there was that America could be hit by more anthrax attacks...

    So, now that the architects of 9/11 have been dealt with, isn't it time to reopen the anthrax terrorism case, the one that the FBI so completely flubbed (no, it wasn't Ivins, nor Hatfill either)?

  122. Eloquent. On the mark. Thank you.

  123. Talking about Pakistan's blindness, many of the recent rulers have blindly followed the militaristic mulla to the extent that the constitution of Pakistan has been changed to declare Ahmadi Muslims as non-Muslims and to penalize them if they practice their professed religion, Islam. Through the changes in constitution to appease the militaristic mulla, the Ahmadi Muslims have been deprived of their right to vote because, while believing in Islam, they cannot lie against their conscious and register as non-Muslims just to get their right to vote. Not only that but the rest of the Muslims have to sign an affidavit the contents of which they cannot even ascertain as the Ahmadi Muslims are forbidden to explain the faith outside their community. To show the terrorist and the world that Pakistan is serious about the elimination of terrorism among them, the government first needs to expunge from the constitution the clauses added to appease the militarist mulla.

  124. Poetry, Robin, pure poetry. And eminently sensible. Thanks.


  125. The attack on the US by Bin Laden's organization was termed a holy war by its perpetrator. We all know what's fair in both love and war - holy or otherwise. Faced with a fait accompli, let the hair-splitters niggle. Bin Laden asked for this on 9/11, and anyone sheltering him did as well.