I was happy to be back on The Tim Corrimal Show today after being off last week. Tim has now posted Episode 168 – which, I am constrained to mention, took some Herculean efforts given a raft of unexpected technical glitches we experienced while trying to record today’s show. So hat’s off to Tim, as it were.
In any event, on today’s show we were joined again by Ana Beatriz Cholo (@anaperiodista on Twitter), a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune who lives in California and is now employed by the Courage Campaign (@CourageCampaign on Twitter). We were also joined by the inimitable Jenn With 2 N’s (@Jenn4Laughs on Twitter) who made her first appearance on the show. Our primary topics of discussion were: The death of Osama bin Laden and various reactions to it (including Bill Maher’s); disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s decision to run for the Republican presidential nomination; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s decision not to run for the Republican presidential nomination; and the launching of Huckabee’s bizarre new propaganda site, Learn Our History. Tim closed the show with “Foxism of the Week,” including Fox Business’s Eric Bolling reading a list of people his viewers want to waterboard; Steve Doocy whinging about Pres. Obama and “class warfare” (to be fair, Doocy’s only mode of communication is whinging; so I could’ve left that out); and irrelevant racist mope Donald Trump claiming to be “the least racist person there is.”
Whatev, Donald. You’re fired.
Today, though, I want to dwell for a moment on the death of Osama bin Laden, in part because I was not able to be on last week’s show when the panel first discussed it and in part because I’ve been disturbed by some of the comments I’ve seen from my fellow liberals on Twitter and elsewhere. Specifically, although I believe the mission to kill or capture Osama bin Laden was legal, I’ve been shocked and disappointed to see liberals attacking fellow liberals for questioning the mission and its legality. As to the former issue, I think Adam Serwer explained the legal support for the mission better than I could:
The United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s not a choice of the administration; that is the result of Congress passing the Authorization to Use Military Force in 2001. The AUMF’s authority has been stretched beyond its original purpose many times, but if it does anything, anything at all, it sanctions the killing of Osama bin Laden in the context in which he was killed. It certainly matters how he was killed, but short of him being executed after surrendering or after being captured, his killing is still lawful. It doesn’t matter whether he was armed or not -- this would make any kind of aerial bombing or surprise attack a war crime. The only evidence that bin Laden was not lawfully killed comes from the Pakistani intelligence service, which either sheltered him for years or was so incompetent it didn’t notice him living peacefully within a stone’s throw of Pakistan’s military academy.
Neither is there anything to the notion that international law prohibited the killing bin Laden -- not only does the United Nations Charter recognize an inherent right to self-defense, U.N. Resolution 1368, passed shortly after the 9/11 attacks, explicitly supports “all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.”
In short, there is no need for a “bin Laden exception” owing to his particular evil, because he was already a lawful military target. It is the law, not his being evil, that justifies the use of lethal force in this context. The emergence of non-state entities capable of engaging in armed conflicts against military forces poses a genuine legal challenge, but bin Laden cannot shake his status as a legal target simply by being a criminal anymore than terrorists being criminals would allow the Bush administration to disregard standards of humane treatment for those captured in such a conflict. It is one thing to argue that capture and trial would have been preferable, another entirely to argue that the killing was illegal.
I find those arguments persuasive, and I’ll admit I’ve been somewhat aggravated by critics of the Administration who insist on referring to the mission as an assassination, or assume that the only purpose was to kill bin Laden (when, in fact, the Administration had lawyers and interrogators standing by in the event bin Laden were taken alive); or, even more to the extreme, call Pres. Obama a “murderer” for authorizing the mission. Those claims aren’t supported by the known facts and rely heavily on speculation as to as yet unknown details of the raid. Unless, of course, you reflexively accept as true the word of bin Laden’s twelve year old daughter, who allegedly told Pakistan’s ISI that her father was killed after being taken into custody. The accuracy of that statement is questionable for any number of reasons: She’s twelve years old, for god’s sake; she’s the daughter of the mass murder/terrorist himself; she undoubtedly was traumatized by the incident, and quite possibly many other incidents she’s witnessed over the years, being Osama bin Laden’s daughter; and the statement was related to al Arabiya News by the ISI, which has been linked to terrorist groups in the past and has plenty of reasons to discredit the mission. So, I’m not prepared to accept the twelve year old daughter’s statement as the gospel truth until more facts come out.
But here’s the thing. International law and the laws of warfare are tricky, to say the least. While I think the Administration acted legally for the reasons Adam Serwer lays out, reasonable minds certainly can differ. And since we don’t know all the details of the raid and the exact circumstances under which bin Laden was killed, we really can’t say with absolute certainty that everything was done according to Hoyle. Which means those who disagree – in good faith, of course; I’m not talking about Fox News talkers who will smear Pres. Obama at every opportunity – are absolutely entitled to, and should, express their views; and the rest of us on the left have an obligation to consider their point of view. It’s right to question the legality of bin Laden’s killing, and it’s entirely acceptable to reach different conclusions.
What’s not acceptable is to pillory those who disagree with the Administration’s, and Adam Serwer’s, and my, conclusion that the raid and killing were legal. It’s unacceptable to say those question the legality of the raid and killing are somehow expressing support for bin Laden or are sympathizing with terrorists – which are accusations I’ve seen leveled at them on Twitter.
That’s utterly unacceptable. We don’t do that; the other side does – and we’re better than that. So cut it out, people.
Oh, and enjoy the show!
© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.