What’s Behind the Bin Laden Assassination?

TheĀ  big question about Bin Laden – and I’m surprised more people are not asking it – is, why kill him? It’s pretty clear by now that those were the orders (I heard it from a guy being interviewed on NPR with CIA ties, and there’s further documentation in The Atlantic. But why?

Let’s leave aside the morality and look at the practical issues. Wouldn’t you think that Osama Bin Laden was what they call a “high-value target” – i.e., someone with valuable information? Isn’t it possible that he actually knew something about what’s left of al-Qa’eda? If this was really about fighting terrorism, wouldn’t they want to question him?

Someone else on that NPR show (I was listening in the car, and didn’t get further specifics to cite the broadcast) said that one of Osama’s bodyguards who’d been captured had orders to kill Osama rather than let him be taken alive. So why have the Seals do the work for him? It doesn’t make sense to me.

Second, why wouldn’t we want to put him on trial? Surely there would be no better way to destroy any last trace of sympathy for the man and his network than be exposing their repugnant deeds in open court. The Israelis knew that when they captured Eichmann, and brought him back to be tried, at considerable difficulty to themselves. All we would have had to do would have been to bring him along in the helicopter, which we did with his body anyway.

Moreover, a trial would have shown the world that we are a country of laws and individual rights, rather than a country that kills without trial. Here I’m verging back to the moral argument, but this one does have a practical side: it would make people respect the US more.

Legally, bringing Bin Laden out alive would have been kidnapping, and Pakistan didn’t like it. But they liked the assassination even less.

So I’m just asking, why were the orders to kill him no matter what? Anybody have an explanation?