‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’

And on the 2nd May, 2011 the people of the United States finally got their wish – the death of Osama Bin Laden, leader of the Taliban and orchestrator of the 9/11 attacks on New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Whilst few people are likely to have shed tears over his death, the ‘kill or capture’ orders from President Obama were presumed by many to have only had one outcome in mind from the start, that being the death of Bin Laden.  Now the fallout from the daring raid by the US Navy Seals has settled the question can be asked; should the United States have issued orders to kill Bin Laden if he resisted, or should orders to capture and bring to trial have been further encouraged instead?

If Osama Bin Laden had been captured, the United States would have entered into a legal and political minefield.  The problems associated with detaining and extracting someone from a sovereign state without prior permission would have no doubt given the United States a headache, although legal fears that Bin Laden would have had to be handed over to the International Criminal Court remain unfounded due to the absence of a US signature at the time of the September 11th attacks.

Additionally, security and impartiality at the trial would have been another troublesome issue.  The desire to not only prevent Bin Laden from escaping but also protect him would have required security on a monumental scale.  Likewise, all those involved would have needed to ensure that the trial did not descend into a farce similar to that of Saddam Hussein where the trial was seen as an extension of American influence and where sound coverage of Saddam’s rants was often edited.

Finally, when the inevitable and unavoidable conclusion had been reached, would the United States have pursued the death penalty and potentially martyred him to Islamic extremists, or would several life sentences ensuring that Bin Laden was never able to apply for parole have been handed out?

Whilst these questions can never be answered, it is clear that as a result of killing Osama Bin Laden instantly and not bringing him to trial the United States pre-empted the above problems and prevented a costly, problematic and potentially drawn-out trial through the eyes of the international media, organisations and governments.

Overcoming these problems through Bin Laden’s quick death does not however mean that the United States has been vindicated in not taking greater risks to bring the world’s most wanted terrorist to trial.  Obviously, events that took place during the operation cannot be trivialised and may never be fully known, although by issuing the order to capture only if there was no threat to the American assault team the Obama administration had effectively ordered his execution due to the likelihood of concealed weapons and explosives.  No doubt in an ideal world where morals reign supreme and the desire for revenge was not so profound, capturing and then placing Bin Laden on trial would have been the ideal response.

Assuming that Bin Laden would not offer any substantial information on the Taliban network if captured, by putting him on trial the United States would have had nothing to lose as his ideology and beliefs would have been laid bare for all to see.  By allowing him to be properly tried in an open court of law, the myth and legend of the man would have been debunked; he would have been seen as a fragile man who encouraged the killing of innocent civilians through his twisted interpretation of Islam.  Such a process has been done before; at the Nuremberg Trials of 1945 – 46 the remaining twenty four high ranking Nazis were placed on trial, their corrupt and racist beliefs being seen by all.

This is not how Bin Laden would have wanted to have been remembered.  He no doubt died with a smile on his face as he was killed by a Western ‘infidel’ bullet, not through old age and rotting in an American jail, kept alive in a country which he had frequently referred to as the Great Satan.

After all, had Bin Laden been placed on trial and convicted, what better way for the American public to get ‘justice,’ ‘revenge’ and ‘closure’ than by having Osama Bin Laden locked away in a New York high security jail – the very city his followers attacked in an attempt to bring about the demise of America fittingly being the location of his perpetual detention and demise?


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