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With painful predictability, the British Left greeted what most of the West greeted as a good thing — Osama bin Laden's belated embrace of 72 virgins with a kinky thing for mass-murderers — with queasy handwringing. Following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury's assertion that the killing of an unarmed man left him "uncomfortable" came a cascade of commentary niggling over the legality of state-sponsored assassination, and anguishing that surely the US Navy Seals could have captured the FBI's most-wanted criminal alive to stand trial.

Let's leave aside the Obama administration's hamfisted backtracking about what, exactly, went on in Abbottabad. I do not care whether Osama was cowering behind his wife, whether he had a gun, or whether there was a firefight. I'm just glad he's dead.

The legalities seem straightforward. A non-state actor yes, but bin Laden and his comrades had declared unequivocal war on the US, and the rules of war applied. Wartime killings are nearly all "extrajudicial"; enemy combatants in the field aren't put on trial before becoming fair game. Legitimate targets needn't be brandishing a weapon, either; thus the Seals were not obliged to wait patiently for bin Laden to scrounge his AK from under his bed before they fired. No evidence suggests bin Laden made an effort to surrender. Case closed.

Yet it is worth scrutinising this nitpicking obsession with due process. European liberals are prone to get so het-up about ends not justifying means that they forget all about the ends; the only thing that matters is how you get there. While I'd broadly advocate following legal protocol, I also care about what happens. The European Left is living in a lofty, purist universe while the rest of the world is adhering to the old rules of brute force. Facilitated by Western moral vanity, thugs can easily play the goody-goodies for suckers.

The most dramatic example of Western prissiness being played for all its worth is in the shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia, where pirates are making hundreds of millions of dollars annually from ransoms for hijacked vessels. Earlier this year, the ransom for the chemical container ship Marida Marguerite alone was $5.4 million, and the captured seamen were tortured on board.  The greater part of the western Indian Ocean is now designated "high-risk", and the threat of ever-escalating Somali piracy could soon paralyse shipping lanes as far as the Suez Canal. Yet even when the culprits are captured, most of these cutthroats are simply let go, because crews are befuddled about jurisdiction and the complex niceties of bringing the pirates to trial.

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June 20th, 2011
11:06 PM
Shriver is so obviously uninformed that I don't know where to start. How about the fact that the Bin Laden was only ever a suspect in the 9/11 atrocities? Wouldn't the families of those killed on 9/11 want to know exactly who was involved? Or perhaps you, like your ex-president George W. Bush, just 'know he did it'? Perhaps, similarly to Bush, you don't think 'evidence' means anything? 'Just shoot the bastards' - that's exactly the same attitude that Al-Qaeda fighters have towards their 'enemies'. I wonder, Ms Shriver, if you were in Baghdad during the indiscriminate American bombing campaigns, or if you even care about the horrific atrocities carried out by US forces in Abu Ghraib Prison? Maybe if you were one of the family of one of the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, you would understand why the cold-blooded assassination of Osama Bin Laden, was the ultimate insult to all involved. Unfortunately, you are a deep-seeded, western triumphalist agitator, who cares nothing about your own country rampaging around the world, committing war crimes and assorted atrocities. Like Osama Bin Laden, the other criminals in this horrific saga in human history, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, will also escape justice.

May 31st, 2011
9:05 PM
'"Just shoot the bastards" as a doctrine should obviously be applied sparingly' writes Ms Shriver, but the rest of her article doesn't make this seem obvious at all. For example, was it wrong not to execute Saddam Hussein immediately on capture? A non-state actor at that point, but so what? What about the arrest of Mladic? Another mistake? Who decides when the 'bastard' should be shot, when apprehended? Perhaps it would be easier to outline the conditions under which 'nitpicking obsession with due process' _is_ permissible? How do we avoid the arbitrary exercise of power? Or is it impertinent to raise questions like these if you weren't in Manhattan on 9/11?

May 28th, 2011
5:05 PM
Ideally, it would have been far better for Osama to have been brought to trial, and the world would have witnessed Western justice. But it could never have happened. Thousands of islamists would immediately have started murdering. More pertinently, dozens, probably hundreds, of innocent people - tourists, diplomatic staff, perhaps people on cruise ships, would have been kidnapped. Then the killings would have started - men women and children - perhaps by a bullet through the head, perhaps by beheadings. How long would an American president and government take to release Osama? 24 hours?

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