I have interrupted the writing of a rather more lengthy post about some of the questions raised by Osama bin Laden’s death because I am starting to become alarmed at the spread of claims that he is not in fact dead and that the claim that he is dead is false and the result of some sort of plot. I was particularly troubled that the normally level headed Craig Murray seems to have succumbed to this foolishness.
I have absolutely no doubt that Osama bin Laden is dead. I do not need to see his body to believe that he is dead. I find the demand that the Americans produce photographic evidence that he is dead frankly ghoulish. In fact I would prefer not to be shown such “evidence”, which to my mind adds nothing. The Americans have no possible motive to pretend that Osama is dead if he is actually alive. On the contrary they would be setting themselves up for complete humiliation when he eventually reappeared alive as in that case he would be bound to do. In addition any conspiracy theories concerning his death have to take into account the need for collusion by the young men who make up the Navy SEALS team that actually carried out the operation. It beggars belief that all of them would be in on such a complex and absurd plot.
I also wish to comment on two further points. Some are saying that the Americans were wrong to kill Osama and that this looks like a premeditated extra judicial killing, in effect a murder, and that Osama should instead have been captured and put on trial. There is also some criticism about the expressions of pleasure in America at the news of his death.
On the first point I should say that I am someone who on principle is strongly opposed to extra judicial killings and that I have no doubt that Osama’s murder was one such. Having said this I have to say that on this occasion I can see that there might be a good reason for it. Taking someone like Osama alive would have exposed every western traveller in the Middle East to the serious risk of kidnapping as Osama’s followers sought to ransom their leader in order to secure his release. Osama’s profile is of an entirely different order to that of any of the other jihadi leaders captured up to now and it seems to me that the threat of such kidnappings would have been very real. With Osama dead whilst there is a possibility of some revenge attacks after some time the risk of this will fade. By contrast with Osama alive in prison the risk of kidnappings to secure his release would have been never ending. For various reasons I will go into in my next post I doubt that a trial would have produced much more information about the jihadi movement or Al Qaeda or the planning and direction of the 9/11 terrorist attacks than is known already whilst there is no need to prove Osama’s involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks given that he has publicly assumed responsibility for them. Moreover if at the conclusion of the trial Osama had been sentenced to death and executed the effect on opinion in the Muslim world might have been catastrophic. Though I say it very grudgingly Osama’s death in a firefight does appear to me the least unsatisfactory end to this affair. As for whether or not it is right to be happy that he is dead personally I do not take pleasure in the death of any human being but the expressions of joy at his death are human reactions, which given the violent nature of his career were all but inevitable.