SYNDICATED COLUMN: What If Might Made Right?

Reimagining the Assassination of Bin Laden

President Obama murdered Osama bin Laden. I am surprised that the left has been so supportive—not of the end result, but of the way it was carried out.

Imagine if the killing had gone down the same exact way, but under Bush. Armed commandos invade a foreign country, storm into a suburban neighborhood, blow a hole in a house and blow away an unarmed man in front of his 12-year-old daughter. The guy is a murder suspect. Mass murder. But there’s no attempt to arrest him or bring him to justice. They spirit his bloody corpse out of the country and dump it into the ocean.

Osama bin Laden was suspected ordering of one of the most horrific crimes of the decade. He might have been taken alive. Yet Obama’s commandos killed him. A big part of the puzzle—the key to the truth, who might have led us to other people responsible for 9/11—is gone.

Barack Obama is our Jack Ruby.

Liberals would be appalled if this had happened four years ago. They would have protested Bush’s violations of international law and basic human rights. They would have complained about killing the Al Qaeda leader before questioning him about possible terrorist plots. They would have demanded investigations.

But this happened under Obama. Which means that even liberal lawyers who ought to (and probably do) know better are going along. At a panel discussion at the Justice Institute at Pace Law School, University of Houston law professor Jordan Paust asserted: “You can [legally] use military force without consent in foreign countries.”

“At some point a sovereign state [such as Pakistan] that’s harboring an international fugitive loses the right to assert sovereignty,” added Robert Van Lierop.

Paust and Van Lierop are, respectively, a leading opponent of torture at Guantánamo and a former UN ambassador known for his activism on climate change. Both are “liberal.”

In the U.S., conservatives and “liberals” agree: Might makes right. America’s military-intelligence apparatus is so fearsome that it can deploy its soldiers and agents without fear of retribution.

Might makes right.

In 2007, for example, U.S. Special Forces invaded Iran from U.S.-occupied Iraq in order to kidnap Iranian border guards. It was an outrage. In practical terms, however, there was nothing the Iranians could do about it.

The United States’ 900-pound gorilla act might go over better if we weren’t a nation that constantly prattles on and on about how civilized we are, how important it is that everyone follow the rules. For example:

“We’re a nation of laws!” Obama recently exclaimed. “We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate.”

He wasn’t talking about himself. This was about PFC Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of supplying the big Defense Department data dump to WikiLeaks. Manning has been subjected to torture including sleep deprivation and forced nudity—treatment ordered by Obama.

Truth is, the Constitution, our treaty obligations and our stacks of legal codes are worthless paper. We’re not a nation of laws. We’re a nation of gun-toting, missile-lobbing, drone-flying goons.

U.S. officials do whatever they feel like and then dress up their brazenly illegal acts with perverse Orwellian propaganda. “I authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice,” Obama claimed, as if blowing away an unarmed man in a foreign country was the moral equivalent of filing an extradition request with the Pakistani government and putting him on trial before 12 unbiased jurors in a court of law.

Justice is a legal process. It is not a military assault.

When considering the legality or morality of an act it helps to consider different scenarios. What, for example, if Pakistan had military power equal to ours? Last week’s lead news might have begun something like this:

“Pakistan has intercepted four U.S. helicopters over its airspace, forced them to land, and taken 79 “heavily-armed commandos” as prisoners. According to Pakistani military officials, the incident took place about 100 miles from the border of U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. ‘They didn’t stray across the border accidentally. This was a deliberate act,’ said a Pakistani general. President Asif Ali Zardari has asked Pakistan’s nuclear weapons infrastructure has been placed on high alert as the parliament, the Majlis-e-Shoora, considers whether to issue a declaration of war…”

Or let’s assume a different reimagining. What if the United States really was a nation of laws?

Then the news might look like the following:

“Bipartisan demands for Congressional investigations into the assassination of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden quickly escalated into demands for presidential impeachment after reports that U.S. forces operating under orders from President Obama invaded a sovereign nation without permission to carry out what House Speaker John Boehner called ‘a mob-style hit.’ Standing at Boehner’s side, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi decried Obama’s ‘cowboy antics’ and said she had received numerous phone calls from the relatives of 9/11 victims furious that true justice had been denied. Meanwhile, in New York, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon moved for sanctions against the United States…”

In fact, no one knows whether Osama bin Laden was involved in 9/11.

They suspect. They feel.

They don’t know.

For what it’s worth, he denied it:

“Following the latest explosions in the United States, some Americans are pointing the finger at me, but I deny that because I have not done it,” bin Laden said in a statement released on 9/16/01. “The United States has always accused me of these incidents which have been caused by its enemies. Reiterating once again, I say that I have not done it, and the perpetrators have carried this out because of their own interest.”

Why should we believe him? Why not? He admitted his responsibility for the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998.

Interestingly, the FBI never mentioned 9/11 on his “wanted” poster.

There was the famous “confession video”—but it was translated into English by the CIA, hardly an objective source. Arabic language experts say the CIA manipulated bin Laden’s discussion of what he had watched on TV into an admission of guilt. For example, they changed bin Laden’s passive-voice discussion to active: “[the 19 hijackers] were required to go” became, in the CIA version, “we asked each of them to go to America.”

“The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribed them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but that cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it,” said Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg.

Other OBL communiqués appear to take credit for 9/11—but there’s a possibility that he was trying to keep himself relevant for his Islamist audience. Anyway, a confession does not prove guilt. Police receive numerous “confessions” for high-profile crimes. They can’t just shoot everyone who confesses

I’m not angry that Bin Laden is dead. Nor am I happy. I didn’t know the guy or care for his ideology.

I’m angry that, without a trial or a real investigation, we will never know whether he was guilty of 9/11—or, if he was, who else was involved.

Our Jack Ruby, Barack Obama, made sure of that.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is


18 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: What If Might Made Right?

  1. He supported it, he was the defacto head of the terrorist, he never claimed he wasn’t or thought that what happened was wrong, he was the symbol and as toby keith would sing, “we put a boot in his ass”. As Obama himself said, “you bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”. I’m GOP thru and thru but in this case Mr. Obama was right. Just make sure to elect people who reflect the right ideas, because might will prevail and we have the might.

  2. Eliminating Osama Bin Laden this way may not be wrong. After all he presumably sent his “seals” with box cutters and they buried thousand people without trace. But what did Iraqi and Afghan people have done? And what Libyans have done?

    In the country where the death penalty is common, and people go and watch execution, Osama’s elimination process is nothing wrong. But we should not forget how we all dumbed down with that name – Osama to kill thousands of people in other countries.

  3. So, what is better at taking out a bad guy?

    Smart carpet bombing or sending in a Seal Team? We must have at least five more teams ready to go eliminate Mr. Khadaffi.

    Think of the national hard-on if they were to do that successfully!

    We could keep it on the top shelf: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Seal Team 4 is in the bullpen. Kim Jong-il? The Army may want to get in he game.

    Assassination, America doing it right!

  4. Which Navy Seal team or Army Ranger group is headed to Libya to take out Mr. Khadaffi?

    No, no, no, NDJ. The USA doesn’t want effect regime change in Lybia: Hillary assured us so. THey bombed one of his hideouts, killing one of his sons and some of his grandchildren, but they don’t wan regime change. Or rubbing him out. Definitely not. Why would you think that?

  5. In the U.S., conservatives and “liberals” agree: Might makes right.

    Well, to be honest, so do socialists. It’s just that you don’t believe in might in this particular case, n’est-ce pa?

  6. Original version: 15 rich, young Saudis went to Dubai where they recruited two Emiratis, an Egyptian, and one other Arab. They went to Berlin, then London, then the US. They succeeded in hijacking four planes and crashing two into the WTC and one into the Pentagon, using the fact that pre-9/11 hijacking protocol was to mollify any hijackers to reduce the risk to passengers, then take action after the plane was on the ground. Passengers on the fourth plane, informed by their relatives, attacked the hijackers and prevented the destruction of a fourth target. And, of course, once the technique was known, this precluded the possibility that any hijackers could ever repeat 9/11.

    Greatly improved version: A large group, mostly Pakistanis, Afghanis, and Iraqis, co-led by Osama, Saddam Hussein, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, sent 19 youths from Iraq and Afghanistan to destroy the WTC and the Pentagon and one more target (pick the target whose loss you’d most regret–that was it). Bush, Jr. rapidly dispensed justice to Saddam, the leader and chief organiser and sponsor of 9/11, also captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and, thanks to enhanced interrogation, was close to dispensing justice to Osama when term limits intervened, but Obama picked up the torch and delivered justice to Osama, the last member of the leading triad. Congratulations to both Bush, Jr. and Obama for finally providing justice to the victims of 9/11. Now we just need to finish the job, executing all the other terrorists. No trials needed, the US President knows who has been naughty and who has been nice, so trials are a complete waste of time and money, which the US no longer has.


    Given the crowds and the cheering, they would have cheered Bush, Jr. for a similar raid, including the left. Only the far left still thinks people accused of terrorism deserve trials. Under International Law, the US has no obligation to try any of them, it has the absolute right to execute them all summarily. An accusation by the US president or one of his henchpersons is a more binding and irrefutable proof of guilt than any conviction by a judge and/or jury.


    Finally, Bush, Jr. never allowed any members of the US to use torture. He did this by using an executive order to correct a serious error in the English language: the word ‘torture’ can never, under US law, be applied to anything ordered by the President of the US, including techniques at which Tom Torquemada would blanch (after all, Torquemada didn’t even have electrodes he could attach to the genitals of suspected heretics). And Obama has promised never to use ‘torture’. Meaning, torture as defined by Bush, Jr.

  7. Oopse, sorry for the double now triple post, the top one has a few more typos then the second one, but it doesn’t really matter. Computer was acting strange when I hit submit.

  8. Good work as usual, but in the hypothetical new portions, the one that would have been the best, would be the one where Pakistan was the 900 pound Gorilla and the US just had to take its crap. With Pakistan sending elite troops into the sovereign Nation of the US to assassinate the war criminal George W. Bush without a trial.

  9. Good work as usual, but in the hypothetical new portions, the one that would have been the best, would be the one where Pakistan was the 900 pound Gurilla and the US just had to take its crap. With Pakistan sending elite troups into the sovereign Nation of the US to assassinate the war criminal George W. Bush without a trial.

  10. I agree with con du jour.

    We shouldn’t trust Frogs & Blimeys: They just managed to kill one of Gaddafi’s sons + 3 grandchildren. Good thing, no doubt. But poor performance. Let’s send in our own red-bloodied American thugs.

    BTW, did you notice Rall censored the whole thread about OBL & Poly Styrene?

    Bravo Ted!

  11. Which Navy Seal team or Army Ranger group is headed to Libya to take out Mr. Khadaffi?

    Aren’t the Americans who died over Scotland or in a Disco in Germany or other places linked to Libyan terrorist groups sanctioned by Mr. Khadaffi worthy of his murder?

  12. Thank you as always for saying the things I’ve been waiting for someone to say. The US air force is the biggest air force in the world. The second biggest is the United States Navy. The only way we are superior to any nation is in our military spending which dwarfs any other nation. I take that back we also lead the world in our longing to be morally superior; I just wish our leaders lived up to those morals.

  13. You know what, I’m not going to spend the time telling you why you are wrong on this one Ted, I will just say you are wrong. There is a lot of shit to criticize Obama for, but this isn’t one of them. Obama did the right thing in taking out Osama.

  14. “Interestingly, the FBI never mentioned 9/11 on his “wanted” poster”
    Yeah, huh?
    How is it that I feel like Rorschach at the end of Watchmen?
    What was it that Dr.Manhattan said about “nothing ever really ending”??
    Would you eat a lie for a little higher ground?
    Dorme bene.

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