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Kill or Capture

And this is why I’m a lousy blogger: it takes me three days to seriously answer questions about my previous post. Taking the concepts in turn:

No. Really. You don’t talk about Fight Club.

There is the argument that the electorate deserves to know about Usama’s death. All I can say is that I disagree — that in any conflict between operational security and the public’s desire to know, the public loses. This is one of the advantages of a representative (as opposed to a direct) democracy: the people can still have a say without exposing details to our enemies.

That said, there is also a practical argument against secrecy: the public is going to (eventually) find out that Usama is dead, and the government may want to control that narrative. In that case, the proper statement should have looked something like this:

On May 1st, U.S. forces conducted a raid on an al-Qaeda command center in Pakistan. During the course of the raid, four militants were killed, and Usama bin Laden was positively identified as one of the dead. Operations are  ongoing, so we are unable to comment further at this time.

As it is, the current administration seems to be in a race with the military to see if they can piss away all the intelligence faster than the military can act on it. Assuming, of course, that anything we’re hearing form “highly placed sources” is actually real information, and not simply posturing for the media by folks pretending to know more than they do.

Kill or Capture?

The confusion on my  second point is my fault: I brought up the Ford/Carter/Reagan ban on assassinations in an attempt to speak in short-hand, and fouled up my own argument. The problem, of course, is that the ban is on political assassinations in the absence of war. Obviously, those conditions don’t apply.

No, my real gripe was with the “kill only” meme that was being presented by the media, attributed to the same “highly placed sources” as before. My objection is this: it is illegal for a member of the U.S. military to refuse an offer of surrender. It is also illegal for an officer of the U.S. military (including the C-in-C) to order a subordinate to kill an enemy when surrender is offered.

This means that, had Usama thrown up his hands and shouted “I surrender!” as the operative entered his room, (in the words of Froggy, an ex-SEAL who posts at Blackfive):

he would have taken a muzzle strike to the face, but not any rounds. He would have swallowed some teeth, been flex cuffed, and dragged roughly out to a marshalling area and then onto the helo.

My objection is to the posers want to look hard-core by saying that the team was sent to summarily execute Usama. Usama had an out, had he chosen to take it.

The usual source of confusion is a competing rule of war: you are not required to invite surrender. This means that, had Usama been targeted by a sniper (or a drone), he’d still have the same out — but he’d probably have been dead before he know he could take it.

(Of course, he might not have believed — or wanted to, if he knew — that he could ask for quarter in that situation. Which is why I’m griping about the media presentation of events, and not the actions of the actual shooter.)

The crashed helicopter seems to be a new-fangled stealth chopper.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning a contradictory point to my previous theory: the helicopter that was destroyed on-site appears to have been a stealth helicopter that the public hadn’t seen before. While it is possible that the special operations team might have deliberately crashed such a beast, it is less likely (because in doing so we reveal its existence).

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