Revolutionizing Awareness

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There Is Much More to Say

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2011

Monday 23 May 2011

After the assassination of bin Laden I received such a deluge of requests for comment that I was unable to respond individually, and on May 4 and later I sent an unedited form response instead, not intending for it to be posted, and expecting to write it up more fully and carefully later on. But it was posted, then circulated. It can now be found, reposted, at http://www.zcommunications.org/my-reaction-to-osama-bin-laden-s-death-by-noam-chomsky.

That was followed but a deluge of reactions from all over the world. It is far from a scientific sample of course, but nevertheless, the tendencies may be of some interest. Overwhelmingly, those from the “third world” were on the order of “thanks for saying what we think.”  There were similar ones from the US, but many others were infuriated, often virtually hysterical, with almost no relation to the actual content of the posted form letter. That was true in particular of the posted or published responses brought to my attention. I have received a few requests to comment on several of these. Frankly, it seems to me superfluous. If there is any interest, I’ll nevertheless find some time to do so.

The original letter ends with the comment that “There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.” Here I will fill in some of the gaps, leaving the original otherwise unchanged in all essentials.

Noam Chomsky

May 2011

On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was kil­led in his vir­tual­ly un­protec­ted com­pound by a raid­ing mis­s­ion of 79 Navy Seals, who en­tered Pakis­tan by helicopt­er. After many lurid sto­ries were pro­vided by the govern­ment and with­drawn, of­fici­al re­ports made it in­creasing­ly clear that the op­era­tion was a plan­ned as­sas­sina­tion, multi­p­ly violat­ing elemen­ta­ry norms of in­ter­nation­al law, be­ginn­ing with the in­vas­ion it­self.

There ap­pears to have been no at­tempt to apprehend the un­ar­med vic­tim, as pre­sumab­ly could have been done by 79 com­man­dos fac­ing no op­posi­tion – ex­cept, they re­port, from his wife, also un­ar­med, who they shot in self-defense when she “lun­ged” at them (ac­cord­ing to the White House).

A plausib­le re­construc­tion of the events is pro­vided by veteran Mid­dle East cor­res­pondent Yochi Dreaz­en and col­leagues in the At­lantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/05/goal-was-never-to-capture-bin-laden/238330/). Dreaz­en, for­mer­ly the milita­ry cor­res­pondent for the Wall Street Journ­al, is sen­ior cor­res­pondent for the Nation­al Journ­al Group co­ver­ing milita­ry af­fairs and nation­al secur­ity. Ac­cord­ing to their in­ves­tiga­tion, White House plann­ing ap­pears not to have con­sidered the opt­ion of cap­tur­ing OBL alive: “The ad­ministra­tion had made clear to the military’s clan­destine Joint Speci­al Op­era­tions Com­mand that it wan­ted bin Laden dead, ac­cord­ing to a sen­ior U.S. of­fici­al with know­ledge of the dis­cuss­ions. A high-ranking milita­ry of­fic­er briefed on the as­sault said the SEALs knew their mis­s­ion was not to take him alive.”

The aut­hors add: “For many at the Pen­tagon and the Centr­al In­tel­lig­ence Agen­cy who had spent near­ly a de­cade hunt­ing bin Laden, kill­ing the militant was a neces­sa­ry and just­ified act of ven­gean­ce.” Further­more, “Cap­tur­ing bin Laden alive would have also pre­sen­ted the ad­ministra­tion with an array of nettlesome legal and polit­ical chal­lenges.” Bet­t­er, then, to as­sas­sinate him, dump­ing his body into the sea with­out the auto­psy con­sidered es­senti­al after a kill­ing, wheth­er con­sidered just­ified or not – an act that pre­dic­tab­ly pro­voked both anger and skep­tic­ism in much of the Mus­lim world.

As the At­lantic in­qui­ry ob­ser­ves, “The de­cis­ion to kill bin Laden out­right was the clearest il­lustra­tion to date of a little-noticed as­pect of the Obama ad­ministration’s co­un­terter­ror poli­cy. The Bush ad­ministra­tion cap­tured thousands of sus­pec­ted militants and sent them to de­ten­tion camps in Afghanis­tan, Iraq, and Guan­tanamo Bay. The Obama ad­ministra­tion, by contra­st, has focused on eliminat­ing in­dividu­al ter­ror­ists rath­er than at­tempt­ing to take them alive.” That is one sig­nificant dif­fer­ence bet­ween Bush and Obama. The aut­hors quote form­er West Ger­man Chan­cellor Hel­mut Schmidt, who “told Ger­man TV that the U.S. raid was ‘quite clear­ly a viola­tion of in­ter­nation­al law’ and that bin Laden should have been de­tained and put on trial,” contra­st­ing Schmidt with US At­torney Gener­al Eric Hold­er, who “de­fen­ded the de­cis­ion to kill bin Laden al­though he didn’t pose an im­mediate threat to the Navy SEALs, tell­ing a House panel on Tues­day that the as­sault had been ‘law­ful, legitimate and approp­riate in every way’.”

The dis­pos­al of the body with­out auto­psy was also criticized by al­l­ies. The high­ly re­gar­ded British bar­rist­er Geoffrey Robertson, who sup­por­ted the in­ter­ven­tion and op­posed the ex­ecu­tion lar­ge­ly on prag­matic grounds, nevertheless de­scribed Obama’s claim that “just­ice was done” as an “ab­surd­ity” that should have been ob­vi­ous to a form­er pro­fes­sor of con­stitution­al law (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-03/osama-bin-laden-death-why-he-should-have-been-captured-not-killed/). Pakis­tan law “re­quires a col­oni­al in­quest on violent death, and in­ter­nation­al human rights law in­s­ists that the ‘right to life’ man­dates an in­qui­ry whenev­er violent death oc­curs from govern­ment or police ac­tion. The U.S. is therefore under a duty to hold an in­qui­ry that will satis­fy the world as to the true cir­cumstan­ces of this kill­ing.” Robertson adds that “The law per­mits crimin­als to be shot in self-defense if they (or their ac­complices) re­s­ist ar­rest in ways that end­ang­er those striv­ing to apprehend them. They should, if pos­sible, be given the op­por­tun­ity to sur­rend­er, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive if that can be ac­hieved with­out risk. Ex­act­ly how bin Laden came to be ‘shot in the head’ (es­pecial­ly if it was the back of his head, execution-style) therefore re­quires ex­plana­tion. Why a hasty ‘buri­al at sea’ with­out a post mor­tem, as the law re­quires?”

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Robertson attributes the murd­er to “America’s ob­ses­sive be­lief in capit­al punishment—alone among ad­vanced nations—[which] is re­flec­ted in its re­joic­ing at the man­n­er of bin Laden’s de­m­ise.” For ex­am­ple, Na­tioncol­umn­ist Eric Al­ter­man writes that “The kill­ing of Osama bin Laden was a just and neces­sa­ry un­der­tak­ing.”

Robertson useful­ly re­minds us that “It was not al­ways thus. When the time came to con­sid­er the fate of men much more steeped in wic­ked­ness than Osama bin Laden — name­ly the Nazi leadership — the British govern­ment wan­ted them han­ged with­in six hours of cap­ture. Pre­sident Truman de­mur­red, cit­ing the con­clus­ion of Just­ice Robert Jackson that sum­ma­ry ex­ecu­tion ‘would not sit eas­i­ly on the American con­sci­ence or be re­mem­bered by our childr­en with pride…the only co­ur­se is to de­ter­mine the in­noc­ence or guilt of the ac­cused after a hear­ing as dis­pas­sionate as the times will per­mit and upon a re­cord that will leave our rea­sons and motives clear’.”

The editors of the Daily Beast com­ment that “The joy is un­derstand­able, but to many out­sid­ers, un­attrac­tive. It end­or­ses what looks in­creasing­ly like a cold-blooded as­sas­sina­tion as the White House is now for­ced to admitthat Osama bin Laden was un­ar­med when he was shot twice in the head.”

In societ­ies that pro­fess some re­spect for law, sus­pects are apprehen­ded and brought to fair trial. I stress “sus­pects.” In June 2002, FBI head Robert Muell­er, in what the Was­hington Post de­scribed as “among his most de­tailed pub­lic com­ments on the origins of the at­tacks,” could say only that “in­ves­tigators be­lieve the idea of the Sept. 11 at­tacks on the World Trade Cent­er and Pen­tagon came from al Qaeda lead­ers in Afghanis­tan, the ac­tu­al plott­ing was done in Ger­many, and the fin­anc­ing came through the Uni­ted Arab Em­irates from sour­ces in Afghanis­tan…. We think the mas­terminds of it were in Afghanis­tan, high in the al Qaeda leadership.” What the FBI be­lieved and thought in June 2002 they didn’t know eight months ear­li­er, when Was­hington dis­mis­sed ten­tative of­f­ers by the Taliban (how seri­ous, we do not know) to extra­dite bin Laden if they were pre­sen­ted with evi­d­ence. Thus it is not true, as the Pre­sident claimed in his White House state­ment, that “We quick­ly lear­ned that the 9/11 at­tacks were car­ried out by al Qaeda.”

There has never been any rea­son to doubt what the FBI be­lieved in mid-2002, but that leaves us far from the proof of guilt re­quired in civilized societ­ies – and whatev­er the evi­d­ence might be, it does not war­rant mur­der­ing a sus­pect who could, it seems, have been eas­i­ly apprehen­ded and brought to trial. Much the same is true of evi­d­ence pro­vided since. Thus the 9/11 Com­miss­ion pro­vided ex­ten­sive cir­cumstan­ti­al evi­d­ence of bin Laden’s role in 9/11, based primari­ly on what it had been told about con­fess­ions by prison­ers in Guan­tanamo. It is doubt­ful that much of that would hold up in an in­depen­dent court, con­sider­ing the ways con­fess­ions were elicited. But in any event, the con­clus­ions of a con­gres­sional­ly aut­horized in­ves­tiga­tion, howev­er con­vinc­ing one finds them, plain­ly fall short of a sen­t­ence by a credib­le court, which is what shifts the cat­ego­ry of the ac­cused from sus­pect to con­vic­ted. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “con­fess­ion,” but that was a boast, not a con­fess­ion, with as much credibil­ity as my “con­fess­ion” that I won the Bos­ton marat­hon. The boast tells us a lot about his charact­er, but noth­ing about his re­spon­sibil­ity for what he re­gar­ded as a great ac­hieve­ment, for which he wan­ted to take credit.

Again, all of this is, trans­parent­ly, quite in­depen­dent of one’s judg­ments about his re­spon­sibil­ity, which seemed clear im­mediate­ly, even be­fore the FBI in­qui­ry, and still does.

It is worth add­ing that bin Laden’s re­spon­sibil­ity was re­cog­nized in much of the Mus­lim world, and con­dem­ned. One sig­nificant ex­am­ple is the dis­tin­guis­hed Lebanese cleric Sheikh Fad­lallah, great­ly re­spec­ted by Hiz­bollah and Shia groups general­ly, out­side Lebanon as well. He too had been tar­geted for as­sas­sina­tion: by a truck bomb out­side a mos­que, in a CIA-organized op­era­tion in 1985. He es­caped, but 80 oth­ers were kil­led, most­ly women and girls, as they left the mos­que – one of those in­numer­able crimes that do not enter the an­n­als of ter­ror be­cause of the fal­la­cy of “wrong agen­cy.” Sheikh Fad­lallah sharp­ly con­dem­ned the 9/11 at­tacks, as did many other lead­ing figures in the Mus­lim world, with­in the Jihadi move­ment as well. Among oth­ers, the head of Hiz­bollah, Sayyid Has­san Nas­rallah, sharp­ly con­dem­ned bin Laden and Jihadi ideology.

One of the lead­ing special­ists on the Jihadi move­ment, Fawaz Ger­ges, sug­gests that the move­ment might have been split at that time had the US ex­ploited the op­por­tun­ity in­stead of mobiliz­ing the move­ment, par­ticular­ly by the at­tack on Iraq, a great boon to bin Laden, which led to a sharp in­crease in ter­ror, as in­tel­lig­ence agen­cies had anti­cipated. That con­clus­ion was con­fir­med by the form­er head of Britain’s domes­tic in­tel­lig­ence agen­cy MI5 at the Chil­cot hear­ings in­ves­tigat­ing the background for the war. Con­firm­ing other an­alyses, she tes­tified that both British and US in­tel­lig­ence were aware that Sad­dam posed no seri­ous threat and that the in­vas­ion was li­ke­ly to in­crease ter­ror; and that the in­vas­ions of Iraq and Afghanis­tan had radicalized parts of a genera­tion of Mus­lims who saw the milita­ry ac­tions as an “at­tack on Islam.” As is often the case, secur­ity was not a high prior­ity for state ac­tion.

It might be in­struc­tive to ask our­selves how we would be rea­ct­ing if Iraqi com­man­dos lan­ded at Geor­ge W. Bush’s com­pound, as­sas­sinated him, and dum­ped his body in the At­lantic (after pro­p­er buri­al rites, of co­ur­se). Un­controver­sial­ly, he is not a “sus­pect” but the “de­cid­er” who gave the ord­ers to in­vade Iraq — that is, to com­mit the “sup­reme in­ter­nation­al crime dif­fer­ing only from other war crimes in that it con­tains with­in it­self the ac­cumulated evil of the whole” (quot­ing the Nurem­berg Tri­bun­al) for which Nazi crimin­als were han­ged: in Iraq, the hundreds of thousands of de­aths, mill­ions of re­fugees, de­struc­tion of much of the co­unt­ry and the nation­al heritage, and the mur­der­ous sec­tarian con­flict that has now spread to the rest of the re­g­ion. Equal­ly un­controver­sial­ly, these crimes vast­ly ex­ceed an­yth­ing attributed to bin Laden.

To say that all of this is un­controver­si­al, as it is, is not to imply that it is not de­nied. The ex­ist­ence of flat earth­ers does not chan­ge the fact that, un­controver­sial­ly, the earth is not flat. Similar­ly, it is un­controver­si­al that Stalin and Hitl­er were re­spon­sible for hor­rend­ous crimes, though loyal­ists deny it. All of this should, again, be too ob­vi­ous for com­ment, and would be, ex­cept in an at­mosphere of hyst­eria so ex­treme that it blocks ration­al thought.

Similar­ly, it is un­controver­si­al that Bush and as­sociates did com­mit the “sup­reme in­ter­nation­al crime,” the crime of aggress­ion, at least if we take the Nurem­berg Tri­bun­al serious­ly. The crime of aggress­ion was de­fined clear­ly en­ough by Just­ice Robert Jackson, Chief of Co­un­sel for the Uni­ted States at Nurem­berg, re­iterated in an aut­horitative Gener­al As­semb­ly re­solu­tion. An “aggres­sor,” Jackson pro­posed to the Tri­bun­al in his op­en­ing state­ment, is a state that is the first to com­mit such ac­tions as “In­vas­ion of its armed for­ces, with or with­out a de­clara­tion of war, of the ter­rito­ry of an­oth­er State….” No one, even the most ex­treme sup­port­er of the aggress­ion, de­n­ies that Bush and as­sociates did just that.

We might also do well to re­call Jackson’s eloquent words at Nurem­berg on the prin­ci­ple of uni­ver­sal­ity: “If cer­tain acts of viola­tion of treat­ies are crimes, they are crimes wheth­er the Uni­ted States does them or wheth­er Ger­many does them, and we are not pre­pared to lay down a rule of crimin­al con­duct against oth­ers which we would not be will­ing to have in­voked against us.” And el­sewhere: “We must never for­get that the re­cord on which we judge these de­fen­dants is the re­cord on which his­to­ry will judge us tomor­row. To pass these de­fen­dants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

It is also clear that al­leged in­ten­tions are ir­relevant. Japanese fasc­ists ap­parent­ly did be­lieve that by ravag­ing China they were labor­ing to turn it into an “earth­ly para­d­ise.” We don’t know wheth­er Hitl­er be­lieved that he was de­fend­ing Ger­many from the “wild ter­ror” of the Poles, or was tak­ing over Czec­hoslovakia to pro­tect its popula­tion from ethnic con­flict and pro­vide them with the be­nefits of a super­ior cul­ture, or was sav­ing the glo­ries of the civiliza­tion of the Greeks from bar­barians of East and West, as his acolytes claimed (Mar­tin Heidegg­er). And it’s even con­ceiv­able that Bush and com­pany be­lieved that they were pro­tect­ing the world from de­struc­tion by Sad­dam’s nuc­lear weapons. All ir­relevant, though ar­dent loyal­ists on all sides may try to con­vin­ce them­selves ot­herw­ise.

We are left with two choices: eith­er Bush and as­sociates are guil­ty of the “sup­reme in­ter­nation­al crime” in­clud­ing all the evils that fol­low, crimes that go vast­ly be­yond an­yth­ing attributed to bin Laden; or else we de­clare that the Nurem­berg pro­ceed­ings were a farce and that the al­l­ies were guil­ty of judici­al murd­er. Again, that is en­tire­ly in­depen­dent of the ques­tion of the guilt of those char­ged: es­tablis­hed by the Nurem­berg Tri­bun­al in the case of the Nazi crimin­als, plausib­ly sur­mised from the out­set in the case of bin Laden.

A few days be­fore the bin Laden as­sas­sina­tion, Or­lando Bosch died peaceful­ly in Florida, where he re­sided along with his ter­ror­ist ac­complice Luis Posada Caril­les, and many oth­ers. After he was ac­cused of dozens of ter­ror­ist crimes by the FBI, Bosch was gran­ted a pre­siden­ti­al par­don by Bush I over the ob­jec­tions of the Just­ice De­part­ment, which found the con­clus­ion “in­es­cap­able that it would be pre­judici­al to the pub­lic in­terest for the Uni­ted States to pro­vide a safe haven for Bosch. ”The co­in­cid­ence of de­aths at once calls to mind the Bush II doctrine, which has “al­ready be­come a de facto rule of in­ter­nation­al re­la­tions,” ac­cord­ing to the noted Har­vard in­ter­nation­al re­la­tions special­ist Graham Al­lison. The doctrine re­vokes “the sovereignty of states that pro­vide sanctua­ry to ter­ror­ists,” Al­lison writes, re­ferr­ing to the pro­noun­ce­ment of Bush II that “those who har­bor ter­ror­ists are as guil­ty as the ter­ror­ists them­selves,” di­rec­ted to the Taliban. Such states, therefore, have lost their sovereignty and are fit tar­gets for bomb­ing and ter­ror; for ex­am­ple, the state that har­bored Bosch and his as­sociate — not to men­tion some rath­er more sig­nificant can­didates. When Bush is­sued this new “de facto rule of in­ter­nation­al re­la­tions,” no one seemed to notice that he was call­ing for in­vas­ion and de­struc­tion of the US and murd­er of its crimin­al pre­sidents.

None of this is pro­blematic, of co­ur­se, if we re­ject Just­ice Jackson’s prin­ci­ple of uni­ver­sal­ity, and adopt in­stead the prin­ci­ple that the US is self-immunized against in­ter­nation­al law and con­ven­tions — as, in fact, the govern­ment has frequent­ly made very clear, an im­por­tant fact, much too lit­tle un­derstood.

It is also worth think­ing about the name given to the op­era­tion: Op­era­tion Geronimo. The im­peri­al men­tal­ity is so pro­found that few seem able to per­ceive that the White House is glorify­ing bin Laden by call­ing him “Geronimo” — the lead­er of co­urage­ous re­sis­tance to the in­vad­ers who sought to con­sign his peo­ple to the fate of “that hap­less race of native Americans, which we are ex­ter­minat­ing with such mer­ciless and per­fidi­ous cruel­ty, among the hein­ous sins of this na­tion, for which I be­lieve God will one day bring [it] to jud­ge­ment,” in the words of the great grand strateg­ist John Quin­cy Adams, the in­tel­lectu­al architect of man­ifest de­stiny, long after his own con­tribu­tions to these sins had pas­sed. Some did com­prehend, not sur­prising­ly. The re­mnants of that hap­less race pro­tes­ted vigorous­ly. Choice of the name is re­minis­cent of the ease with which we name our­murd­er weapons after vic­tims of our crimes: Apac­he, Blackhawk. Tomahawk,… We might react dif­ferent­ly if the Luftwaf­fe were to call its fight­er planes “Jew” and “Gypsy”.

The ex­am­ples men­tioned would fall under the cat­ego­ry “American ex­cep­tional­ism,” were it not for the fact that easy sup­press­ion of one’s own crimes is vir­tual­ly ubiquit­ous among power­ful states, at least those that are not de­feated and for­ced to acknow­ledge rea­l­ity. Other cur­rent il­lustra­tions are too numer­ous to men­tion. To take just one, of great cur­rent sig­nifican­ce, con­sid­er Obama’s ter­ror weapons (drones) in Pakis­tan. Sup­pose that dur­ing the 1980s, when they were oc­cupy­ing Afghanis­tan, the Rus­sians had car­ried out tar­geted as­sas­sina­tions in Pakis­tan aimed at those who were fin­anc­ing, arm­ing and train­ing the in­sur­gents – quite pro­ud­ly and op­en­ly. For ex­am­ple, tar­get­ing the CIA sta­tion chief in Is­lamabad, who ex­plained that he “loved” the “noble goal” of his mis­s­ion: to “kill Soviet Sol­diers…not to li­berate Afghanis­tan.” There is no need to im­agine the rea­c­tion, but there is a cruci­al dis­tinc­tion: that was them, this is us.

What are the li­ke­ly con­sequ­ences of the kill­ing of bin Laden? For the Arab world, it will pro­bab­ly mean lit­tle. He had long been a fad­ing pre­s­ence, and in the past few months was ec­lipsed by the Arab Spr­ing. His sig­nifican­ce in the Arab world is cap­tured by the head­line in the New York Times for an op-ed by Mid­dle East/al Qaeda special­ist Gil­les Kepel; “Bin Laden was Dead Al­ready.” Kepel writes that few in the Arab world are li­ke­ly to care. That head­line might have been dated far ear­li­er, had the US not mobilized the Jihadi move­ment by the at­tacks on Afghanis­tan and Iraq, as sug­gested by the in­tel­lig­ence agen­cies and scholarship. As for the Jihadi move­ment, with­in it bin Laden was doubtless a venerated sym­bol, but ap­parent­ly did not play much more of a role for this “net­work of net­works,” as an­alysts call it, which un­der­take most­ly in­depen­dent op­era­tions.

The most im­mediate and sig­nificant con­sequ­ences are li­ke­ly to be in Pakis­tan. There is much dis­cuss­ion of Was­hington’s anger that Pakis­tan didn’t turn over bin Laden. Less is said about the fury in Pakis­tan that the US in­vaded their ter­rito­ry to carry out a polit­ical as­sas­sina­tion. Anti-American fer­vor had al­ready rea­ched a very high peak in Pakis­tan, and these events are li­ke­ly to ex­acer­bate it.

Pakis­tan is the most dan­ger­ous co­unt­ry on earth, also the world’s fas­test grow­ing nuc­lear power, with a huge ar­sen­al. It is held togeth­er by one st­able in­stitu­tion, the milita­ry. One of the lead­ing special­ists on Pakis­tan and its milita­ry, An­atol Li­ev­en, writes that “if the US ever put Pakis­tani sol­di­ers in a posi­tion where they felt that honour and pat­riot­ism re­quired them to fight America, many would be very glad to do so.” And if Pakis­tan col­lap­sed, an “ab­solute­ly in­evit­able re­sult would be the flow of large numb­ers of high­ly trained ex-soldiers, in­clud­ing ex­plosive ex­perts and en­gine­ers, to ex­trem­ist groups.” That is the prima­ry threat he sees of leakage of fis­sile materi­als to Jihadi hands, a hor­rend­ous even­tual­ity.

The Pakis­tani milita­ry have al­ready been pus­hed to the edge by US at­tacks on Pakis­tani sovereignty. One fac­tor is the drone at­tacks in Pakis­tan that Obama es­calated im­mediate­ly after the kill­ing of bin Laden, rubb­ing salt in the wounds. But there is much more, in­clud­ing the de­mand that the Pakis­tani milita­ry co­operate in the US war against the Afghan Taliban, whom the over­whelm­ing major­ity of Pakis­tanis, the milita­ry in­cluded, see as fight­ing a just war of re­sis­tance against an in­vad­ing army, ac­cord­ing to Li­ev­en.

The bin Laden op­era­tion could have been the spark that set off a con­flag­ra­tion, with dire con­sequ­ences, par­ticular­ly if the in­vad­ing force had been com­pel­led to fight its way out, as was anti­cipated. Per­haps the as­sas­sina­tion was per­ceived as an “act of ven­gean­ce,” as Robertson con­cludes. Whatev­er the motive was, it could hard­ly have been secur­ity. As in the case of the “sup­reme in­ter­nation­al crime” in Iraq, the bin Laden as­sas­sina­tion il­lustrates that secur­ity is often not a high prior­ity for state ac­tion, contra­ry to re­ceived doctrine.

There is much more to say, but even the most ob­vi­ous and elemen­ta­ry facts should pro­vide us with a good deal to think about.

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