How should we react to the slaying of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALS? It is clear by now that the original story of how it was done was not exactly true. Would it have been preferable to just have arrested him? Even that might have been tested in court since the US did not have Pakistani authority for an incursion into their territory. A court might have declared the arrest invalid and ordered his release. Then there would have been all the arguments about the validity of the trial and the necessity of long, drawn out, litigation. I think it takes a decade or more to execute someone under US law.
However, I can think of no law by which the SEALS had the right to execute him in Pakistan.
I have been reading about the 1st World War, when tens of thousands were killed in a single day. The weapons used at the time were often of dubious legality for the rules of war. (The bombing of civilians from airships was definitely forbidden). We talk about the fog of war. The original reason for invading Afghanistan was to capture or kill bin Laden , who by his own admission was the instigator of 9/11 and in any case was already a wanted man for several heinous crimes committed by AK. But a decade has passed and the wounds have healed over a bit. This could hardly be called hot pursuit.
I am reminded of The Searchers and John Wayne's relentless pursuit of the brave who kidnapped Natalie Wood. Long after others had forgotten about the hurt, he pursued his revenge. Was this all about revenge?
What if it was? The USA can act pretty well as it likes in the world and no-one can hold it to account. It may not always be so. But it is a dangerous move for American citizens. If the American President can kill whom he likes without recourse to law, then who is safe?
I am sure many in America will today feel vindicated. The man was clearly a criminal and they will feel that justice has been done. No doubt we will hear a more complete story as the days pass, but one could wish that Osama had been found with an AK47 in his hand.