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Thursday, September 21, 2023
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Bin Laden Assassination

Two Wrongs Don\'t Make a Right

When President Bush alarmed many Americans by declaring bin Laden "Wanted: dead or alive," he meant it. Soon after, he ordered the assassination of Osama bin Laden and allotted the CIA close to $1 billion to begin covert operations to eliminate bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist network.

This was America's first move to assassinate an enemy since the practice was outlawed following public exposure of government-ordered political assassinations in the 1960s and '70s. The executive order that prohibits assassination has been legally overridden by our Bush's new executive order and by our wartime status.

Assassination, though, is incongruous with America's mission to bring the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks to justice. Murdering our enemies betrays the fundamental principles of American government, tarnishes American history and justifies the anti-American movement it hopes to defeat. The United States' goal must be to apprehend and publicly try the leaders of al Qaeda for their crimes - not to murder them.

One of the basic tenets of American justice is that all men are innocent until proven guilty. Bin Laden may not be entitled to the rights of an American citizen, but regardless of his status, we must hold fast to the integrity of a fair trial. America's criminals are all tried, no matter how atrocious their crimes, if for no other reason than to preserve the veracity of our justice system and to ensure we do not hold ourselves to a standard less than that by which we judge our assailants.

When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City we did not send CIA agents to kill him. We arrested him. He was proven guilty and sentenced appropriately. We acted correctly even though doing so was far more difficult than simply striking with emotional, retributive fury.

Not all criminals, though, can be arrested. Bin Laden will no doubt protect himself with force, and great force will be necessary in response, but the goal should be arrest, not homicide. Our president should never issue a death sentence; that is the role of a court, U.S. or U.N.

A history of political assassinations is shameful to any nation. To halt the hideously long list of American assassination attempts - both successful and not - numerous modern presidents have signed executive orders prohibiting political assassination. Regardless of our legal ability to override these decisions, we must be cautions of the repercussions of such actions.

Assassinating our enemies damages international relations. Whether or not they are successful, ethically questionable actions contribute to international distrust of our motives and our actions. In a time when we rely heavily upon international cooperation, covert homicidal missions are especially foolish.

Assassinating bin Laden may actually aid his cause. Killing bin Laden without providing evidence that he was, in fact, the force behind the Sept. 11 attacks - something our government has yet to do publicly - supports his statements that the United States is hypocritical and self-indulgent, and may only fuel the indignation of anti-American factions.

Arresting key members of al Qaeda would assist in locating others involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. There is still doubt about the depth of other nations' involvement in the attacks. Iraq, for example, was highlighted in Sunday night's broadcast of "60 Minutes" as a likely accomplice in the violent crusade against the United States. In a trial, al Qaeda leaders might reveal links to others. Without their confessions we may unknowingly let the true perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks go unpunished.

Our means of eliminating the threat of the al Qaeda terrorist organization must be the destruction of their facilities and the arrest and trial of their leaders. The deaths of terrorists resisting American apprehension may be just - but their assassination by covert operation is not.



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