Monday, May 2, 2011

The OBL news

I've now read some of the NYT coverage. Interesting that it took U.S. intelligence, after determining the real name of Bin Laden's courier, two years to determine the general region in which he was working. I am rather amazed that OBL was living, with some of his family, in a big compound 35 miles from Islamabad (with no phone or Internet connection -- surely they should have put in a phone line to avoid suspicion), rather than in a remote hideout in the border regions. I guess this was on the maxim of 'hide in plain sight'. It seems reasonable to assume that someone(s) in the Pakistani military and/or government apparatus knew he was there, but for the moment this must remain an assumption.

P.s. Will this event change or further complicate the already somewhat strained relations between the U.S. and Pakistan? K. Winecoff thinks not and I agree with that, for reasons I will have to put off explaining till later.

Update (added 5/7): There has been much discussion over the last few days about the fact that OBL did not have his AK-47 and pistol in his hands when he was shot; according to the NYT the weapons were "in arm's reach" but not in his hands. So he was unarmed. Perhaps he was expecting to be taken alive; it's hard to come up with another explanation. Some think this makes the action an extrajudicial execution and that he should have been captured and put on trial. I can see arguments on both sides but cannot get too exercised about this particular action in this particular case. (I do deprecate the celebratory reaction of some, which I think was unseemly and does nothing to enhance the U.S. image in the world.) Militating against capture-and-trial in this case was, among other things, the difficulty the U.S. has had in determining how and where to try Khalid Sheik Mohammad; the problems involved in trying OBL would have been even stickier. However, I think this should be treated as a special case; in general I'm not in favor of the killing of unarmed individuals, no matter what their crimes. More to say, but I'm tired and will leave it at that for now.

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