Bin Laden: Mission Kill or Mission Capture?

BY Herschel Smith
13 years ago

A striking contradiction has been present for a long time in the so-called war on terror, but this contradiction is highlighted with the recent death of Osama Bin Laden, the highest of all high value targets.  There are two narratives that have developed in the short time since he was killed (it’s amazing that any administration could get things so confused).

The first narrative is that the women were thrown out in front of the men and used as human shields.  This makes me celebrate.  No, not the death of non-combatants, but the action, if it in fact occurred.  Bin Laden, who is routinely shown in file tape toting a Kalashnikov and wearing tactical gear, hid in caves at Tora Bora rather than fight, and then fled when he could.  Rather than fight with his recruits or even be seen in public, he hides behind walls and then when the fight is brought to him, rather than protect his family, he throws them out in front of himself to avoid being shot.

How rich.  Jihadist-Warrior-Martyr my ass.  He was a cowardly weasel.  I’m okay with this.  Or, there is the second narrative to consider, and it makes me happy too.  Rather than fighting from behind women and children, they just got in the way and some perished while others were wounded.  But the legendary, storied SEAL Team 6 simply went in and shot him.  Bin Laden didn’t even have a weapon when he was shot.  In fact, not a single shot was fired at the SEAL Team (presumably the Pakistani police know this because of spent cartridges?).

Working hard to justify this to themselves, they are.  Eric Holder testified before Congress today.

“The operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed was lawful,” Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “He was the head of al-Qaida, an organization that had conducted the attacks of September 11th. He admitted his involvement and he indicated that he would not be taken alive. The operation against bin Laden was justified as an act of national self defense.”

He was a very bad guy and we’re in a war.  Fine.  But wait, there’s more.

Holder said bin Laden was a legitimate military target and he had made no attempt to surrender to the U.S. forces that stormed his fortified compound near Islamabad on Monday. He was shot in the chest and head.

It was lawful to target an enemy commander in the field and the mission was conducted in the way that was consistent with U.S. laws and values, Holder testified, adding that it was a “kill or capture mission.”

“If he had attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that. And therefore his killing was appropriate,” Holder said.

Senator Lindsey Graham chimed in thusly.

“You have to believe this guy was a walking IED,” and that any of the Navy SEALs would have wanted to kill bin Laden as far away as possible from the other members of the American team.

Yes, Lindsey, I routinely put on my explosive vest every day when I get home from work.  I’m sure that Bin Laden was wearing one too.  Holder jumped right on that ridiculous bandwagon by agreeing with Graham, so they both looked even more ridiculous than when they started.

But wait, there’s even more.  The narrative gets muddled.

The SEALs’ decision to fatally shoot bin Laden — even though he didn’t have a weapon – wasn’t an accident.  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.

So by walking this back, Eric Holder is actually placing the SEAL Team 6 members at risk by alleging that there was a fire fight, and that resistance can occur with or without a weapon, and so on.  No one actually believes that a 54 year old man without a weapon is a threat to the most fit, well-trained warriors on earth.  No one.

They shouldn’t feel the need to work so hard at the justification.  We already engage in targeted assassinations, i.e., the drone strikes that kill high value targets all over Western Pakistan, just like the strike that killed Baitullah Mehsud (and that strike killed family members as well).  Baitullah Mehsud couldn’t surrender to an aircraft, and surely wasn’t pointing a weapon at a U.S. service member when he died.  Yet we killed him anyway because he was the enemy, or at least, one of them.

There is confusion over this issue generally because there is confusion at the highest levels of the administration.  It’s why flag officers who should know better tried to hold snipers accountable for murder because they shot an unarmed Taliban commander in Afghanistan.

And herein lies the rub.  We unleashed SEAL Team 6 to kill Bin Laden, apparently, and I don’t have a problem with that.  It isn’t necessary for me to believe that he was holding a weapon or wearing a bomb or somehow a threat to the team.  He wasn’t.  He was the enemy, and that’s enough for me.

But we hold Marines in the Helmand Province, still under fire, fighting for their lives, to a completely different standard.  After recently lampooning the prison system in Afghanistan (something I have done repeatedly), a Marine father responds this way.

According to my son, a USMC 0311 recently returned from Helmand, the effect on their morale when seeing released Taliban was significant. He recalled capturing two bombers after an IED wounded a squad-mate. A week later they saw the two walking by them, smiling and waving. He said apparently American testimony is inadmissible in Afghan courts. Many of the IEDs they saw were command detonated, so they would hustle to catch the bomber.

The officers and visiting Senators would interact with the Afghans, but the 03s in my son’s company didn’t trust any of them, including the imbedded ANP. The only one they would get to know were the interpreters (“terps”), but they were the primary target of the bombers, so they turned over a lot. The squad leaders walked with the terps, so they turned over a lot too.

SEAL Team 6 is to be congratulated.  But there’s still fighting going on.  The catch-and-release program in Afghanistan is a joke, and prisons do not work in counterinsurgency.  The only thing prisons are doing in Afghanistan is making the American fighting man look like a chump when Taliban whom they have captured walk down the road smiling and waving at them.  It isn’t winning any hearts and minds, and it isn’t going to change.  The system is too corrupt, and we don’t want it to change badly enough.  We would rather see Marines lose their legs.

So if you agree with what SEAL Team 6 did to Bin Laden, and if you agree with the drone program, then sleep well.  But if you have a problem with the Marines in Helmand doing the same thing to Taliban fighters, then you are inconsistent.  Consistency isn’t the Hobgoblin of little minds.  It’s the stuff of life.

I simply won’t let this inconsistency pass.  I will force it upon me [you] [y’all] [us] [them] [the administration] [everyone].  It’s not okay to be irrational.  You can’t have it both ways.  If you wanted to see Bin Laden and Baitullah Mehsud dead but you want the Marines to play by different rules in their particular piece of hell, then you must go to sleep tonight knowing that you’re irrational, and you are irrational deep down where it matters most, on basic issues of morality, violence, warfare, life and death.

UPDATE: From the AP.

Only one of the five people killed in the raid that got Osama bin Laden was armed and fired a shot, a senior defense official said Thursday, acknowledging the new account differs greatly from original administration portrayals of a chaotic, intense and prolonged firefight.

The sole shooter in the al-Qaida leader’s Pakistani compound was quickly killed in the early minutes of the commando operation, details that have become clearer now that the Navy SEAL assault team has been debriefed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

He said the raid should be described as a precision, floor-by-floor operation to hunt and find the al-Qaida leader and his protectors, rather than as it has been portrayed by a succession of Obama administration briefers since bin Laden’s death was announced Sunday night.

Increasing clarity, just not from the administration.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On May 5, 2011 at 6:39 am, Lively said:


  2. On May 5, 2011 at 9:40 am, Warbucks said:

    The CIA ran the operation and intelligence that lead to the reported death of Osama bin Laden. What disturbs me is that it was entirely a CIA directed operation …… yet again.

    CIA Mission assignment requires hard intelligence. That’s the time trusted rule.

    On the surface and for its public face, remote viewers are still discredited and ridiculed and played off as harmless kooks unless you actually test them. Then your view of reality may be tested beyond acceptible limits.

    I know for certain that the CIA was given many inputs that Osama bin Laden would be found in Islamabad through remote viewing. The trouble with untrained remote viewers sending in information is time-line control. Untrained remote viewers do not know “when” an event is occurring, they can only see the event. If there is no date given to the event a remote viewer may be looking into future events, now-events, or past events. In any event, rest assured that the CIA knew Islamabad was high-up on the list of probable locations as far back as several years ago.

    So why am I disturbed that this was entirely a CIA driven mission to bring in US Navy Seals and Capture Osama bin Laden? Isn’t this a good thing after all? A great evil has been put down.

    Yes but….. The real question is, when did they know it, and how much did they know? What does that say about who is really running things and why? And what does that say about democracy, world peace, and transparency of government?

    Yes, even though we have high resolution satellites that can accurately read license plates, tell you a target’s hair color, and if they are in uniform or civilian clothes, we never noticed the construction of this high security multi-acre compound with few windows, excessive containment walls, on the edge of Islamabad. Gee-whiz, we missed it until our ground assets first put us on the trail! We just weren’t looking in Islamabad. We had no idea.

    Dig deeper, truth is seldom believable.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Bin Laden: Mission Kill or Mission Capture?", entry #6799 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) al Qaeda,Bin Laden,UBL and was published May 4th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (704)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (40)
Air Power (10)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (22)
Ammunition (277)
Animals (287)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (373)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (86)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (29)
Australian Army (7)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (3)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (220)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (3)
Blogs (24)
Body Armor (23)
Books (3)
Border War (18)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (5)
Canada (17)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (16)
Christmas (16)
CIA (30)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (3)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (218)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (210)
Department of Homeland Security (26)
Disaster Preparedness (5)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (15)
Donald Trump (27)
Drone Campaign (4)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (39)
Featured (189)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,771)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (44)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (9)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,643)
Guns (2,311)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (5)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (16)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (3)
Horses (2)
Humor (72)
Hunting (34)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (108)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (4)
Infrastructure (4)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (171)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (64)
Islamists (98)
Israel (19)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (3)
Jihadists (81)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (7)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (6)
Lawfare (14)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (280)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (68)
Medical (146)
Memorial Day (6)
Mexican Cartels (41)
Mexico (61)
Michael Yon (6)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (5)
Military Equipment (25)
Militia (9)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (25)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (95)
NATO (15)
Navy (30)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (3)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (62)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (221)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (7)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (73)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (4)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (651)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (971)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (493)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (37)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (670)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (23)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (54)
Survival (185)
SWAT Raids (57)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (38)
Tactical Gear (14)
Taliban (168)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (21)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (96)
Thanksgiving (13)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (24)
TSA Ineptitude (13)
TTPs (4)
U.S. Border Patrol (6)
U.S. Border Security (19)
U.S. Sovereignty (24)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (10)
Uncategorized (98)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (412)
War & Warfare (41)
War Movies (4)
War Reporting (21)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (79)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

May 2024
April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2024 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.