Torture And War, Ctd

A reader writes:

Can you please give your definition of "detained"? Surely you're missing your reader's point, which is that bin Laden was unarmed and thus presumably he was completely within the control of our forces. For all intents and purposes, he had already been "detained" just as surely as if he had surrendered. In this scenario, bin Laden was shot when he could just as easily have been captured (indeed for all intents and purposes he had been captured; he just wasn't wearing handcuffs yet) because it was more politically convenient to do so. By your own logic, surely you agree that this would be unacceptable?

Okay, this might or might not be what happened. We don't have all the facts. Maybe the SEALs were still under fire and it was unclear whether bringing him back to American soil was possible. But aren't you the guy who excorciates the media for not asking questions? Wouldn't you agree that the conflicting stories and the fact that bin Laden was unarmed makes it worth asking?

Yep, I'd love to see more details. But there were plans to capture him and interrogate him. And firefights in houses in the dark are, it seems to me, unfair to judge retroactively. What I'm saying is that no, fighting your way into a house, potentially being attacked by Pakistani forces or by armed men in the compound, in a high-risk raid is not the same as securely having someone detained in a well-lit cell. Another writes:

What drives me crazy in the rush to proclaim bin Laden "un-armed" is that there is no way the SEALs could have known whether he was armed.  Bin Laden said repeatedly that he would rather be killed than captured, and Al Qaeda loves suicide bombing, favoring explosive vests and other clothing.

Bin Laden not having a gun in his hand did not prove that he was not armed: planners had to assume that either he, his room, or the entire building was rigged to explode and that bin Laden only needed to activate a switch.  Unless he actively surrendered (in which case international rules of war would kick in), operators had to assume that he was about to blow them all up.