Kevin Myers: Why the US was morally right to hunt down and kill Bin Laden
Published 06/05/2011 | 05:00
The "rightness" of killing tyrants is something which has taxed moral philosophers since Plato. In the middle of a war, in which many thousands have already died, and in which the perceptions of power are every bit as important as territory held or numbers of men under arms, arguments about such killings tend to shift away from the morality of the deed, and onto questions like how? and then what?
Certainly, no moral impediment prevented the British from trying to assassinate Rommel in Libya in 1941. The operation was a very British shambles, not least because Rommel had never even been in the house that the commandos attacked. The raid leader, Lt Colonel Geoffrey Keyes, was killed, and though having achieved nothing, was quite bizarrely awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Rommel showed a remarkable restraint in not having the surviving commandos shot, though he was legally justified, for they were in civilian clothes.
The Americans were (as one would expect) rather more efficient when they decided in 1943 to assassinate Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbour, after US Navy code-breakers had worked out his schedule. In order to allow for breakdowns, 18 twin-engined fighters were tasked for the 1,000-mile mission to shoot down Yamamoto's plane, making it the longest-range successful interception in the entire war.