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Killing Osama Bin Laden Is Legal

By Matthew Yglesias on May 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

"Killing Osama Bin Laden Is Legal"

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I guess I initially thought this went without saying, but I guess it’s worth going on record with the view that sending US special operations forces to kill Osama bin Laden was a perfectly legal action. Personally, I would have enjoyed having him captured alive and put on trial, but what went down is fine in both international and domestic law.

In a domestic context, I think the 9/11 AUMF has been put to some questionable uses since its passage but if authorized anything surely it authorized military action against Bin Laden. Meanwhile, Bin Laden considered himself to be at war with the United States. In an international law context, the use of military force is plainly authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 1368 which uses the magic words “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence,” “threat to international peace and security,” and “all necessary steps.” That’s how the UN Charter says “bombs away.” And this has all been reaffirmed since Bin Laden’s death by the Security Council and the Secretary General of the United Nations.

There’s just nothing there on the other side.

What I do think is that this all highlights the desirability of revisiting the 9/11 AUMF which shouldn’t just linger on forever as the legal basis for anything and everything terrorism-related.

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