Killing Osama morally justifiable?

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  • #1
AlephZero
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I was going to put this on the "Killing Osama legal" thread, but they legal and moral are not the same, hence a different thread.

A 45 minute discussion on BBC radio here. The program format is that a regular panel cross-examine "witnesses" in a weekly live discission on a topical moral issue, followed by a panel discussion/summing up. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010t7s5#synopsis

Most likely some US forum members will tend to agree with the vew of the US witness (Alexandros Petersen) that US laws and judicial procedures only apply to US citizens - i.e the US needs no moral justification for whatever action they feel like taking on the rest of the world's population. Alternative opinions are also available...
 

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  • #2
Hurkyl
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From your post, it sounds like you aren't interested in the question "Was killing Osama morally justifiable", but are instead interested in a question more like "Is taking military action on foreign soil morally justifiable?" Could you clarify your intent?
 
  • #3
russ_watters
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Most likely some US forum members will tend to agree with the vew of the US witness (Alexandros Petersen) that US laws and judicial procedures only apply to US citizens - i.e the US needs no moral justification for whatever action they feel like taking on the rest of the world's population. Alternative opinions are also available...
More pertinent/direct question, IMO: do US laws and judicial procedures apply to a war? (Clear-cut answer: no.)

As for Hurkyl's post, I agree the question in the title doesn't really match the OP (which is what I answered above). For the question in the title, I think it is very easy to morally justify killing a man who was the leader of a terrorist organization actively seeking to kill Americans. It's a defensive act in a war he started.
 
  • #4
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I don't see why it wouldn't be morally justifiable. The man killed so many people. I have no hesitation considering it moral.
 
  • #5
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My answer to the question is yes. You may also like to read what I presented here:
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=3279710#post3279710

I am thankful to be alive. I am glad to know THE PRESIDENT cares about me and other people:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 02, 2011
Remarks by the President on Osama Bin Laden
East Room
11:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

END 11:44 P.M. EDT
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/02/remarks-president-osama-bin-laden

I cry just thinking about what happened on September 11, 2001. It is forever etched in my memory.

May we one day have global peace. An end to wars and hatred. No more fear of terrorists.
 
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  • #6
Amp1
Mine too...

Just YES

wow and you could have called me a pacifist. before that!

plz excuse the emotion
 
  • #7
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May we one day have global peace. An end to wars and hatred. No more fear of terrorists.

page19_blog_entry37_summary-FlyingPigs.jpg


As long as there are humans on Earth, there will be hatred. Guaranteed.
 
  • #8
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For the question in the title, I think it is very easy to morally justify killing a man who was the leader of a terrorist organization actively seeking to kill Americans. It's a defensive act in a war he started.

Lets flip this argument around geographically speaking.

Would you have considered it morally justifiable for a team of Iraqis to come and kill George W Bush while he was president? Not on identical (but similar) grounds that it was a defensive act in the Iraq war which Bush started?

Clearly the difference is I doubt Bush actually wanted to civilians unlike Osama. However when you start a war you know civilians are going to die, and many thousands did. Therefore he is, similarly responsible.
 
  • #9
2,745
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This question can never be answered, at least not universally.

To the US, and any other countries threatened by his inciting of violence towards them, of course it can be morally justified.

To those who saw him as a leader, supporting their beliefs and protecting their way of life, what he was doing was perfectly justifiable morally.

Of course, the two sets of morals don't align, they don't even come close in some cases.

Humans will never agree on this matter. Whether because of cultural differences, variation in beliefs or simply to extract political gain from the situation.

I find it an odd question to ask, given you can never get an answer. Only a majority vote (and even then I'd say it's more of a "majority compromising on agreed morals" not that they all share identical ideologies).
 
  • #10
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Curl, I was talking about Terrorist Violence. You can learn more about it here:

Symposium: Using Quantitative Content Analysis To Assess the Likelihood of Terrorist Violence
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM EST on Friday, February 18th


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Framing Words of Violence
Sanfilippo, Antonio
Chief Scientist
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA


The history of social movements is ripe with examples of radical groups and organizations that, while sharing the same ideological goals, adopt opposite practices towards the use of violence. For example, both al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya and the Muslim Brotherhood advocated the establishment of a theocratic state ruled by Shariah law in Egypt during the 1990s. Yet, while the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood have not pursued terrorism as a means to attain their political and religious goals, al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya chose the opposite mode of action culminating in the tragic 1992 Luxor massacre where 62 people were killed. The ability to estimate the propensity of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya to engage in violent behavior and the timeframe of such an engagement would have been crucial in saving lives. In this talk, we describe an approach for anticipating violent behavior which relies on the analysis of linguistic communication to (1) detect messages originating from terrorist communication sources, and (2) estimate the likelihood of an impending terrorist attack from the date of issue of these messages. We use as reference data a collection of documents issued by four radical groups: two are known for their extremist violence. The other two groups share the same ideology and goals but have not engaged in terrorism.

Our approach comprises two basic steps:

1. The use of computer-assisted linguistic analysis to discover words that are highly correlated with the expression of violent intent in naturally occurring text (words of violent intent)

2. The inference of computational models from the occurrence of words of violent intent in documents issued by radical groups to identify messages from terrorist sources and estimate their temporal proximity to an attack.

The words of violent intent we have identified in the reference data set fall into four broad categories of meaning:

• moral disengagement
• violation of sacred values
• social isolation
• violence and contention.

Moral disengagement occurs when people choose and urge others to engage in inhumane conduct (e.g. genocide) to achieve a goal believed to be morally right (e.g. the Nazi idea of racial-biological purity). One embodiment of moral disengagement is the removal of ethical restrictions against violence through acts of dehumanization. By negating the human identity of the victim, the assailant asserts his moral superiority and reduces identification with the targets of harmful acts. Dehumanization of the victim thus frees the assailant of moral sanctions against harming the victim. In our reference dataset, moral disengagement is expressed by communicative acts such as attributing blame to the victim, and conveying hatred, disgust and fear of the victim.

The violation of sacred values occurs when ideals of love, honor, justice and religion come under secular assault and people struggle to protect their private selves and public identities from moral contamination. In our reference dataset, the violation of sacred values is linguistically marked by the co-occurrence of military and religious terms, which marks the propensity for armed struggle under the apprehension that religious freedom is under secular attack.

Within a terrorist context, social isolation results from the requirement that a recruit cut off ties to family, friends, and anyone else outside the organization. It is one of the main strategies in ensuring the recruit's commitment to the organization and his/her readiness to action. It is widely regarded as a key factor promoting terrorism. In our reference dataset, social isolation is marked by the occurrence of events conveying abandonment, confinement, withdrawal and isolation.

Reference to violence and contention is another important marker of radicalization and violent intent and it is generally linguistically expressed by acts such as fighting, attacking and killing.

A linguistic analysis of our reference dataset reveals that concepts expressing moral disengagement, the violation of sacred values, social isolation, violence and contention are significantly correlated with documents issued by terrorist communication sources. For example, these concepts have a chance of less than 5% (most less than 1%) to occur at random in documents from terrorist sources, when compared to documents from non-terrorist sources.

We use the occurrence of violent intent concepts in the reference data to infer computational models that identify documents that originate from a terrorist source and the proximity of the date of issue of such documents to a terrorist attack. Our models are “decision trees” that encode the best graph-like sequences of violent intent concepts. Model accuracy in the recognition of violent communication sources is about 80%. Model accuracy in predicting the proximity of the date of issue of a document to a terrorist attack varies from 53% to 89%, depending on the perpetrator of the attack and the time lag. This evaluation indicates that our computational models can help estimate the propensity of a contentious group to engage in violent behavior and the timeframe of such an engagement.

Please read on . . .
http://www.eurekalert.org/aaasnewsroom/2011/sessions/SES_000000000098.php [Broken]
 
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  • #11
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Simply put, this is the clearest evidence yet that the state of Pakistan, or at least elements of it, is/are complicit in harboring the leading figure in the 9/11 attack on the US. It seems that the US has grounds to wage war in or on Pakistan if it chooses. No nation can willingly serve as a safe haven for groups that attack another nation without being complicit in acts of war.

Following the attacks in Mumbai (Bombay), the government of India warned that another such attack on India from any group based in Pakistan would be grounds for war.
 
  • #12
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Lets flip this argument around geographically speaking.

Would you have considered it morally justifiable for a team of Iraqis to come and kill George W Bush while he was president? Not on identical (but similar) grounds that it was a defensive act in the Iraq war which Bush started?

Clearly the difference is I doubt Bush actually wanted to civilians unlike Osama. However when you start a war you know civilians are going to die, and many thousands did. Therefore he is, similarly responsible.

What country did Bin Laden represent?
 
  • #13
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What country did Bin Laden represent?

See my post 11. While Bin Laden does not represent any country, it seems that official elements in Pakistan must have adopted him.
 
  • #14
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What country did Bin Laden represent?

Why does moral justification for killing a human being depend on state boundaries or positions of representation?
 
  • #15
Bin Laden was nothing more than a murderer. In the US murderers receive the death penalty. Just because he was a coward and hid away in some other country does not mean he should get anything less than a murderer's fate. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't care for the lives of their fellow Americans. The ones who were killed, and the ones who had there lives destroyed by losing a loved one. I f you don't agree with Bin Laden being killed your just as much of a monster as he was. RIH Osama.
 
  • #16
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Why does moral justification for killing a human being depend on state boundaries or positions of representation?

Tradition?

IMO - your comparison of George Bush to Bin Laden is nonsense. As for the war with Iraq, have we (once again) forgotten the bigger picture? How many innocent people did Saddam slaughter over the years? How many times did Saddam push Bill Clinton's buttons? I also seem to remember Saddam wanting to try to kill Bush Sr.

As for Bin Laden, how many (non-military) people did he target and/or kill? If I recall, he hid behind a religion - then killed real members of that religion - didn't he? It occurred to me yesterday that Bin Laden might not have believed his own pitch. Afterall, he chose to run and hide (even at the end) rather than blow himself up to kill "infidels" - correct?
 
  • #17
2,745
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As I said previously (and which I'm waiting for someone to answer), whose view point are we looking at this from? It's morally justifiable, but then so are his actions. It just depends whose side you take.

It also depends whose side you take within the US - it's just too wide a question to give an answer to, unless you subscribe and outline the exact set of morals you are referring to by asking "is it morally justifiable?" but then this would answer your question.
 
  • #18
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As I said previously (and which I'm waiting for someone to answer), whose view point are we looking at this from? It's morally justifiable, but then so are his actions. It just depends whose side you take.

It also depends whose side you take within the US - it's just too wide a question to give an answer to, unless you subscribe and outline the exact set of morals you are referring to by asking "is it morally justifiable?" but then this would answer your question.

Please explain the point of view that considers Bin Laden's actions morally justifiable?
 
  • #19
Tradition?
As for Bin Laden, how many (non-military) people did he target and/or kill? If I recall, he hid behind a religion - then killed real members of that religion - didn't he? It occurred to me yesterday that Bin Laden might not have believed his own pitch. Afterall, he chose to run and hide (even at the end) rather than blow himself up to kill "infidels" - correct?

Correct.
 
  • #20
Please explain the point of view that considers Bin Laden's actions morally justifiable?

Exactly. God did not tell him to do all he has done and we all know it, so there is no way to justify killing 3,000 people.
 
  • #21
2,745
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Please explain the point of view that considers Bin Laden's actions morally justifiable?

Morals are personal things. Your morals =/= my morals.

Same goes for ethics.

You are looking at this as if there is one correct view of right and wrong. This just isn't the case.

I think fox hunting is bad and unjustified. My friend thinks it's good and perfectly justified. Morally I find it wrong, he finds it right.

I certainly don't support his actions, however, as per my first post here, the OP needs to clarify which set of morals they are working to and as such will answer their own question. Otherwise, all we have here is a debate on whose morals are correct, which can never be answered.
 
  • #22
The only way that killing Bin Laden could be wrong in anyway is that Ayman Zawahiri will most likely seek revenge. But still it needed to be done and it was. if Zawahiri tries anything well, we got Osama and eventually well get him to. and when hes replaced then we just wont stop until they are to terrified to continue their pathetic killing sprees.
 
  • #23
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Morals are personal things. Your morals =/= my morals.

Same goes for ethics.

You are looking at this as if there is one correct view of right and wrong. This just isn't the case.

I think fox hunting is bad and unjustified. My friend thinks it's good and perfectly justified. Morally I find it wrong, he finds it right.

There's been a great deal of discussion regarding photos. If the photo's of Bin Laden's dead corpse are released - the videos and photos of September 11, 2001 should be allowed to play on television unrestricted - IMO.

Let's show the people jumping from the windows of the World Trade Center to avoid burning alive. Let's show the airplanes striking the buildings (over and over) again. Why not refresh the memory of what Bin Laden arranged - lest we forget. Why is anyone worried about the details of his death? He didn't care who died. He would have killed you - if he had the chance. Would he have been justified to kill you?
 
  • #24
2,745
22
The only way that killing Bin Laden could be wrong in anyway is that Ayman Zawahiri will most likely seek revenge. But still it needed to be done and it was. if Zawahiri tries anything well, we got Osama and eventually well get him to. and when hes replaced then we just wont stop until they are to terrified to continue their pathetic killing sprees.

So we'll keep killing them as long as it takes to prevent them going on a killing spree. Rock solid logic there. Comes back to the whole "going to war to prevent war" thing. (I know what you were trying to say.)
Would he have been justified to kill you?

Under his morals, yes. Under mine, no.

This is the whole point I'm trying to make. It either is or it isn't, however, the answer doesn't come from debate it comes from your own personal morals and whose you chose to apply 'globally'.

If the OP picked one 'set', it would answer the question. At least from those morals point of view.

I'm not sure what the rest of your post had to do with moral issues.
 
  • #25
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So we'll keep killing them as long as it takes to prevent them going on a killing spree. Rock solid logic there. Comes back to the whole "going to war to prevent war" thing. (I know what you were trying to say.)


Under his morals, yes. Under mine, no.

This is the whole point I'm trying to make. It either is or it isn't, however, the answer doesn't come from debate it comes from your own personal morals and whose you chose to apply 'globally'.

If the OP picked one 'set', it would answer the question. At least from those morals point of view.

I'm not sure what the rest of your post had to do with moral issues.

If we substitute the name Charles Manson for Bin Laden - the descriptive word changes from morals to insanity. IMO - the two are very similar in that they both convinced other people to blindly do their killing.
 

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