Most of the moral and legal burbling on whether it was right for the US special forces to shoot Bin Laden ("extrajudicial execution/killing" seems to be one the favourite phrases used) utterly misses the point.
Which is that the whole operation depended on brave beyond belief soldiers walking into a potential death-trap and hoping that Bin Laden was not only evil but also lazy and/or stupid.
Thus it must have been quite plausible that the whole shabby 'mansion' where Bin Laden lurked had been wired to explode in case of ultimate need, killing its inhabitants and their attackers alike.
Why did this not happen? Maybe Bin Laden was too cowardly to contemplate it, or too cocksure that his 'hiding in plain sight' plan was impenetrable?
Or maybe he wanted to do it but never got round to it, as getting sufficient TNT into the complex might have aroused suspicion?
Or maybe there were booby-traps in place but such was the skill of the SEALs that the AQ people got no chance to trigger them?
One way or the other, imagine the thoughts flashing through the minds of the yound US soldiers as they worked there way up through the dark chaotic building, driving forward to complete the mission from sheer discipline and courage, yet wondering whether when they threw open one final room the whole place would be vapourised - with them going too.
That final door is flung open. My God - there he is. Smirking in the corner with some woman. Maybe he has booby-trapped the room or has had time to put on a suicide belt.
This is no time for polite negotiation or reading Bin Laden his rights.
End it. And hope to get out alive.
As it happens, we have one spectacular historical example of this explosive suicide involving massed Muslims, this time as the attacking troops.
It came 202 years ago to the month, on May 31 1809 on Čegar Hill, not far from Niš in central Serbia. Turkish forces closed in on Serbian 'insurgents' led by Stevan Sindjelic. Rather than surrender Sindjelic blew up his own gunpowder depot, obliterating himself and his own troops plus a goodly number of Turks.
To mark their costly victory and to warn off local Serbs from trying any more insurrections, the Turks built a tower of Serbian skulls in Niš and sent back Serbian scalps stuffed with cotton as tribute to the Sultan. Nice.
Parts of the tower are still there: The Tower of Skulls. I had a jolly dinner in Belgrade recently with one of Sindjelic's proud descendants.
So, Washington. Stop faffing about with these wimpy photographs and furtive so-called burials at sea.
Show your true respect for the finest Islamic warrior traditions. Get out a hack saw and the bricks and mortar - and start building.
Thursday, May 05, 2011