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Assassination of Osama Bin Laden Influence Synthesis Essay

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2019


The death of Osama Bin Laden on mid-2011 by the US forces in Pakistan was received with minimal global opposition. The killing of the Al-Qaeda leader was a major step towards the fight against terrorism.

The following is a literature review on how the assassination of Osama Bin Laden was an example of how intelligence can make a real contribution to the international justice and the ‘rule of law’.

This paper presents the rule of law as the permissible code of rulings that administrate a country and not the subjective pronouncements by key government representatives.

On the other hand, international law will be presented as the set of policies that are universally acknowledged as obligatory when it comes to addressing affairs within and among countries.

Literature Review

Issues raised after Bin Laden’s Assassination

In his speech to the US House of Representative Judiciary Committee, the US Attorney General, Eric Holder stated that the action of the US Navy Seal of assassinating Osama Bin Laden was within the tenets of law. Confirming the same claims, Hasian (2012) and Krech (2011) say that the move was a national self-defence on a military target.

Holder presents Bin Laden’s butchery as a kill-or-capture mission and that since he (Bin Laden) had defied orders to be apprehended, the Navy Seals were justified to kill him.

From another perspective, Dahl (2014) reveals how the acumen that led to the death of Osama bin Laden shed a light on the importance of intelligence with respect to global justice and the rule of law.

Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda group were held accountable for several terrorist attacks across the world, particularly the 9/11 attack in the US. In their view, King, Glascock, and Levitt (2014) assert that counterterrorism measures have been more intelligence-oriented.

Inkster (2011) presents a clearer picture of the situation when he reveals the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as among various intelligence agencies, which have created networks across the globe.

Although the agreement is not mutual, most commentators have agreed that the intelligence agencies have helped to attain global harmony and the rule of law as required by the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (UNGCTS).

According to Wachtel (2005), the UNGCTS has called members to enhance and enforce human rights and the rule of law when creating and executing counter-terrorism policies.

The Rule of Law and Osama’s Assassination

One of the basic principles of the rule of law is that all citizens or governments should be treated equally. Even criminals and terrorists should be treated under the same law.

In Oden’s (2007) view, terrorism hinders the enjoyment of human rights, demeans civil society, causes insecurity, and tampers with the socioeconomic development of victimised countries.

Thus, under the rule of law, countries should adopt counterterrorism measures to avert terrorism, apprehend, and prosecute suspects through a fair trial process. Presenting a similar opinion, Rollins (2011) says that countries should ensure that counterterrorism efforts are consistent with international laws.

Legal commentators such as Osborn (2011) and Rolins (2011) have held a contrary opinion that the targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden was unlawful and that it defied the tenets of human rights and international justice because the Navy SEAL had option to apprehend him when he was unarmed.

Such legal experts consider it as an act extrajudicial killing. In their move to counter Osborn (2011) and Rolins’ (2011) position, law experts such as Dahl (2014), Chiesa and Greenwalt (2012), and Ellmann (2007) clarify how the international law permits a country under the principle of Jus ad Bellum to apply force as a means of self-defence against military invasion if the United Nations Security Council authorises it.

The Al-Qaeda group had declared a holy war against America. It attacked its embassies in Africa and the World Trade Centre. Thus, the US forces were justified to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan in an effort to protect themselves from the armed attacks of the terrorist movement (Ellmann 2007).

Based on the reasoning of the supporters of Bin Laden’s killing, since the UN members are sovereign, they are required to respect the boundaries of other countries. However, in an attempt to protect its citizens from armed attacks, the US was authorised to attack Bin Laden, even in a foreign country (Rogers & McGoldrick 2011).

In Dumounchel’s (2012) view, whether a state should invade another country in pursuit of its enemy is determined by how the host country is cooperating. CIA had reported that Bin Laden resided close to the city, yet the Pakistan administration was not making efforts to arrest him.

The failure of Pakistan to collaborate with the international community to fight terrorism gave a room for the intercontinental neighbourhood to intervene (Lee 2014).

Osborn (2011) and other legal commentators who oppose the assassination assert that the Navy SEAL should have apprehended Bin Laden was both unrealistic and needless.

However, Dumounchel (2012) contends that the Al-Qaeda leader had become an enemy combatant and that based on the provisions of the international law, the US had a room to assault and assassinate him because one is allowed to confront his or her foe in a battlefield.

Arresting him would have been difficult. The US could not tell whether he had explosives or not since he was a terrorist. Moreover, detaining him would have been countered with brutal actions across the globe to instigate his release (Cerone 2011).

The Contribution of the Intelligence to Global Justice through Osama’s Targeted Killing

The intelligence work of the CIA that eventually led to the elimination of Bin Laden had various advantages, not only to the US but also to the global community. His assassination reinstated world peace.

The materials that were retrieved from the site revealed various plots that he and his counterparts had planned against America and its allies (Wong 2012). Moreover, considering that the attack and assassination were legal according to the international law, the Operation Neptune Spear that eliminated Bin Laden brought justice.

His death was justified for the many atrocities he had caused across the world (Lee 2014). The crimes he committed were indeed against humanity. Hence, as Alkana (2011) confirms, his demise was a stop to his heinous actions.

The UN is committed to fighting terrorism and retaining international peace. It has permitted members to ensure their national and global peace by creating and implementing counterterrorism policies (Paust 2011).

However, the UNGCTS calls for the creation of policies, which observe the rule of law whilst achieving international justice (Price 2011). As one of the means of countering terrorism, intelligence faces criticism with respect to how it contradicts with the principles of the rule of law.

Most intelligence strategies are seen to be torturous and contrary to the international human rights. It is important for intelligence agencies to stick to the rule of law when dealing with terrorists to ensure justice for the victims and suspects (Price 2011).


The discussion in this paper has considered a literature review on the death of Osama bin Laden with a focus on how it has contributed to the rule of law and global justice.

It has shown that the killing of Bin Laden was legal according the international law. Moreover, considering that he was responsible for several deaths and global uproar, his assassination brought global justice.


Alkana, K 2011, ‘What Happened on 9/11? Nine Years of Polling College Undergraduates: “It was always just a fact that it happened’, The History Teacher, vol. 44 no. 4, pp. 601-612.

Cerone, J 2011, ‘The Legality of the Killing of Osama bin Laden: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting’, American Society of International Law, vol. 107 no. 1, pp. 47-51.

Chiesa, E & Greenawalt, A 2012, ‘Beyond War: Bin Laden Escobar, and the Justification of Targeted Killing’, Washington & Lee Law Review, vol. 69 no. 3, pp. 1371-1470.

Dahl, J 2014, ‘Finding Bin Laden: Lessons for a New American Way of Intelligence’, Political Science Quarterly, vol. 129 no. 2, pp. 179-210.

Dumouchel, P 2012, ‘Revenge or Justice? Obama Gets Osama’, Journal of Violence, Mimesis & Culture, vol. 19 no. 1, pp. 9-17.

Ellmann, S 2007, ‘The “Rule of Law” and the Military Commission’, New York Law School Law Review, vol. 51 no. 4, pp. 761-799.

Hasian, M 2012, ‘Link to external content American Exceptionalism and the bin Laden Raid: American Exceptionalism and the bin Laden Raid’, Third World Quarterly, vol. 33 no. 10, pp. 1803-1820.

Inkster, N 2011, ‘The Death of Osama bin Laden’, Survival, vol. 53 no. 3, pp. 5-10.

King, J, Glascock, J & Levitt, L 2014, ‘The Death of Osama bin Laden: News Diffusion and the Role of New Media’, Southwestern Mass Communication Journal, vol. 29 no. 1, pp. 1-20.

Krech, H 2011, ‘The Growing Influence of Al-Qaeda on the African Continent’, Africa Spectrum, vol. 46 no. 2, pp. 125-137.

Lee, S 2014, ‘Killing Osama Bin Laden: Legal and Necessary’, Widener Law Review, vol. 20 no. 1, pp. 1-26

Oden, A 2007, ‘Comparison of the Political Thought of Huey P. Newton and Osama Bin Laden’, The Black Scholar, vol. 37 no. 2, pp. 53-60.

Osborn, R 2011, ‘A Death to Celebrate?’, Commonwealth, vol. 138 no. 11, pp. 7-8.

Paust, J 2011, ‘Permissible Self-Defence Targeting and the Death Of Bin Laden. Denver’, Journal of International Law & Policy, vol. 39 no. 4, pp. 569-583.

Price, G 2011, ‘After Osama’, The World Today, vol. 67 no. 6, pp. 4-6.

Rogers, V & McGoldrick, D 2011, ‘Assassination and Targeted Killing—The Killing Of Osama Bin Laden’, International & Comparative Law Quarterly, vol. 60 no. 3, pp. 778-788.

Rollins, J 2011, ‘Osama bin Laden’s Death: Implications and Considerations’, International Journal of Terrorism & Political Hot Spots, vol. 6 no. 4, pp. 627-652.

Wachtel, A 2005, ‘Targeting Osama Bin Laden: Examining the Legality of Assassination as a Tool of U.S. Foreign Policy’, Duke Law Journal, vol. 55 no. 3, pp. 677-710.

Wong, S 2012, ‘Targeted Killings and the International Legal Framework: With Particular Reference to the US Operation against Osama Bin Laden’, Chinese Journal of International Law, vol. 11 no. 1, pp. 127-163.

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