It has to be right, whatever indignation some may feel, that people are asking the sort of questions they are in the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death. If nobody asked - or if they were silenced – how could we claim to be truly a democracy and stand for all that is good?
Appropriately, Question Time yesterday evening spent most of the time debating the death, as well as the manner in which key information was obtained.
It was perhaps unfortunate that the main question prompting the debate was predicated on the basis of an assumption that Bin Laden was shot with no intention or attempt by Special Forces to take him alive.
There was also the sub-debate about how key information may have been extracted at Guantanamo Bay using enhanced interrogation techniques (i.e. torture).
For me it brought to mind that powerful speech from Jack Nicholson at the climax of A Few Good Men:
Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...
You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!
I guess that what many people would like to know and believe is that come the moment it was impossible to eliminate all the risks that Seal Team Leader reasonably anticipated against all the background knowledge and intelligence – that it just was not feasible to give the benefit of the slightest doubt to a dangerous opponent in the arena of war.
Paddy Ashdown, a wise man with perhaps unique qualification to comment on such situations, was right that a concept of non-judicial execution is beyond contemplation. The vast majority of people can see that, if they struggle a little more with waterboarding.
One thing is clear - the rule of law must be sacrosanct.