After more than two days of speculation and an ever-evolving account of what really happened, it is starting to become clear that Osama Bin Laden was never going to make it out of his Abbottabad, Pakistan compound alive, despite U.S. counterterrorism expert John Brennan’s claim that, “If we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that.” Brennan is the same official whose initial reports of Bin Laden’s wife being used as a human shield or that Bin Laden was firing a weapon when he was killed have since been explained as untrue. Using bits and pieces from various reports, and explanation from a wide range of experts and officials, it appears that Bin Laden was probably executed — “After a firefight,” as Politico points out were Obama’s words in his initial speech, emphasis on “after” — an idea corroborated by President Obama again in a speech Monday night in which he described “an operation that resulted in the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden.” Bin Laden’s 12-year-old daughter tells the story of an execution too.
“Senior Pakistani security officials said Osama bin Laden’s daughter had confirmed her father was captured alive and shot dead by the US Special Forces during the first few minutes of the operation,” Al Arabiya reports. And later in the same article: “The daughter has reportedly told her Pakistani investigators that the US forces captured her father alive but shot him dead in front of family members.”
The Los Angeles Times adds that U.S. forces “were operating under rules of engagement that all but assured the Al Qaeda leader would be killed, officials have acknowledged, backing away from an initial account that Bin Laden was armed and used a woman as a shield.”
Orders were to accept Bin Laden’s surrender “if he did not pose any type of threat whatsoever,” Brennan said on Fox News, and if troops “were confident of that in terms of his not having an IED [improvised explosives device] on his body, his not having some type of hidden weapon or whatever.”
In other words: “He would have had to have been naked for them to allow him to surrender,” according to one anonymous congressional aide.
Nonetheless, officials strongly defended the decision to shoot. “The right of self-defense is never denied,” said a special forces officer interviewed by telephone who was not authorized to speak publicly.
“If anyone feels in any way that there is a hostile threat in a case like this — it can be a movement, or a failure to follow commands — deadly force will be authorized. It’s a judgment call,” the officer said. “And these assaulters are some of the finest, most highly trained in discriminate shooting.”