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President Obama and Operation Geronimo

Hardly any event in the recent history of the United States of America surpasses the atrocities and horrors brought by September 11 Terror Attacks. According to the data provided by CNN Editorial Research (2020), nearly 3,000 people perished in a murderous onslaught organized by al Qaeda, a criminal grouping engaged in terrorism. The incident impacted the future political course of the state and the mindsets of the generations of Americans. Osama bin Laden, the founder of the terrorist organization and accessorial of the tragic event, was seen as a hateful figure by the country’s citizens and people worldwide (CNN Editorial Research, 2021b). The American government sought to capture the criminal for more than a decade to liberate its population from the impending threat. Finally, ex-president Barack Obama has managed to plan and execute the operation of seizing bin Laden which lead to the terrorist death. A part of the strategy regarding the arrest or killing of the guilty one was called “Geronimo” (CNN Editorial Research, 2021a). The law of armed conflict and other legal matters entirely authorized the plan and performance of the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

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Some people believe that the execution of the plan was illegal since the criminal was unarmed. For example, Dunlap (2019), the former deputy judge advocate general of the United States Air Force, mentioned such a position in his article on the operation’s legality. It is stated that defenseless people, or hors de combat, should be offered a choice of surrender before any attacks. Bin Laden, according to the views of these individuals, may have been unarmed and did not have a chance to surrender since Special Forces killed him instantly (Dunlap, 2019). Hence, this act is perceived as an excess in the rights of the raiders and violations of the rights of the criminal.

However, this position is weak because of the three factors accompanying the operation. First of all, bin Laden has been recognized as an enemy combatant by the authorities years before the raid. Significantly, for such individuals, the law makes an exception and does not forbid any attacks in case of armed conflict (Dunlap, 2019). Secondly, the authorities assumed that the individual could have been armed and might have injured the Special Forces’ participants. Dunlap (2019, para. 21) explains that the executors suggested that the terrorist “would have a suicide vest or ready access to other rigged explosives,” threatening the soldiers’ lives. Thirdly, it is stated that bin Laden demonstrated resistance instead of surrender choice, which makes the hors de combat argument entirely inapplicable (CNN Editorial Research, 2021a). Thus, Obama and other people responsible for the campaign did not violate the law and made all possible to reduce damage to their forces.

The other claim regarding the illegality and unauthorized use of governmental force concerns the Freedom of Information Act. Namely, the photos of dead bin Laden have not been revealed to the public because of Obama’s decision (CNN Editorial Research, 2021a). Some may regard it as a conspicuous circumstance and action that contradicts the requirement for sharing any information with the American population. Yet, there is a presidential communications privilege that confirms the ability of the highest authority to constrain some information from spreading (Project of Government Oversight, 2019). The operation Geronimo is of great significance to the country and the world so that the president might have his reasons for not revealing the photos. Hence, the fact of non-disclosure does not contribute to allegations of the illegality of the plan and its execution.

Next, the propriety of considerations for the mortification option could be questioned. Namely, an opinion exists that the order to kill bin Laden might have been an excessive measure. As such, Yale professor Stephen Carter’s view of the issue is explicitly described in Dunlap’s 2019 article. The law specialist asserts that instead of the law of armed conflict, terrorists can be treated according to the international human rights law. This means that the necessity of the legal jurisdiction procedure limits the opportunities for “vengeance.” Carter beliefs the killing of bin Laden to be an assassination, which is an illegal act (Dunlap, 2019). In brief, one perspective suggests that the court proceedings would have been more appropriate in the situation, excluding the option of killing the criminal.

Nevertheless, there are legal applications for the actions of terrorists that justify the murder of illegal individuals. The law of armed conflict seems to be more appropriate for the case of bin Laden. Dunlap (2019, para. 8) explains that “terrorists who are members of organized armed groups engaged in continuous combat operations… are lawfully subject to targeting,” which permits the government to act accordingly. Bin Laden is an individual combatant who had committed crimes against humanity, and the nation to which he brought damage can threaten his life. Even the variant of killing him without any possibility of surrender is lawful. Accordingly, the Geronimo plan of Obama was utterly legitimate in either case.

Furthermore, the intervention of the United States military forces in Pakistan was somewhat of a questionable decision to people familiar with the law. A country cannot intervene in the territories of other countries to conduct any operations without its prior consent. Moreover, killing private citizens of the country to which no war had been proclaimed is an international crime (Dunlap, 2019). Yet, the Special Forces of the United States invaded the state where bin Laden had been hiding without notifying it of the planned operation (CNN Editorial Research, 2021a). Hence, one may accuse Obama and the United States of America of trespassing international law because of its interests.

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Apparently, no charges against the country were raised, which indicates that its actions were justified. Specifically, there is a law considering the opportunity for a state to defend its nation from the external threats of a country’s criminals if no efforts were made by the latter (Dunlap, 2019). Pakistan’s government had not seized the terrorists settled in its territory. Then, as Dunlap (2019, para.15) underlines, “the U.S. reserves the right to use force against such threats, notwithstanding the sovereignty of the national involved.” Additionally, the Organization of the United Nations, the major organization of law and justice in the world, did not oppose the actions of Americans. Its ambassadors supported the aggressive measure executed toward the global problem of terrorism (Dunlap, 2019. Since the part of international peace was not undermined in a legal sense, the operation could be claimed as authorized and rightful.

Finally, Obama’s moral considerations are essential in the case. After September 11, the whole nation was terrified, but the horror was replaced by rage and hatred, and people united and almost unanimously allowed the government to do what was required. Namely, they permitted to invade passive Pakistan and destroy al Qaeda for all the suffering the terrorists have caused to the American people. Few “humanists” condemned Obama’s actions, but their words were rightly drowned in the wave of universal desire to punish the perpetrators of the terrorist attack in the Twin Towers.

Continuing, America recently breathed a sigh of peace after the fall of its old enemy—the Soviet Union. Still, this triumph was overshadowed and broken by the attack of al Qaeda terrorists, but the most terrible thing is that they killed thousands of people. It was not a war, not an attack, but a blow from a psychopath out of the dark, vile and cruel, seeking to intimidate the victim because he was afraid. After all, when a psychopath with a knife is sitting in a neighbor’s house, killing passers-by, a person in the next house will not sit idly by. Then, the attack’s meanness its aim at civilians, women, and children were the most eloquent proof of the need for the U. S. to invade Pakistan and kill bin Laden.

To conclude, the question of the legality and authorization of Barack Obama’s campaign is not an ambiguous one. The “hors de combat” argument does not apply to the case as well the international human rights law. Bin Laden was an armed and dangerous terrorist whom the U. S. government could legally arrest and even kill. The global meaning of the operation and ethical concerns as to the punishment justifies the invasion of Pakistan. Finally, Obama, as the supreme power of the state at the time, had all lawful ability to plan and execute the Geronimo operation, which was not limited by any authoritative constraints.


CNN Editorial Research. (2020). September 11 fast facts. CNN.

CNN Editorial Research. (2021a). Death of Osama bin Laden fast facts. CNN.

CNN Editorial Research. (2021b). Osama bin Laden fast facts. CNN.

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Dunlap, J. C. D. (2019). Yes, the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was lawful. Lawfire.

Project of Government Oversight. (2019). The limits of executive privilege.

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