This “as President” talk by Barack Obama on what he would do about Osama bin Laden is political gobbledygook:
“First of all, I think there is an executive order out on Osama bin Laden’s head. And if I’m president, and we have the opportunity to capture him, we may not be able to capture him alive.” — June 18, 2008
There is no publicly known Presidential Executive Order “out on Osama bin Laden’s head.” The administration has never acknowledged whether President George W. Bush has or has not signed an Executive Order that states the policy of the United States is to kill (or capture) Osama bin Laden.
Former President William J. Clinton also dodged the question when he implied to Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace that he had authorized the killing of Osama bin Laden. His telling Wallace to read former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke’s book to prove he ordered bin Laden killed is not confirmed in Clarke’s book or his public statements. Clinton’s December 1999 Memorandum of Notification authorized the CIA to use lethal force to capture, not kill, bin Laden. Lacking an authorization by Congress to use force, the lawyer in Clinton could not bring himself to sign such an order; regardless, what he did or failed to do is irrelevant.
Now, no Executive Order is needed.
On September 18, 2001, Congress authorized the use of military force, stating:
“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
With the passage of Public Law No: 107-40, Congress vested in this and all future Presidents the unrestricted authority to decide what force to use against Osama bin Laden. That authority will forever stand, unless Congress amends or rescinds it.
Therefore, the real question to both Barack Obama and John McCain is whether they, if elected President, would order Osama bin Laden killed or attempt to capture him and only kill him as a last resort.
My answer to the question would be: kill Osama bin Laden.
If either Senator McCain or Senator Obama is unwilling to say it, they cannot hide behind an Executive Order that does not exist, mumbo jumbo about how they never threaten, or the need for diplomacy.
Osama bin Laden has publicly stated that he ordered the 9/11 attacks, he is guilty of 2,973 counts of murder, and all nations need to know the United States will never tolerate the harboring of that admitted mass murderer.
The next President need not repeat it on or after January 20, 2009; he only needs to say it now so that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind of their intent.
Updated, 8:23 PM EST: John McCain: I Will Deliver Justice
Senator Obama is obviously confused about what the United States Supreme Court decided and what he is calling for. After enthusiastically embracing the Supreme Court decision granting habeas in U.S. civilian courts to dangerous terrorist detainees, he is now running away from the consequences of that decision and what it would mean if Osama bin Laden were captured. Senator Obama refuses to clarify whether he believes habeas should be granted to Osama bin Laden, and instead cites the precedent of the Nuremburg war trials. Unfortunately, it is clear Senator Obama does not understand what happened at the Nuremburg trials and what procedures were followed. There was no habeas at Nuremburg and there should be no habeas for Osama bin Laden. Senator Obama cannot have it both ways. In one breath he endorses habeas for terrorists like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and in the next he denies its logical conclusion of habeas for Osama bin Laden. By citing a historical precedent that does not include habeas, he sends a signal of confusion and indecision to our allies and adversaries and the American people.
Let me be clear, under my administration Osama bin Laden will either be killed on the battlefield or executed. Senator Obama’s failure to comprehend the implication of the Supreme Court decision he embraced and the historical precedent of Nuremberg raise serious questions about judgment and experience and whether Senator Obama is ready to assume the awesome responsibilities of commander in chief.
Tim Sumner’s note — If you click the embedded link, you will see that the McCain campaign posted his message 9 minutes after I posted my commentary here. I did not email, call, or in any way communicate with his campaign and I have not endorsed any candidate for President.
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