Rodricks raised important questions about bin Laden killing

May 11, 2011

Ward Coe's letter criticizing Dan Rodricks's excellent column on bin Laden's death contains assertions that are false or misleading ("Calling raid an 'execution' insults SEALs," May 9).

"For every country except ours, the rules of engagement would be shoot everyone who was there," Coe says. Not true. Many other countries, including some of our strongest allies, respect the Geneva Conventions and other international laws that explicitly forbid such action.

We are bound by such laws under our Constitution as soon as we ratify the treaties embodying it. The president has no more right to break the law when he finds it expedient than anyone else. To the contrary, he swore an oath to uphold it.

"There is no evidence at all that Osama bin Laden attempted to surrender," Coe says. Yet the administration has admitted that bin Laden had no gun, and that the only person who did was killed at the beginning of the raid.

Having known a former SEAL, I am wholly unable to believe that a crack team could not have handled the situation without killing other people, if in fact that had been their objective.

The problem was not the men on the mission but the orders they were given. My understanding was that Rodricks criticized the form of the mission as dictated by commanders. He is not alone in that. Many citizens, and many lawyers here and abroad, have raised serious questions about what was done.

These are important concerns that will not go away, and it was good to see them discussed in The Sun.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

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