Roving thoughts and provocations

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The Kill or Capture Presidency

Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
US army special forces walk in a field as Blackhawk helicopters transporting NATO officers land in Marjah’s Balakino Bazar neighborhood on February 24, 2010.

Sue Halpern: You imply that the idea that the Abbottabad mission was a raid in which they might have brought back Bin Laden alive was really just a fiction. If they were going to kill him, why does it matter? Should we care?

Steve Coll: I think for two reasons, yes. I mean, you’d like your government to tell you the truth, and the government dissembled repeatedly after the raid about what the rules of engagement were. They dissembled because the truth was uncomfortable and because the rules are secret, and they have this deep culture of secrecy in this administration, as in the last couple, about rules of engagement. What it also highlights is that the United States does not have a detention regime that works anymore. Anytime it brings terrorists suspects into custody it generated political controversy. And so what you can see is a bias is built up in the system, in which the Obama Administration judges it’s just easier to kill people. That doesn’t create any political controversy.

You can listen to the whole podcast, subscribe with iTunes or your RSS reader to download this and other New York Review podcasts, or read Coll’s review of No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden.

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