The raid conducted by US Special Forces against Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan on May 1, 2011, was dubbed Operation Geronimo. Osama Bin Laden was killed in an operation after many years of living as a fugitive. He was on the most wanted watch list of Americans after the 9/11 bombing of the Twin Towers. The operation was carried out by Navy SEAL Team Six members together with the US Central Intelligence Agency (Soherwordi & Khattak, 2020). However, after the raid, murmurs began to be heard concerning the justification of the raid and if President Obama had full authority to order and execute the operation. In my view, President Obama had the power and authority to order and execute operation Geronimo.
When a country intends to attack a military objective by using force, it must be conducted with legal authority and within the confines of the law of armed conflicts. A raid can be justified if it has legal authority and complies with the provisions of The Hague Rules and Geneva Conventions of 1907 and 1949, respectively. The law of armed conflict provides that there must be a balance between humanity and military necessity and a distinction between military and civilian objectives (Dunlap, 2019). Operation Geronimo had legal authority because it complied with international law and the law of armed conflict concerning the search and elimination of Osama Bin Laden as a military objective that was lawful under international law. The US’s only objective was to kill Osama Bin Laden as a defense and conduct a sense of human dignity. The raid avoided civilian casualties who were regarded as collateral damage in the operation. According to international law, President Obama had the legal authority to order and execute operation Geronimo as a form of self-defense for its citizens (Dunlap, 2019).
On the domestic front, the September 11 terrorist attack on America led to a series of events that culminated in Congress giving authority to the Commander-in-Chief to employ all means necessary and use force against the perpetrators of the attack. Constitutionally, the President was given powers to direct the National Command Authority against Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Moreover, additional international greenlights followed the attack, which originated from NATO and the United Nations. These go-ahead gave President Obama the power to order and execute operation Geronimo from both the domestic and international front. The right to use force against Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden had the inherent international law essential right provision of self-defense in article 51 of the UN Charter, which every country enjoys (Soherwordi & Khattak, 2020). The force was fully authorized by a presidential finding on the domestic front. It was required that the President, by law, inform Congress about these findings, which were done a few years before the operation was conducted. It gave the operation the legal authority to kill Osama Bin Laden as a form of self-defense.
Self-defense in international law involves proportionality, military necessity, and discrimination. When the US Special Forces entered Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, they used force authorized by international law. The US had declared Laden a hostile target. As such, there was a military necessity to pursue him to further the military objectives of the US and the International Community against terrorists and global terrorism. Engaging Osama Bin Laden could have been illegal if there had not been a necessary military reason to pursue him. In this regard, there was a fulfillment of the principle of military necessity.
Moreover, the security teams used proportional force when they entered Osama’s bedroom per the threat posed by Osama. He was not ready to surrender, and he had weapons near him. The use of light arms to neutralize him was a proportional response to the threat he posed to the special forces. Finally, the principle of distinction was also fulfilled, meaning that the force used must be directed to the target and no one else. In this case, civilians are not supposed to be hit because they are protected under the law of armed conflict (Dunlap, 2019). There should never be intentional targeting of civilians except as a form of self-defense. The unintentional death or injury of civilians is referred to as collateral damage and is not a crime but a failure of judgment.
In conclusion, President Obama authorized operation Geronimo because he complied with domestic and international laws. On the domestic front, Congress authorized him to use armed force and all means necessary to pursue the perpetrators of the September 11 bombings. On the other hand, he was also in compliance with international laws within the confines of the laws of armed conflicts. These laws align with the provisions of The Hague Rules and those of the Geneva Conventions. Additionally, they are also in tandem with the provisions of self-defense in article 51 of the UN Charter. In executing the raid, President Obama was in strict conformity to these laws, which gave him the power to execute operation Geronimo.
Dunlap, C. (2019). Yes, the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was lawful. Lawfire. Retrieved from: Yes, the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was lawful – Lawfire (duke.edu)
Soherwordi, S. H. S., & Khattak, S. A. (2020). Operation Geronimo: Assassination of Osama Bin Ladin and its implications on the US-Pakistan relations, War on Terror, Pakistan and Al-Qaeda. South Asian Studies, 26(2), 349-365.