Some critics of the killing of Osama Ben Laden think that since he was not shooting at the Seals, his killing was murder.


That is, killing in war is not murder only if the enemy is actively attacking you.


This sounds very chivalrous but has no relation to reality. Enemy soldiers (and generals) are legitimate targets even if they are sleeping or praying.


I read in one memoir of the First World War how the British narrator, who was a sharpshooter, had a German soldier in his sights; the soldier was taking a bath  – utterly vulnerable. The British soldier couldn’t bear to pull the trigger, and gave the rifle to someone else, who did. If the German soldier were not killed, he would have the opportunity to kill British soldiers. War is a nasty, nasty business, even when its laws are followed, even when it is a just, necessary, defensive war.

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