In light of the many concerns being raised about the killing of Osama bin Laden by the Navy SEALs — questions of propriety, civil rights, privacy, etc. — I thought it might be helpful to prepare a scenario that could have been followed instead:
SEAL Commander (knocking on door of the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad): Mr. Bin Laden, Jack Hartz here of the SEALs elite Sixth Team unit. Do you have a moment?
Bin Laden: Well, we’re right in the middle of dinner. Can you come back later — in about an hour, say?
SEAL Commander: Gee, we’d like to, sir, but this is pretty urgent. It shouldn’t take but a minute.
Bin Laden (grumbling): Oh, for Allah’s sake, OK, OK! (unlatches the door).
SEAL Commander: Thanks so much! Sorry to bust in like this, but we’re under orders to capture you dead or alive. It’s not my idea, you understand.
Bin Laden: I know but it’s Sunday night. We were just about to watch “24.” So what’s the big deal that this visit couldn’t wait until Monday?
SEAL Commander: We want to inform that you have the right to remain silent and….
Bin Laden: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So what do you want to know exactly?
SEAL Commander: We’ll need to see a picture ID, first of all, to make sure you are indeed the Osama bin Laden. And then we need to take a DNA sample for final proof. Sorry for the intrusion and all but we try to do this by the book.
Bin Laden: No problem. You fellas got a job to do. But why me? I’m just a simple rug merchant. Say, can I get you boys anything — coffee, soda?
SEAL Commander: We understand you may be the guy behind the World Trade Center slaughter and we need to ask you a few questions. If you resist, I’m afraid we may need to kill you. It’s just routine.
Bin Laden: I’m cool with that. I don’t want to cause any trouble.
SEAL Commander: We do appreciate your cooperation, Mr. Bin Laden. Now then, did you in fact have anything to do with bringing down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001?
Bin Laden: Yeah, I remember reading about that. Terrible tragedy. But was I involved? No, no, no, you’ve got the wrong guy. There are a lot of Bin Ladens in these parts. People are always confusing us. Just last week, some guy from Pakistani intelligence came by to see if I was somehow connected to al Qaeda. He later apologized for the mix-up.
SEAL Commander: Sir, these photos I have here appear to be a clear match. I’m afraid we have no choice but to book you and take you downtown for further questioning.
Bin Laden: OK, let me get my coat. Could I finish dinner first?
SEAL Commander: Sure, take you time. Real nice place you got here.
Bin Laden: Well, we like it. We’ve fixed it up a lot.
SEAL Commander: Yeah, those 18-foot walls are real eye-catching. I especially like the barbed wire touch.
Bin Laden (finished eating, pats his coat): OK, I think I got everything — keys, wallet, body armor. How long do you think this will take? I got a big day tomorrow.
SEAL Commander: Shouldn’t be too long once we run a check on your movements over the past ten years.
Bin Laden: Hey, I’m always happy to cooperate with the law.
Gerald Nachman is a writer in San Francisco and most recently the author of Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan’s America (University of California Press).
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