New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd strongly criticizes Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) executive director, Kenneth Roth, for contributing to the “inane debate” over the justice of killing of Osama bin Laden (Killing Evil Doesn’t Make Us Evil, May 7, 2011).  On May 3, Roth tweeted, “Ban Ki-moon wrong on Osama bin Laden: It’s not justice for him to be killed even if justified; no trial, conviction.”  In response, Dowd writes, “The really insane assumption behind some of the second-guessing is that killing Osama somehow makes us like Osama, as if all killing is the same. . . . Only fools or knaves would argue that we could fight Al Qaeda’s violence non-violently.”  She also criticizes Roth’s statements “I leave it to subtler minds to parse the distinction between what is just and what is justified.”

Similarly, NGO Monitor noted HRW’s abandoning of moral principles of human rights and international law (Human Rights Watch Challenges Bin Laden Killing: Odious Immoral Equivalence, May 4, 2011). HRW’s moral equivalence was encapsulated in Program Director Iain Levine’s glib response to the operation: “[Bin Laden’s] death should also bring an end to a horrific chapter of human rights abuses in the name of counterterrorism.” 

Levine’s statement was quickly erased from HRW’s website, but Roth and HRW continue to issue statements that immorally equate terrorists with terror victims. As Dowd notes, “The president chose the riskiest option presented to him, but one that spared nearly all the women and children at the compound, and anyone in the vicinity. . . .  Morally and operationally, this was counterterrorism at its finest.”