The McCain campaign answered my question about what a President John McCain would do if Osama bin Laden were captured.
McCain would abide by the US Supreme Court decision to grant all detainees — including, hypothetically, bin Laden — Habeas Corpus rights.
“The recent Supreme Court ruling grants unprecedented access to US civilian courts for enemy combatants like Osama bin Laden," senior McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann emails. "Senator Obama agrees with the Court decision and wholeheartedly supports granting habeas rights to terrorists. Senator McCain strongly disagrees with the decision that Barack Obama supports, but will of course abide by Supreme Court decisions."
And then Scheunemann adds: "Under President McCain, Osama bin Laden would either be killed in combat or brought to justice — and that means the death penalty."
Why the mention of the death penalty?
Because Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, yesterday, said if bin Laden is captured, "I think what would be important would be for us to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he’s engaged in and not to make him into a martyr and to sure that the United States government is abiding by the basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism."
The notion that putting bin Laden to death would ultimately only serve to inspire more terrorism against the U.S. was explored by TIME international editor Michael Elliott in December 2001, who wrote, "if America’s reaction to that atrocity inspires a generation of young Muslims to commit themselves to armed struggle against the West, bin Laden wins. Then all the money spent on space-age pilotless planes and U.S. special forces, with their night-vision goggles and heat-seeking sensors, has been wasted, and all those who were killed on Sept. 11 have died in vain."
This of course is a bit of a contrast with Sen. McCain’s promise to follow bin Laden "to the gates of hell."