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The Death of Osama bin Laden


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#21 Andy Whitman

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 08:53 PM

Just a different viewpoint. The 3,000 people killed in the 9/11 attacks are still just as dead. I am no fan of Osama bin Laden. He was an evil man. It's good that he's dead. But I do question the whole "justice" angle, both on arithmetical and moral grounds. From a justice standpoint, the death of one man in no way makes up for the deaths of 3,000 civilians on 9/11, or the deaths of 1,000+ Coalition troops and contractors killed in Afghanistan, or the 1,100+ U.S. Soldiers killed in Afghanistan, or the 15,000+ Afghan troops and civilians killed, or the $400,000,000,000+ and counting spent in an ongoing war. This is not justice in any sense of the word I understand.

I can think of no better Al Qaida recruitment videos than the gloating scenes the news networks have been feeding us all day. Violence begets violence. I think that might even be a biblical concept. What we have taught the world in the past 24 hours is that it's okay to assassinate political leaders with whom we disagree. And that philosophy has a way of rebounding on peoples' (and leaders') heads. We never learn. We were already in deep shit. And it just got a lot deeper. Justice? Where is justice here? The world just got a lot less safe, and "freedom" marches on. God bless America.



Before the mods descend on us here, I'll just say politically I'm in agreement with you Andy... at least regarding the unwinnable, FUBAR nature of these conflicts.

The only "war" that ever seemed to have universal approval amongst free people was the direct one against Al Qaeda and it's leader(s). Yesterday seemed for a brief moment, like a return to that original, idealized mission (perhaps too little too late). I guess the main question appropriate for this forum is whether Christians ought to cheer, lift a pint or dance a jig when such men are violently deposed of. I think such a reflex is not only appropriate, but likely innate. The response today from friends on my Facebook newsfeed is fairly unanimous and filled with scripture references and MLK quotes-- even from my atheist and humanist peeps-- and being the eternal contrarian, I find such collective preachiness a tad bit conformist and uncomfortable.

My immediate reaction when I heard the news this morning was relief. Good. Good riddance. And I still believe that. But I didn't, and don't, feel like celebrating. Within about fifteen seconds my mind had turned to thoughts of, "Hmm, I wonder where the terrorists will strike next?" Because they will. We destroyed the figurehead of an insidious movement, but we have not destroyed the movement. And all the gloating, all the flag-waving, will do nothing but further incite people who are bent on hating and destroying us.

I posted some of those MLK and biblical quotes on Facebook today not because I wanted to be preachy and santimonious, but because I actually believe them. I think Jesus' teaching about these issues is fairly clear, and I try to take those teachings seriously. I certainly understand that there is a lot of room for differing views here, but what I don't understand is how Christians can condone and celebrate a spirit of vengeance, and how they can justify and gloat about the use of, for example, waterboarding, which apparently led to some of the information that resulted in bin Laden's demise. I guess the ends really do justify the means. I'm not sure where I read that, but I don't think it was the Bible.

There is much that I find dispiriting, unseemly, and distasteful about the events of the past 24 hours. Celebration is fairly far from my mind. So good riddance. But let's not pretend that there's anything remotely Christian about these proceedings. I know, it's a fallen world, and idealism gets kicked in the crotch every time. But don't ask me to cheer the kick in the crotch.

#22 Ryan H.

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:07 PM

. . . waterboarding . . . which apparently led to some of the information that resulted in bin Laden's demise.

Source? Admittedly, I've been out of the loop on this thing. I haven't watched any TV coverage of Bin Laden's death. I heard an NPR report this morning and that's the extent of it. But it was my understanding that the Obama administration had ordered the end of waterboarding.

#23 Greg P

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:14 PM

My immediate reaction when I heard the news this morning was relief. Good. Good riddance. And I still believe that. But I didn't, and don't, feel like celebrating. Within about fifteen seconds my mind had turned to thoughts of, "Hmm, I wonder where the terrorists will strike next?" Because they will. We destroyed the figurehead of an insidious movement, but we have not destroyed the movement. And all the gloating, all the flag-waving, will do nothing but further incite people who are bent on hating and destroying us.

True dat. I think my celebration was entirely internal and I'm just as annoyed and dismayed my the yokel flag-waving gatherings as you are.

I posted some of those MLK and biblical quotes on Facebook today not because I wanted to be preachy and santimonious, but because I actually believe them

Man!!! That was not directed at you at all! There were so many today I lost count and paid no attention to names,... except my one agnostic hedonist buddy in San Diego who suddenly waxed NT scholar on the subject. That one got to me!

But don't ask me to cheer the kick in the crotch.

I wouldn't. But I did yesterday and do generally when justice is delivered in certain scenarios.

#24 Andy Whitman

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:19 PM

Man!!! That was not directed at you at all! There were so many today I lost count and paid no attention to names,... except my one agnostic hedonist buddy in San Diego who suddenly waxed NT scholar on the subject. That one got to me!

No worries, Greg. I didn't assume it was directed to me. I'm just saying that I posted some of the same thoughts. Because I believe them.

#25 Pax (unregistered)

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:31 PM

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#26 M. Leary

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 09:34 PM

Why do spiritual people have to be burdened with faux-piety over this man being cut down in war? Is there never occasion for rejoicing in earthly justice? (and specifically war-time justice)


What if it isn't faux-piety? Anabaptists do actually exist...

#27 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 03:13 AM

CrimsonLine wrote:
: Saul was the Osama bin Laden of his day, planning and carrying out terrorist acts against pockets of Christians, hauling them off to arrest and execution, driven by religious zeal to destroy what he saw as the enemies of God.

Slight quibble, but was Saul really a "terrorist" if he was acting with the permission of the authorities? Maybe he had more in common with, say, someone on the pro-Gitmo side of the fence (or what the people on the anti-Gitmo side think the pro-Gitmo side must be like).

: In fact, Proverbs tells us, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” (Proverbs 24:17–18)

Thank you, sincerely, for quoting the full proverb and not just the first half, as so many have done these last few days.

: The Christian should be glad that justice was done, and that Osama bin Laden received the gravest punishment human beings can give for his crimes. But we cannot delight in his death, because the Lord’s desire was that he should repent, and find forgiveness in Jesus. As it stands, we commend Osama bin Laden to the Judge of all the earth. And may God have mercy on his soul.

This is a thoughtful note on which to conclude. I appreciate it.

I must admit my own reaction to the news (and the meta-news) has been all over the place. I'm not fond of the one-sided moralizing some Christians have done here -- as though there weren't plenty of examples in the Bible of people celebrating the demise of their enemies, going back to the song sung by the Israelites after the Egyptian charioteers were drowned in the Red Sea -- but I also think death is a seriously profound thing, so much so that I can never hear of a real-life villain's demise without being moved by a kind of pity rooted in our common mortality.

So when I heard the news, two of my first thoughts were, of course, movie-related. First, this famous title card from the end of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon:

Posted Image

And then, this famous bit of dialogue from near the end of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BppCSJZl_o

And note, when Eastwood says "We all have it coming", he's referring to death, not justice. The kid is trying to deflect his newfound awareness of death by focusing on justice and feeling superior. But Eastwood brings it back to death.

Persiflage wrote:
: It's going to take more than killing symbolic leaders to accomplish any lasting good here.

They're saying now that they didn't just kill him; they took his computer, too. Any thoughts on whether that might have any tactical value? Or has Osama withered so much towards being a figurehead that he wouldn't even be in the loop on anything important nowadays?

: Spiritually, I can think of nothing better to turn believers in Islam away from Christianity and the gospel forever than to see Christians celebrating the death of bin Laden.

So ... are we taking it for granted, then, that there won't be any MUSLIMS celebrating the death of bin Laden? I mean, he's killed a lot more of THEM than he has of US, no?

Andy Whitman wrote:
: From a justice standpoint, the death of one man in no way makes up for the deaths of 3,000 civilians on 9/11, or the deaths of 1,000+ Coalition troops and contractors killed in Afghanistan, or the 1,100+ U.S. Soldiers killed in Afghanistan, or the 15,000+ Afghan troops and civilians killed, or the $400,000,000,000+ and counting spent in an ongoing war. This is not justice in any sense of the word I understand.

The point you make here is all the more, uh, pointed when you consider WHERE they found bin Laden, and what this says about what the Pakistani government has been doing with the money that you've been paying them to help you find bin Laden.

: What we have taught the world in the past 24 hours is that it's okay to assassinate political leaders with whom we disagree.

Um, bin Laden was a "political leader"? And he was killed over a mere "disagreement"?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 03 May 2011 - 03:16 AM.


#28 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 03:27 AM

I'm not fond of the one-sided moralizing some Christians have done here -- as though there weren't plenty of examples in the Bible of people celebrating the demise of their enemies, going back to the song sung by the Israelites after the Egyptian charioteers were drowned in the Red Sea -- but I also think death is a seriously profound thing, so much so that I can never hear of a real-life villain's demise without being moved by a kind of pity rooted in our common mortality.

Oh, wow, I literally Just Read this blog post via a Facebook friend:

The Torah describes Moses and Miriam leading the ancient People Israel in a celebratory song after the tyrannical Pharaoh and his Army have been overwhelmed by the waters of the Red Sea. Later, the Rabbis gave a new overtone to the story: “The angels,” they said, “ began to dance and sing as well, but God rebuked them: ‘These also are the work of My hands. We must not rejoice at their deaths!’ “

Notice the complexity of the teaching: Human beings go unrebuked when they celebrate the downfall and death of a tyrant; but the Rabbis are addressing our higher selves, trying to move us into a higher place. (The legend is certainly not aimed at “angels.”) Similarly, we are taught that at the Passover Seder, when we recite the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians, we must drip out the wine from our cups as we mention each plague, lest we drink that wine to celebrate these disasters that befell our oppressors. . . .

But then, of course, there is the celebration of Purim, and the children who are encouraged to call for the death of Haman. Like I say, it's complicated.

#29 Ryan H.

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 06:00 AM

So when I heard the news, two of my first thoughts were, of course, movie-related. First, this famous title card from the end of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon:

Posted Image

Great reference.

#30 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 06:22 AM

I can think of no better Al Qaida recruitment videos than the gloating scenes the news networks have been feeding us all day. Violence begets violence. I think that might even be a biblical concept. What we have taught the world in the past 24 hours is that it's okay to assassinate political leaders with whom we disagree. And that philosophy has a way of rebounding on peoples' (and leaders') heads. We never learn. We were already in deep shit. And it just got a lot deeper. Justice? Where is justice here? The world just got a lot less safe, and "freedom" marches on. God bless America.

I agree on all points here, but one. We forget, bin Laden was stateless an therefore not a political leader in the sense that, say Karzai is. This is an entirely different sort of conflict though it is international.

#31 M. Leary

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:07 AM

I'm not fond of the one-sided moralizing some Christians have done here -- as though there weren't plenty of examples in the Bible of people celebrating the demise of their enemies, going back to the song sung by the Israelites after the Egyptian charioteers were drowned in the Red Sea


Which was an act perpetrated by Yahweh himself. Indeed, the celebration of Israel over military victories was always worship of a God, one God, that battled for His glory through the nation itself. It is very difficult theologically to make a one-to-one correspondence between Israel's wars and our wars, as the basic narratives don't match up. On the other hand, we can quite easily create one-to-one correspondences between Jesus' resistance to violence and our need to resist violence.

A facebook status from a muslim friend of mine:

A coworker asked me today "You alright?" (a crack about the killing of OBL). I asked him if Charlie Sheen was shot and I asked if he was alright how would he answer. He said "I would say I was alright." I said "of course you would because what does the shooting of some douche bag got to do with you?!"


Edited by M. Leary, 03 May 2011 - 08:21 AM.


#32 Thom Wade

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:15 AM

Making a public display of celebrating "Justice" in many cases, without even exploring the moral implications of doing so, is often unwise. This is one of those cases. The news media is currently engaged in the task of creating hours and hours worth of al-Qaeda recruitment video footage.


Why is this any greater of a recruitment than our country's past ten years? Why is this somehow worse than torture/harsh interrogations, Guantanamo Bay or invading Iraq? If he was a mere outdated figurehead, as many on conservatives have argued over the last several years...why is this suddenly a dangerous recruiting opportunity for terrorists?

#33 SDG

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:24 AM


Making a public display of celebrating "Justice" in many cases, without even exploring the moral implications of doing so, is often unwise. This is one of those cases. The news media is currently engaged in the task of creating hours and hours worth of al-Qaeda recruitment video footage.

Why is this any greater of a recruitment than our country's past ten years? Why is this somehow worse than torture/harsh interrogations, Guantanamo Bay or invading Iraq? If he was a mere outdated figurehead, as many on conservatives have argued over the last several years...why is this suddenly a dangerous recruiting opportunity for terrorists?

And as many liberals have argued. I tend to concur. Also, presuming that the majority of Muslims don't support terrorism and recognize that 9/11 was an atrocity, however much ill will our subsequent actions may have generated, I have to think that reasonable Muslims around the world will consider the U.S. action against bin Laden as an understandable and even necessary action. If anything, bin Laden's ability to elude the U.S. for a decade was better PR for al Quaeda than killing him now.

Edited by SDG, 03 May 2011 - 08:24 AM.


#34 Andy Whitman

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:24 AM


Making a public display of celebrating "Justice" in many cases, without even exploring the moral implications of doing so, is often unwise. This is one of those cases. The news media is currently engaged in the task of creating hours and hours worth of al-Qaeda recruitment video footage.


Why is this any greater of a recruitment than our country's past ten years? Why is this somehow worse than torture/harsh interrogations, Guantanamo Bay or invading Iraq? If he was a mere outdated figurehead, as many on conservatives have argued over the last several years...why is this suddenly a dangerous recruiting opportunity for terrorists?

Are you kidding? Imagine a slightly different scenario. Imagine the assassination of Queen Elizabeth of England, another outdated figurehead without political power in any official sense. Now imagine thousands of people in the country who employed the assassins, shouting "Burn in Hell, Queenie" and stomping on the Union Jack. And imagine that you, as a British citizen, get to watch it all on TV. You don't think the recruitment offices throughout Merry Olde England would be full the next day?

The only thing different about the two scenarios is that the person actually assassinated really does have an army behind him.

#35 SDG

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:33 AM

Are you kidding? Imagine a slightly different scenario. Imagine the assassination of Queen Elizabeth of England, another outdated figurehead without political power in any official sense.

What would it say about the Muslim world if there were even any remote way in which one could argue bin Laden : Muslim world :: Queen Elizabeth : Great Britain?

The only thing different about the two scenarios is that the person actually assassinated really does have an army behind him.

My God, the Muslim-hugging liberal in me hopes you're wrong.

Why can't the analogy be like the one MLeary's Muslim friend made? Why can't we have shot the Muslim Charlie Sheen, an embarrassing "douche bag" (his words, not mine)?

Edited by SDG, 03 May 2011 - 08:35 AM.


#36 Andy Whitman

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:35 AM

Are you kidding? Imagine a slightly different scenario. Imagine the assassination of Queen Elizabeth of England, another outdated figurehead without political power in any official sense.

What would it say about the Muslim world if there were even any remote way in which one could argue bin Laden : Muslim world :: Queen Elizabeth : Great Britain?

The only thing different about the two scenarios is that the person actually assassinated really does have an army behind him.

My God, the Muslim-hugging liberal in me hopes you're wrong.

I'm not suggesting that bin Laden has the kind of widespread following in the Muslim world that Queen Elizabeth does in Britain. But I am suggesting that he has followers, that they are radical and dangerous, and that an event like this, and its resulting distasteful celebratory aftermath, will do nothing but inflame those followers and bring newly incensed followers into the al-Qaeda fold.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 03 May 2011 - 08:40 AM.


#37 SDG

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:48 AM

I'm not suggesting that bin Laden has the kind of widespread following in the Muslim world that Queen Elizabeth does in Britain. But I am suggesting that he has followers, that they are radical and dangerous, and that an event like this, and its resulting distasteful celebratory aftermath, will do nothing but inflame those followers and bring newly incensed followers into the al-Queda fold.

Yeah, I don't know. That argument makes sense to me when you're talking about bombing Muslim countries, storming into Muslim homes in the middle of the night, detaining prisoners indefinitely, subjecting them to degrading and horrific treatment, etc. In this case, as far as the event itself goes, killing bin Laden seems to me to be only a defeat for al Quada and not the kind of thing likely to "incense" anyone who wouldn't have found an excuse to be incensed anyway. Anyway, I hope that moderate-inclined Muslims not already in bin Laden's back pocket will recognize this as an understandable act.

As for the celebratory aftermath, I think there's room for a level of celebration though I share your objections to the more distasteful forms (gloating, etc.). Human nature is what it is, for good and for ill, and it's some of both. I can see getting outraged at, say, celebrating degrading and/or defaced photos of bin Laden. I can't see getting worked up about people cheering, although I'm not inclined to cheer myself.

Edited by SDG, 03 May 2011 - 08:49 AM.


#38 Tyler

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:57 AM

Osama bin Laden's death to be featured in untitled Kathryn Bigelow project.

#39 Greg P

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 09:02 AM

Jim Wallis said:

Violence is always an indication of our failure to resolve our conflicts by peaceful means, and is always an occasion for deeper reflection.


I'm not going to argue that Christianity is, at it's philosophical core, a religion of nonviolence. I accept and embrace those ideals. But is violence always a "failure"?

Such armchair sermonizing is precisely the thing that irks me about Christianity sometimes-- it's this detachment from the complexities of the world around us and the apparent denial of the necessity of engaging with its more messy and ugly elements. Has Wallis never been physically attacked, have his children never been threatened, has he never been placed in a survival-of-the-fittest confrontational situation like the majority of people around the world? Is he suggesting God will never put us in situations that we can't talk or pray our way out of? Perhaps if you are a white, middle class dude living in a fairly affluent neighborhood, this is the case.

I am a left-leaning dude politically and I have much in common with Wallis. I'm also white and middle class. But I have been placed in a few situations in my life that required violence to survive, and I can tell you I never lost a minute of sleep about having to go "there". And in no way do i regard those choices as a failure. In fact, I'm quite proud of them and wonder where I would be today had I adopted pacifism.

"Deeper reflection"? I'm sorry. No one who's ever faced a serious physical confrontation talks like this.

Edited by Greg P, 03 May 2011 - 09:13 AM.


#40 Andy Whitman

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Posted 03 May 2011 - 09:05 AM

. . . waterboarding . . . which apparently led to some of the information that resulted in bin Laden's demise.

Source? Admittedly, I've been out of the loop on this thing. I haven't watched any TV coverage of Bin Laden's death. I heard an NPR report this morning and that's the extent of it. But it was my understanding that the Obama administration had ordered the end of waterboarding.

Nothing definitive, but here's what a friend wrote on Facebook:

I just heard for the 2nd time today U.S. Congressman Peter King (NY) explain that we obtained the "courier information" (leading to Obama via a multi year investigation) initially from Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed and then it was subsequently confirmed by Al Libby both under "strong interrogation" but clearly stated "water boarding" in Guantanamo in context of Mohammed.

My friend then went on to praise the operation at Gitmo in general and the practice of waterboarding in particular in leading to the discovery of bin Laden's compound.

And it was those comments, more than anything written here, that prompted my reply. Yay! Waterboarding! Praise God! Which he did, and does. My friend is a Christian, which scares me to no end.

Sometimes I don't understand the Christian Church.