Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, May 09, 2011

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There's a post today at America magazine's blog by Jesuit Raymond A. Schroth - Readings: When Is A Killing Not a Murder?. Here's a little of it --


Readings: When Is A Killing Not a Murder?
- Raymond A. Schroth SJ

[...] I flicked my TV on around midnight last Sunday to a foreign language news broadcast where the subtext seemed to say that Osama bin Laden was dead; but that was contradicted, I thought, by the video of hoards of young people screaming “U. S. A.” and yelling and waving American flags, as at a football game. Both were true. The bad guy was dead and college kids were dancing in the streets. He had died like a coward, but in battle, the report said, clutching his wife as a shield, shooting it out with heroic Navy Seals. The next morning the tabloids rejoiced. The New York Daily News shouted, “Rot in Hell!” on page 1 and ran that as a banner the rest of the week.

An email from a lawyer friend said: “I think it may become clear that there was a summary execution.”

That had been implied in President Obama’s announcement the night before, just from the way he emphasized the word “kill,” and the way administration spokesmen tacked on vague references to the dead man or his wife or son making “threatening gestures.” But soon we knew there was no “battle.” Our troops quickly killed a man and a woman on the first floor then started up the stairs. No more shots were fired. Bin Laden stood in his doorway, turned back into his room. Our troops entered the room. Bin Laden was unarmed, although reportedly a Seal saw a gun elsewhere in the room. They shot their target in the chest and head, blowing off part of his skull, scooped up the body, took pictures of the corpse, wrapped him and dumped him in the ocean from one of our ships.

This event, said the President, will unify America, proving we can do anything as a nation that we put our minds to. My list of other things we should put our minds to is long.

I have mixed emotions. I am relieved that Osama bin Laden was found. I am ashamed, as a former army officer and as a Catholic priest, that, under these circumstances, he was killed .....

I agree with my lawyer friends who say: This is not justice. Justice means arrest, fair trial, and punishment. Robert Fisk, the renowned British war correspondent who has interviewed bin Laden several times, says it best: “The real problem is that the West, which has constantly preached to the Arab world that legality and non-violence was the way forward in the Middle East, has taught a different lesson to the people of the region: that executing your opponents is perfectly acceptable.”


Me here again ... I think the reason I keep posting about this, the reason it bothers me so much, is the inconsistency: Christians are ignoring the sermon on the mount in favor of retribution. But forget religion for a minute and let's talk politics -- people who I considered "liberal" are somehow ok with assassination. I'd expect that from Bush Republicans who from the word go were ok with ignoring the Geneva Conventions and curtailing our civil liberties in the name of beating terrorism, but how can people who had ethical and moral objections to what Bush did now make an exception in this case? This bit from a past post by Glenn Greenwald expresses what I feel --


The Osama bin Laden exception
- Glenn Greenwald

[A] large number of people who have adopted the view that bin Laden's death is an unadulterated Good, and it therefore simply does not matter how it happened (ends justify the means, roughly speaking). There are, I think, two broad groups adopting this mindset: (1) those, largely on the Right, who believe the U.S. is at War and anything we do to our Enemies is basically justifiable; and (2) those, mostly Democrats, who reject that view -- who genuinely believe in general in due process and adherence to ostensible Western norms of justice -- yet who view bin Laden as a figure of such singular Evil (whether in reality or as a symbol) that they're willing to make an exception in his case, willing to waive away their principles just for him: creating the Osama bin Laden Exception .......

[Y]es, I believe in all these principles of due process and restraining unfettered Executive killing and the like, but in this one case, I don't care if those are violated. Like I said, though I strongly disagree with that view, I understand and respect it, particularly given the honesty with which it's expressed.

My principal objection to it -- aside from the fact that I think those principles shouldn't be violated because they're inherently right (which is what makes them principles) -- is that there's no principled way to confine it to bin Laden. If this makes sense for bin Laden, why not for other top accused Al Qaeda leaders? Why shouldn't the same thing be done to Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen who has been allegedly linked by the Government to far more attacks over the last several years than bin Laden? At Guantanamo sits Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged operational mastermind of 9/11 -- who was, if one believes the allegations, at least as responsible for the attack as bin Laden and about whom there is as little perceived dobut; why shouldn't we just take him out back today and shoot him in the head and dump his corpse into the ocean rather than trying him?

Once you embrace the bin Laden Exception, how does it stay confined to him? ..... For me, the better principles are those established by the Nuremberg Trials, and numerous other war crimes trials accorded some of history's most gruesome monsters. It should go without saying for all but the most intellectually and morally stunted that none of this has anything to do with sympathy for bin Laden. Just as was true for objections to the torture regime or Guantanamo or CIA black sites, this is about the standards to which we and our Government adhere, who we are as a nation and a people ....



Anonymous Anonymous said...

3 years and living in just 2 rooms, plotting to seek revenge on the world from his computer. Yes 1 sees the similarities! LOL!

3:48 AM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

I wouldn't worry about this too much. As I mentioned earlier, I think Greenwald has a valid point. And the whole incident and the way it was handled does raise several questions in terms of religion, ethics, constitutionality, politics, etc. Not to mention the frat-boy reaction to Bin-Laden's deat (apologies to good fraternity members), the questions of war, torture and so on. But while I agree intellectually, I also remember smelling the dead bodies from WTC for two months, seeing the devastated looks on the faces of the firemen at our fire house who lost half of their colleagues, passing funerals at St. Patrick's almost every day on the way to work, seeing the piled rubble of the towers, etc. I think I'll save my emotional and spiritual energy struggling with other difficult questions. I can live with the execution of Bin Laden. Though it may diminish me at some level. I think it would diminish me even more to concern myself too much over what happened to him. The concerns and questions are real ones, though, obviously.

9:04 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi William,

I understand your point of view. It must be very different to live where 9/11 took place and see the effects in real life.

9:38 PM  

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