Like many others, I have spent a great deal of time contemplating the demise of Osama Bin Laden. There has been a great deal of discussion about the event, the morality, and the credit.
First off, I think most of the conversations about the credit are misplaced. The Intelligence Services, the Navy Seals, and the Army helicopter pilots obviously deserve a ton of credit. Three American Presidents have been trying to get to Bin Laden and he has been one of the most elusive people in the world. All three, Clinton, Bush, and Obama deserve credit for the hunt. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who was the President when the job was finished; they all deserve credit. Obama was the one who made the final call; a call any of them, I believe, would have made. So, enough about the credit.
As for the morality of all this, there is a simple fact to be viewed: Osama Bin Laden made war on the United States. He launched attacks against us in the Middle East and on our own soil. Many have wanted to call him a criminal and I greatly appreciate the desire to do so as what he did WAS criminal. He was an avowed enemy, however, of this nation as he made war on us. It was and is a deplorable kind of war that sinks to the lowest form of human behavior, but he made war on us.
In classic morality, when one makes war on another, one loses one’s right to life. It is a harsh reality of war.
In 1943 the American military had learned that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of Japan, the man who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, was going to be in an airplane flying from one base to another. The approximate route was calculated and a group of American fighter planes were launched with the hope of finding Yamamoto’s plane. They did and he was shot down and killed. He had made war on the United States and our military tracked him down and he died.
Interestingly enough, the stories of getting Yamamoto and Bin Laden are a great deal alike. Justice, it can be said, was served.
But justice should not be celebrated.
Again, during World War II, there was another battle in another continent.
After D-Day on June 6th, the often untold story is that the United States and the British were trapped in Normandy for weeks. After a devastating attack to break out, the British were north and the American Army was south. General Omar Bradley was the overall ground commander and he watched how things developed.
The German Army was told by Adolf Hitler to not retreat and not give up an inch of land. That always sounds ‘tough’ but it’s an incredibly stupid strategy for victory. In fact, the ‘never give an inch’ mentality generally is a successful model for defeat as a strategic, well planned retreat often allows people to regather and come back.
In any case, the German Army was staggered and pushed back and they finally came up with a really amazingly bad plan. They counter-attacked into the center of the American and British line. The German Army believed the best trained, best disciplined, and best equipped army would prevail. The Germans were correct. The best trained, best disciplined, and best equipped army did prevail when the American Army stopped the German Army after the Germans had pushed themselves into a deep pocket.
Bradley, who is vastly under-rated and often unknown, saw that the Germans were in a deep but narrow bulge trapped by Americans and British in the west, the north, and the south. There was only a gap near Falaise, France. The American and English Armies began to close the gap. Estimates say that 10-20,000 German troops got out, but the bulk of the German Army was trapped. 50,000 German soldiers surrendered, and between 20-30,000 of them died in the center of the trap.
The German Army in France was essentially destroyed and an entire Army Group was wiped off the planet.
General Dwight Eisenhower, Bradley’s boss, was thrilled and toured the battlefield where so many German soldiers had died. What he saw appalled him. There were no signs of life. French life stock was dead. Horses that pulled German Army items were dead. Thousands and thousands of young German soldiers were dead. It was said that even the flied had not survived the carnage. There was nothing but death.
It had to have been done. The dead soldiers would have done that to American soldiers if the shoe had been on the other foot. But Eisenhower was greatly disturbed. There was no elation----just the grim reminder and fact that was is a brutal business.
Osama Bin Laden was a man of brutality who died brutally. Jesus observed that those who live by the sword die by the sword. If one calls violence on another, that violence will be returned. But we must not delight in it.
In the Jewish Seder Meal there is a moment when people dip their fingers in the wine and drop drops of wine on their plates ten times to remember the ten plagues against Egypt. It is a reminder of the blood of one’s enemy that was shed so the Israelites would be freed. The drops of wine are dropped but there is a command. You must not lick your fingers afterwards to delight in it.
Sadly, sometimes people die for justice to prevail and that is part of the world we live in. But let us never delight in it.