Magi Mike's Blog

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A Few People, Some Christians, Still Defend Morality and Justice

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Many Europeans struggled to understand the celebrations in the streets of New York and Washington at the news that Bin Laden had been assassinated by US Navy Seals—special operation marines. According to Reuters, European happiness was tempered by emerging details showing he was unarmed when shot dead. Among those registering a mild discomfort over it were one or two, literally, Christians! These few were willing to open their mouths and say that the killing of an unarmed man is morally wrong, however wicked press and politicians consider him to have been. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the 80-million strong Anglican Communion, is the latest to say the killing of an unarmed Osama bin Laden left him feeling “very uncomfortable”. In response to a direct question, the Archbishop told reporters at a press briefing:

I think that the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done in those circumstances. I don’t know the full details any more than anyone else does. But I do believe that in such circumstances when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a “war criminal” as you might say in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be observed.

A spokesman for the Most Rev Michael Cote, bishop of Norwich, said the bishop “fully supports” that view. The US account of a 40 minute gun battle has changed to spokespeople saying only one of the five people killed had been armed. US television network NBC, citing more recent official press releases, said four of the five, including bin Laden himself, were unarmed and never fired a shot.

The Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford, warned on his blog that “jubilation on the streets” would not be very helpful. He added:

The lesson for the West must surely be to adopt policies around the world which are “right” and promote justice… and not simply use wealth and military power to promote our own political or economic expediency. I remember well covering the original Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, during which Bin Laden was deemed someone to support… We might reflect that vengeance isn’t necessarily the same as justice

It is only the enemies of civilization who exult at a summary execution. Dr Tom Wright, the former bishop of Durham, who is now a professor at St Andrews University, went further. He suggested that America had engaged in “vigilante actions” by invading a sovereign country, and was operating “outside the law”. “The US has to learn that it is not the world’s policeman”, and he might have added, judge, jury and executioner.

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, wrote in a Facebook posting that Bin Laden was “better put on trial as a criminal than killed in a way that some will call martyrdom”. And it was not just the Anglicans, often thought by Americans to be too liberal. A Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said that while Bin Laden was responsible for “spreading division and hatred amongst the people, causing the death of countless of people, and of instrumentalizing religion for this end”, a Christian never rejoices in the face of a man’s death. Not that Bin Laden was willing to admit any of this in his first few videos released after 9/11. He denied it, and only in the later videos, thought by some authorities, including terrorism experts, to have been US fakes did he gloat over it.

Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, said:

It doesn’t look like they made any effort to take him alive. They should have. It looks more and more like an assassination. So yes, it concerns me. They didn’t want to see the rule of law being followed and Bin Laden put on trial. He was a war criminal and should have been put on trial. People are dying in that part of the world to establish the rule of law and human rights. Going in and shooting him undermines the whole of that purpose. A lot of people are using “justice” as a euphemism for “revenge”. It’s absolutely wrong.

Mind you, Christina Odone, sometime editor of the Catholic Herald and now an authoritarian commentator for the London Telegraph, thinks it is all right to celebrate a summary execution when the victim is a terrorist leader and not any other unarmed man:

Shooting Osama, even if he was naked and vulnerable as a baby, was an act of deliverance. No doubt there.

She does not seem to remember that Jesus Christ was summarily executed by Pontius Pilate at the instigation of “the Jews” , acording to her Holy Word, and Christians ever since have presented it as a terrible injustice. The Romans, the Americans of their day, did not think so. Part of the purpose of trials is to ensure that such mistakes do not happen! Presumably, the Christian thinks there must be a lesson there somewhere, presumably one taught by God Himself. But even she said she recoiled at the gloating that Americans went in for, following the news of Osama’s killing. That was un-Christian and unhelpful.

In Germany, Siegfried Kauder, a senior member of parliament in the ruling conservative Christian Democratic Union criticised Angela Merkel’s statement that she was glad that killing Bin Laden was successful:

I wouldn’t have used those words. That is a vengeful way of thinking that one shouldn’t have. That’s medieval. A random killing is not permitted according to international agreements. If one concludes that Bin Laden was no longer active—running al Qaida operations around the world—the killing could be seen as random.

Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper also expressed misgivings about the legality of the killing. Heribert Prantl, a senior editor at the newspaper wrote:

Which law covers the execution of bin Laden? US law requires trials before death penalties are carried out. Executions are forbidden in countries based on rule of law. Martial law doesn’t cover the US operation either. The decision to kill the godfather of terror was political.

Gary Younge, a columnist in the UK Guardian, wrote:

While many nations suffered from Al Qaida’s terrorism and few in the world will mourn Bin Laden’s death, the United States is the only place where it sparked spontaneous outpourings of raucous jubilation.

A C Grayling, an eminent philosopher of London’s Birkbeck College, said:

I have concerns over the fact that it seems Osama bin Laden was shot out of hand rather than arrested and put on trial. The US and its Nato allies are meant to stand for due process in law and proper legal procedures. For no doubt very justifiable, pragmatic reasons, it was just an assassination. If we are going to live by our principles, we should do the tough thing—the harder thing—which is to arrest and put on trial. You don’t just shoot down an unarmed person—that’s what terrorists do and you don’t want to emulate them. There were women and children involved as well. This is the use of force in response to completely unbridled atrocities by Al Qaida. It just shows you Thucydides’s point, which he made over 2,000 years ago, about how our whole moral outlook and behaviour is corrupted if we fight fire with fire and respond in the way that they respond.

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Written by mikemagee

7 May, 2011 at 12:34 am

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