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Morality

The death of Osama bin Laden
2011-MAY-01: Part 1

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Kill, assassinate or capture?

Although there is a U.S. federal law against assassinating political leaders of foreign nations, there is no legal prohibition preventing the assassination of terrorists and terrorist leaders.

From reports by CNN on 2011-MAY-03, the Obama administrations intended to capture Osama bin Laden -- the leader of Al-Qaeda (a.k.a. al-Qaida and al-Qa'ida) -- if he surrendered and put up no resistance. He would then presumably be made available for trial for the mass murder of tens of thousands of people -- mostly Muslims. The backup plan was to kill him if necessary.

He did allegedly put up resistance when the Navy Seals attacked his compound on 2011-MAY-01. Although initial reports of the event were confusing and contradictory, it appears that the Seals confronted bin Laden in a doorway, and he moved into the room in the direction of some weapons. one or two Navy Seals shot bin Laden twice: once in the chest and once in the head.

It seems that he was with members of his family including his 12-year-old daughter when he was killed. She has "... claimed that she watched as her father was captured alive and shot..." 1 The CIA categorically denied that this happened. There is a second rumor circulating in Pakistan: that a second bin Laden son, Mohammed, had been killed and taken away by helicopter as it left Abbottabad, the location of the bin Laden compound. This was also denied by the CIA. 6 Both appear to be fabricated stories unrelated to actual events.

Since no country in the area was willing to have his body buried in their soil, he was buried at sea with customary Islamic procedures, some twelve hours after his death.

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Photo of bin Laden?

The killing placed news networks in an awkward position. Within hours of his death, a picture apparently showing bin Laden's bloodied face and part of his dead body was broadcast on Pakistani television. It quickly went viral through the Internet. News sources were anxious to be the first to broadcast the picture and scoop the rest of the world. But there was always the danger that the photograph was a fake. Russell Boyce, blogging for Reuters News Agency, wrote that broadcasting a fake picture "... could be very embarrassing to say the least -- a tough balancing act when under such pressure." 2

An analysis of the photograph showed "odd pixilation and blurring, and his face was darker in some areas than others." The bottom half of his face turned out to be identical to a photograph of him speaking at a news conference in 1998, after the image was rotated 180°. It was a photoshopped fake. The world still waits an actual photograph of his corpse.

In the meantime, it doesn't really matter to some folks whether a photograph is released or not. At every momentous historical event -- good and bad -- whether it be the death of Elvis Presley, the assassination of J.F. Kennedy, landing people on the moon, the terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, the election of the first (some say third or fourth) biracial president of the U.S., etc. -- a conspiracy theory emerges. Some people will believe that Elvis still lives, Kennedy was assassinated by a conspiracy, the moon landing was faked, Jews or American government engineered 9/11, President Obama was born in Kenya, etc.

The technology exists to convert a old photograph of a living Osama bin Laden into a simulated photo of his dead body. Lots of people will assume that all photos of his body are faked, that bin Laden still lives in hiding, and that the reports of his murder was merely an election ploy.

As of 2011-MAY-03, the photographs of bin Laden's body have not been released to the public by the Obama administration. They considered that move, but decided against it. The pictures are gruesome and liable to inflame passions. Besides, conspiracy theory believers would never accept the photographs as real. Some Pakistani citizens interviewed on CNN claimed that bin Laden still lived. However, the Al Queda movement acknowledged his death.

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The morality of killing enemies:

As is common with so many moral and ethical questions, a person can go to the Bible -- or any other large holy text -- and find proof texts that support their opinions.

The Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) gives apparent support for the killing of bad guys. Consider:

  • Deuteronomy 7:1-2: "... you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy." 3

  • Deuteronomy 20:16: "...do not leave alive anything that breaths. Completely destroy them...as the Lord your God has commanded you..."

  • Other passages in which God ordered the ancient Hebrews to commit genocides against their neighbors. Other parts of the Mosaic Code instructed them to stone to death non-virgin brides, to burn some hookers alive, to execute children who curse their parents, and to execute perpetrators of other religiously based, sexually based, and dozens of other infractions.

There is little doubt but that ample justification for the killing of bin Laden can be found in the Old Testament.

The Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament) are ambiguous.

In favor of exhibiting feelings and actions of love instead of hatred are passages of the synoptic Gospels that allegedly report the words of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ):

  • Matthew 5:44, KJV: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

  • Luke 6:27, KJV: "But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies. do good to them which hate you."

  • Luke 6:35, KJV: "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil."

On the other hand, Yeshua himself said that every one of the 613 instructions in the Mosaic Code are to be retained and followed. This would presumably include the dozens of crimes that require the death penalty:

  • Matthew 5:18: "For verily I say onto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

  • Luke 16:17: "And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail."

  • There are other passages in the Christian Scriptures involving end times and the war of Armageddon in which the most massive genocide in history will occur: the execution of perhaps two billion humans for thought crimes; they believed in the wrong religion.

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Celebrations following bin Laden's death:

Response to President Obama's speech was speedy. As Rev. Cynthia Bagley reported on the Concord Monitor (NH):

"Crowds of students from George Washington University were the first to arrive at the White House. Similar gatherings quickly emerged in Times Square, Ground Zero, and cities across the nation. The New York Times website froze from over-activity within 20 minutes."

"By the end of President Obama's speech, over a thousand internet news stories had been written. ..."

"I think God would understand our need to celebrate the eradication of this terrible patch of darkness in creation. Yet let us remember that we, too, as a nation, must pray to be delivered from evil, to resist the temptation to gloat and swagger as we get on with the business of building a world in which God's kingdom will come, in which all people are treated respectfully and compassionately, in which everyone has this day their daily bread, and trespasses are forgiven, and regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity or political persuasion we are all united in love." 4

Frank James, writing on "The Two-way" -- NPR's news blog -- said:

"Outside the White House on Pennsylvania Ave. people climbed trees and urged on the crowd below."

"At Ground Zero in New York, two people scaled a lamppost: one waving a flag, the other spraying the crowd with the contents of a champagne bottle."

"But even as Americans celebrated, there was the lurking awareness that not everyone in the world was celebrating."

"Indeed, in coming days, it wouldn't be surprising if the next scenes of street demonstrations would not be of impromptu celebrations but protests by those who viewed bin Laden in heroic terms." 5

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This topic continues in Part 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Simon Mann, "Daughter, 12, saw killing of unarmed bin Laden," Sydney Morning Herald, 2011-MAY-05, at: http://www.smh.com.au/
  2. Russell Boyce, "Osama bin Laden is dead -- prove it," Reuters News Agency blog, 2011-MAY-02, at: http://blogs.reuters.com/
  3. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
  4. Rev. Cynthia Bagley, "Can Christians really cele3brate bin Laden's death?," Concord Monitor, 2011-MAY-04, at: http://www.concordmonitor.com/
  5. Frank James, "Sept. 11 Epicenters N.Y., D.C. Celebrate Osama's Death Into Wee Hours," NPR, 2011-MAY-02, at: http://www.npr.org/
  6. Robert Windrem, "CIA denies bin Laden was captured before his killing," MSNBC News, 2011-MAY-04, at: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2011-MAY-04
Most recent update: 2011-MAY-7
Author: B.A. Robinson

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