Yesterday I read the much talked about article in this week’s New Yorker by Nicholas Schmidle which offers the details of the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound and his eventual demise.
Much to my own surprise, my reading of it was rather dispassionate, as though reading a novel or watching a TV show, immune I was to the emotions of a death witnessed. This may have been due to the writer’s style within which he told this compelling “story” or because of the distance that history affords. I was, nonetheless, bothered by some of the details.
One was the image of the two women, his wives, who blocked him with their own bodies to protect him and the “bear hug” by the SEAL who pushed them aside, possibly risking his own life had they worn explosives. A shiver slid up my spine as I felt the coldness of the words spoken in response to questions over whether it had been considered to take him alive: “…it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees.”
I am no OBL apologist. I am quite at peace with the fact that he is no longer among us. I witnessed 9/11 first-hand, heard the plane as it passed by my office window that beautiful September morning, thinking how loud it was. Little did I know how that plane’s sound would reverberate around the world and continue to do so ten years hence.
But there was something that really bothered me of this story I read, and it remained with me stewing in my thoughts ever since…the words spoken as a code to announce that he was dead:
“For God and country…”
Osama bin Laden also felt he was acting “for God,” as did Anders Behring Brevik and Timothy McVeigh. Catholics vs. Protestants, Muslims vs. Jews, Shia vs. Sunni and Sikh vs. Hindu. The acts, the words are interchangeable, yet justified by the belief that they were done so in the name of God.
Osama bin Laden was a man, a mere mortal, who mistook his own insanity for God’s mandate. Killing him “for God” just legitimizes his message, his words and acts which are no more those of Islam than was the mass-murder in Norway a “Christian” act.
Bring God into it and your own responsibility evaporates. If killing him was not a religious act, why call it so? Divisive. Unfortunate. Unnecessary.
Enemy killed in action. That phrase followed and it’s much better, in my humble opinion. Leave God out of it, please.