We rejoice in no man’s death

There is a general mood of elation, it seems, that Bin Laden is dead. I do not share in that. I do not rejoice in his death.

It is a sad end to a chapter in a  long, sad story, which is far from ended. This in not the end of Al Qaeda, nor the Taliban. In the 10 years since the hunt for Bin Laden got serious, he has had plenty of time, I am sure to encourage up dozens of new leaders. Maybe they will be effective, maybe ineffective. Does killing him change that? Does any of it buy back the wasted years and the wasted effort and the wasted money? Those who are rejoicing because they think some kind of justice is achieved will not find their grief lighter, I suspect. Pain is not such an easy transaction.

And in between 9/11 and May 2, 2011, how many thousands of Afghans have died in drone attacks, midnight raids, missile strikes, black prisons? How many soldiers from nations never concerned with all this have gone home in body bags, or deranged, removed, taken to a place from which they will never fully return. All their grief and that of all their families follows a different trajectory, unlinked to Bin Laden’s death, and one which will continue long past this day.

But seeing as Bin Laden is dead, and seeing as this somehow, for some people, legitimises all that has happened, can all the soldiers now go home? It’s over. It’s done. A demon is dead. The remnant Taliban are not, and never were a threat to the sovereignty of Western nations. They never had that ambition. Their agenda is surely a domestic issue, which most parties have agreed for years now, can only, ultimately addressed by the Afghan nation. Leave the Taliban to go legitimate or to go feral – they are doing it anyway – and go home, foreign soldiers. Your hunt for Bin Laden is over, and the real war, the war of ideologies, was never going to won with guns and bullets anyway.

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16 thoughts on “We rejoice in no man’s death

  1. dear phil, ta for your thoughts as always. maybe, just maybe, this will give impetus to withdrawal of the foreign troops; either because osama was found /or because that’s a good excuse to leave a battle noone’s winning – political cover for leaving. stay well, love to you and family.

  2. Images of cheering flag waving Americans sickened me – for one, it looked exactly the same as group of jihad-demanding young men in the East, baying for blood. And while Bin Laden is responsible for mass murder of the most grotesque kind, no death should be celebrated like a party. I’m glad this happened on Obama’s watch, with his measured statements. Can you image what George W would have said had they killed Bin Laden many years ago, as they so badly wanted to.

    It’s so obvious that a War on Terror can’t be won, as the desire to ‘terrorise’ lies within the heart, and isn’t defined by a military uniform. Plenty more where he came from – some new ones after this I’d guess.

  3. Phil,
    I know this is hard for you, because you’re “over there” and in the thick of it every day and trying to do a hard job to help people. I’ve always respected you for that and the fact is, I respect those in your line of work more than those in mine most of the time. But please, for one day, let me celebrate a military victory, which this was. This is surely a different type of war, but I am just an old sailor who went to battle stations on a September morning 1o years ago because of an attack on my country. This fight has been long, and will be longer…but today…today we won a victory.

    Dan Smith

    • Hi Dan. I appreciate your comment and the thoughts and emotions behind it, and perhaps it is hard for non-Americans to feel the significance of the 9/11 attacks.
      But Dan, it remains hard for me to see that celebration of any kind at Bin Laden’s death is anything other can blood vengeance. As a follower of Christ, I can’t condone that. Bin Laden deserved justice, no doubt and absolutely, but there should be no joy in the process. I do not see Jesus celebrating this death. I am not trying to take a moral or spiritual high ground here, really.
      Phil

      • Phil, I’ve written my response three times, and nothing is coming that really separates my spirituality from my nationality. The Bible is full of examples where Israel was not hushed by God for defeating an enemy. Yes, I know we are under grace now, but justification was always by grace. The fact is (as I know it) that Christ didn’t talk about this. He didn’t discuss what it would be like for a country to fight another, or one individual to be an enemy of the state. In fact, he helped a Roman Centurion, for whatever it is worth.

        As you have undoubtedly determined, my emotions are mixed with my nationalism. I’m excited that my deployment to the Middle East was not in vain. I’m relieved that my emergency deployment to protect American cities in 2001 was avenged. It’s just how I feel.

      • Hi again Dan.
        I’m thinking you may be feeling somewhat ostracised by being a lone voice in these comments. That would not be my intent, nor, I am sure, that of those who have commented. I certainly don’t want to argue with you, and as I said, the experience of 9/11 was viscerally different for non-Americans. But I think something that puzzles many non-Americans in this is the continuing sense of American outrage that has seemed to permit, and justify some awful, intentional and careless atrocities. I’m thinking here of the torture, the black site prisons, the massively disproportionate death ratios of US: non-US lives, and so on. Many people- many Americans too – find this repugnant. Americans are and should be better than that, in victory as well as in loss.
        The other point you make about separation of faith and nationality – you are right Jesus did not talk about one country fighting another. But surely he came as a reconciler. He welcomed those outside the nation of Israel as fully as those within it. He challenged the ultra-nationalism of Israel, and declared that Naaman the Syrian was a better example of faith than those within Israel, (in Lk 4, amongst other places). He was, I suspect, transnational.
        And finally, Israel, when it could not separate it’s (lost) spirituality from it’s nationhood, it was abandoned by God – now I am not making a parallel to what might happen to the US, simply to say that our spirituality must determine the limits of our nationhood; they are not co-equal, and nationhood cannot trump spirituality. I know that that thinking that way will put you at odds with much of US Christian thought, but Jesus does challenge us to go against the stream!

      • Phil,
        I confess, it’s a little odd being the lone wolf here, but it’s ok. I don’t think I can really add anything to the discussion though, so I won’t write much. I do understand what you mean…truly I do.
        Dan

  4. Thank you for your comments on this from your perspective at the sharp end as I too cannot rejoice in this and find the scenes on television repugnant and inflammatory.

  5. Phil, agree entirely with your thoughts. I was sickened by the cheering crowds and yes it is a strong issue for Americans, but that does not excuse it. Unfortunately this is being used as a PR exercise for a government struggling to keep the public and political vote… hoping that repercussions will be minor and no more lives will be lost.
    Praying for ya!

  6. Thanks Phil.
    On morning television today there was the images from Washington and new York of celebrating crowds. As it their want, many people SMSed or emailed the station with mostly supportive comments. One woman emailed in with something like, “When 9-11 happened I was sickened by the images middle eastern people celebrating. Today I am sicken by similar images of by from the other side”.

    I will not rejoice in the death of my enemy.

    Brian

  7. 9/11 saw a death of 3000 innocent civilians. To get “even” the US should have stopped when the took out the first 3000 innocent civilians in AF and IQ. Now they got Bin Laden. Is it a military victory? Sorry, I don’t think so. It’s not only a sad day, it’s a sad 10 years in history. I don’t see how a life of an American is more
    valuable than that of an Afghani.

  8. Phil! So glad to see you pop into His Garden after so long! I had stopped dropping by here when you and your family moved away. I need to catch up with you. I really liked reading this post because it echoed some of the thoughts I had today as I was driving home pondering all the merriment connected with this man’s death. Rejoicing did not seem right and your words painted a whole different perspective. I look forward to reconnecting!

    • Hi again. I have kept following your blog though! It gives me a good sense of hope, so thankyou for it.
      Phil

  9. Interesting comment from a 9/11 widow and activist:

    ‘Today Is Not a Day of Celebration for Me’
    “… it breaks my heart to witness young Americans cheer any death – even the
    death of a horrible, evil, murderous person – like it is some raucous tailgate
    party on a college campus … Can it ever be a true victory when so many
    don’t even seem to comprehend the magnitude of what has been lost
    along the way?” – Kristen Breitweiser, 9/11 widow and activist

    Personally I am skeptical of anything the U.S. or any government says. Before journalism became entertainment, and journalists became courtiers, there were occasional meticulous researchers such as I.F. Stone. He wasn’t satisfied just to accept the “official version of events” from the government spokesmen, and left no stone unturned in his pursuit of the truth.

    After many years I. F. Stone, journalistic inquirer, examiner of government documents other reporters did not want to wade through, and scrutinizer of official narratives and official behavior and misbehavior, reached this conclusion: “All Governments Lie”

    And who am I to argue?

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