The Archbishop of Canterbury worries that we shot an "unarmed" bin Laden. Michael Moore says we've lost something of "our soul" by killing bin Laden. Maybe President Obama's critics on this issue have indeed lost something: their sense of perspective, not to mention empathy with our troops.
Both men have something in common: no child in a US military uniform. If they were the proud fathers of a marine son who had fought in Afghanistan (as I am) they'd worry less about due process in the heat of combat and more about the Navy Seals returning to their fathers, mothers, wives, and children alive.
Just for the record; I've written several books on military/civilian relations. I thought the Iraq war was a terrible idea and that Bush is a war criminal for starting it. And I think we should be out of Afghanistan by now, and I am also no fan of the military industrial complex. That said...
Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the 80-million strong worldwide Anglican Communion, criticized the White House for repeatedly changing its account of the raid on the al-Qaeda leader's compound in Pakistan. Killing bin Laden when he was not carrying a weapon meant that justice could not be "seen to be done," the Archbishop suggested.
Michael Moore (a wise prophet who sometimes veers off target) said in an interview:
We've lost something of our soul here in this country...something that separates us from other parts, other countries where we say everybody has their day in court no matter how bad of a person, no matter what piece of scum they are, they have a right to a trial...after World War II, we just didn't go in and put a bullet to the head of all the top Nazis. We put them on trial.
Bin Laden was the world's leading fan of the suicide belt, the booby trap, the rigged roadside bomb hidden in a Coke can or even in the body of a dog. He was the leader of a group of killers that rigged houses to explode with trip wires. A military man or woman who found an "unarmed" bin Laden would think that he might reach for a switch that was wired to blow up the building. Does that concern seem farfetched?
As the father of a marine hearing the news that all the Navy Seals got home alive I'm glad they did, glad that President Obama had the moral courage to not simply level the compound, killing all the women and children therein.
It takes arm's length critics with no connection (no skin in the game) with our military to make inane comments about wishing that the Navy Seals had waited to see what bin Laden might have done, read him his rights and carried him of to the World Court or wherever, at risk to themselves and to all the rest of us... if they'd failed.
Moreover, did the Navy Seals know 100 percent that their cover wasn't blown by the lying Pakistani government? For all they knew at the moment they walked into the bin Laden compound he was getting a message from the friendly Pakistani military people down the road. They were in a part of the world where betrayal is the norm.
For all the Seals knew the whole place was about to go up in flames. The Saudi rich kid brat who urged others to use explosives and suicide to kill women and children wouldn't have thought twice about a scorched earth, I'm-taking-them-all-with-me scenario as a grand finale to his murderous non-career.
And here's another thing: commentators are parsing the "changing story" coming from the White House. Has anyone noticed that it's been corrected as details came out of a combat situation? And has anyone noticed that the corrected story made it harder, not easier, for the Obama administration? Instead of being suspicious the opposite should be the reaction.
The administration has been correcting the story in ways that aren't going to make things easier for them. Thank God for an administration that tries to be open even when it complicates things for them. The easiest thing for them to have done was stick to the original; confused reports and clamp down on any revisions. Better yet they could have pleaded security needs and told us nothing at all except that they'd killed bin Laden. Instead they climbed down and corrected their own story.
So to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Michael More et al I say: since you have no skin in the game in our wars you have no business second guessing the snap judgments of the men and women in combat situations asked to do our dirty work.
As Maureen Dowd said: "Morally and operationally, this was counterterrorism at its finest. We have nothing to apologize for."
Watching the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama, I was struck by his steely resolve, humility, unwavering strength of character, common sense, compassion and thoughtful reasoning. I was also grateful that he is the President. Our military is fortunate to have a great commander in chief. President Obama confounds his critics with deeds. He gains in stature day by day and his critics -- from the left and right -- shrink into puny caricatures.
The real scandal here -- and risk to our national soul -- is that less than one percent of Americans have any actual connection to our over-stretched military. If Laden had pushed a button and sent our men up in a sheet of flame would Michael Moore and the Archbishop and the rest of the President's critics have liked that better?
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His books include AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country. His new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
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