Osama is dead.

Twitter is a-twitter, Facebook status changes are coming in. . . the commentariat is firing away.

The best statement I’ve seen thus far is that of Fr. Shane Tharp, who wrote. . .

“Do not think that courage and strength are proved by killing and destruction. True courage lies in working for peace.” – (Bl. John Paul II). Proverbs 24:17 “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he is overthrown.” It’s okay to be relieved he’s not planning to murder people anymore, but it’s not okay to rejoice at the scent of death.”

I decided to look up what I had to say on this subject on the Feast of the Holy Innocents in 2001, in my open letter to the bishops on the morality of the war on the people of Afghanistan. To set the stage, at its November 2001 meeting, the US Catholic bishops blessed the war on the people of Afghanistan, thus beginning their campaign of moral relativism in the face of this crucial life issue. I wrote a response, which was signed by four Catholic Worker houses and sent to all the bishops. No reply was ever received from the bishops.

Since the November 2001 US Bishops’ conference, our forces have conquered the entire Afghan nation, yet as of this writing the leadership of Al Queda remains at large and the US has less than 50 Al Queda members in custody. Where is the promised success? Will you now say that the deaths of the thousands of Afghan civilians killed in our Crusade were justified by these paltry results? What was the point of destroying that nation and killing all those people if not to catch the leaders of Al Queda? And even if we do find Osama bin Laden’s body, dead in some cave, will you still say that his death justifies the thousands of innocent civilians we have killed to get him, not to mention the millions that are now at risk of the consequences of our Crusade?

What evidence do we have that killing Osama bin Laden would eliminate Al Queda’s ability to harm the United States? Al Queda is described as a series of interconnected but independently operating cells. Removing leadership may not in fact prove to be a death blow to the organization. Such groups typically have alternative leaders who come into play when others are killed or captured. It is possible that there is no way out of this without negotiation. How many more must die – abroad and perhaps at home – before we come to understand this? Osama bin Laden as a dead martyr may be much more dangerous than he is now as a living, breathing, active terrorist mastermind.

How many have died in our wars on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan?  Hundreds of thousands, without a doubt, the majority of them civilians. This is why I persistently refer to these wars as the “wars on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan” because it is the civilian population of both nations that has born the heaviest cost of these wars.

I say “no reply was ever received” from the bishops, but that isn’t actually true. They did reply, in a way, with their silence, which indeed often speaks louder than words. They had no reply then, nor to anything else I have had to say on the subject since then, because they have no reply.  They indeed are guilty of material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war. See Our Response to Unjust War for the entire corpus of my work on this subject.

So now we have made Osama into a martyr for his cause. As I said ten years ago, he may be more troublesome now that he is dead than he was while he was alive.

Osama is dead. And so are lots of other people. That’s what happens with war. We kill them, they kill us. As Jesus said, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.”  See also. . . “Sow not in furrows of injustice lest you reap a seven-fold harvest.”

One final late night thought. . . where is our anguish about these wars?  We hardly notice them anymore, but they grind on and grind, pulverizing human beings, destroying community, damaging ecology.  Rev. David Wilkerson had some thoughts about anguish, which he shared here shortly before his recent death. He wasn’t talking about these wars in particular, but rather about sin in its totality, of which war is certainly a part:

Anguish means extreme pain and distress. The emotions so stirred that it becomes painful.  Acute deeply felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you. Anguish. Deep pain.  Deep sorrow. . . . all true passion is born out of anguish. . .

May God give us anguish for the violence of the world, and from that anguish may we receive a true passion for peace.

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