OBL and The Myth of Redemptive Violence
Social networking traffic hit a record high as word of the death of Osama Bin Laden spread across the globe. Before the President of the United States even made the official announcement, dozens of people were shown in front of the White House cheering “USA! USA!” Similar scenes were eventually shown from various locales across the country. Celebration also reverberated around the internet, as tweets and facebook statuses declared “America winning.” But what did America win?
Osama Bin Laden may be dead, as are many of his supporters, allies, and followers. But to what end? On September 11th, 2001, nearly ten years ago, 2,977 lives were ended in a matter of a few hours in New York, Washington D.C., and rural Pennsylvania. Subsequently America launched its War on Terror, focusing on Afghanistan and Iraq. This strategy puzzled many as the hijackers and planners of the horrific attack on America were not acting on behalf of either nation, but through a a quasi-religious non-governmental organizationwith followers from all over the globe, including the United States itself. Ten years of fighting across the globe followed.
On the day that Bin Laden’s death was announced, the death toll in Iraq was 4,404 dead American soldiers, 318 from other coalition nations, and between 100,000-109,000 Iraqis. In Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies have lost another 2,340 men and women, while Afghanistan lost around 17,000. These numbers do not include deaths indirectly caused by the wars such as illness, famine, etc., nor do they include the deaths that have occurred in the War on Terror outside these two main theaters of operations. “Justice,” as President Obama described it, cost America two lives for every one that died on 9/11, and charged the world about 44 for each of the victims. Eye for an eye be damned, we took 4 dozen for each set! The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still raging, and it is unlikely that the big assassination will slow the carnage. If the dust finally settles one day, those 3,000 killed 10 years ago will still be dead. Their spouses still widows, and their children still living with the pain of a lost parent. The thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghanis will still be in their graves as well, most for committing the same crime as the people in the planes and in the cities attacked that September day, namely, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bin Laden was found in Pakistan, not in a general’s command center desperately trying to continue a losing war, but in an ordinary mansion, reportedly using a woman to shield himself from the advancing American troops. He was not an evil genius, nor some sort of supervillian with super powers to match. He was just a man who hated America. In his mind he had his reasons, and they were convincing enough to sway the minds of many people around the world. Now that he is gone, another will take his place, just like he took the place of the boogeyman before him.
In America we can celebrate that we are powerful enough as nation to take our vengeance. That one eye will be repaid with 44. But did anyone on earth doubt we could do it?
I am a Christian, I am not God. Only God can look back at the past ten years and see what really happened, who is to blame, and what constitutes true justice. I am not so arrogant to believe that I can know that this weekends announcement was one of justice, as my President declared, or simple vengeance. But I do know that God’s justice restores all things to the way they were, and from what I can see with my human eyes is just a lot of graves to dig and far too few shovels. Therefore I can only march with the orders given to me by my creator, and that is to love my enemies and pray for them, while trusting that no one will escape God’s justice.
When your goal is revenge, your only reward is another grave to dig.