The Man Who Shot Osama bin Laden Wasn’t Religious

Phil Bronstein, in the latest issue of Esquire, has the incredible story of the man (“The Shooter”) who killed Osama bin Laden. I read the whole thing in one sitting — couldn’t look away — but this quotation by the subject was the part most relevant to this blog:

“I’m not religious, but I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was.”

What does that say about him? Two things come to mind immediately:

It suggests that he was willing to risk his life for the sake of his country, knowing there was no afterlife awaiting him. It’s brave to do the former. It’s downright heroic to do the former while acknowledging the latter.

It also suggests a level of self-confidence in his own abilities (as well as those of his team members). When he was in bin Laden’s compound, God wasn’t there to protect him. Only his colleagues were. And The Shooter knew that.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/travis.myers.102977 Travis Myers

    Still, it’s a little bit irrational for someone to think that they were put on earth to do something specific. Put on earth by whom or what?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I’ve been ice skating since the age of 3 and I skate on a professional level. Even at the soon to be age of 43 I can still skate better than most NHL players. I might not be as fast as them anymore but I can do things on ice skates and hold edges that a lot of todays younger players would be jealous of and I used to think it was some sort of God given talent because ice skating comes very natural to me.

      I at times felt like I was placed on this earth to skate and play ice hockey and I was very resentful towards my parents when I was younger because they could not afford for me to play ice hockey or purchase me a pair of real ice hockey skates. I grew up skating in rentals until I was in my teens and could afford my own pair.

      I have this incredible talent when it comes to ice skating that simply comes naturally to me and I still wonder why I do. Yes, I have spent thousands of hours in ice rinks doing the same thing over and over but that little voice still pops into my head that does ask why do I have such a talent?

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        3.8 billion years of natural selection can make one feel pretty special.

      • marilove

        And had you grown up in, say, Arizona, you would never had even realized you had the “talent”, would you? A lot of “talent” is just right-place, right-time. Maybe you would have instead been “talented” at soccer, or some other sport. You started at age THREE — of course you were good! You were skaiting your whole life, basically.

    • Bob Becker

      Yeah, TM, I think you’re right and that H is reading more into the soldier’s statement than may in fact be there.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Humans aren’t Vulcans. We can’t be 100% rational 100% of the time about 100% of topics. Nor should we be.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Well according to all the wacko’s it doesn’t matter because Obama and company are just going to have him taken out just as the sniper was.

    • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

      Is that what they are saying now? That’s pretty much at the same level as Bush did 9/11.
      Why would Obama have waited until the other guy wrote a book and became famous? Much easier to kill him before.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Oh yeah. I pop over to sites such as Theblaze and read their comments. Some folks truly do believe that Obama and company will murder him now for speaking out.

        • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

          I’ll take you ion your word. I am short on Xanax and if I go read those things for myself I’ll have to double the dose.

  • Evelyn

    Wow, put on Earth to kill another person. Is this really something we should find admirable?

    • WallofSleep

      Perhaps not, but we are talking about that terrorist, fundamentalist fuck stick formerly known as Osama bin Laden. Bagging that lice ridden shit burger counts as admirable in my book.

      • Evelyn

        We should not stoop to the same level, then.

        • WallofSleep

          I’m not sure I follow you. Are you implying that pulling the card of a terrorist mastermind responsible for murdering thousands of innocent people is somehow stooping to his level? Or are you getting at something else?

          Sorry, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. I think I’m just missing your point.

          • Evelyn

            If we believe that killing in revenge is acceptable, then in principle we’re doing the same thing he did, albeit on a smaller scale. To be sure, killing someone responsible for the deaths of thousands is not quite the same as killing someone who’s totally innocent, but unless this were a high-stakes situation where immediate killing was absolutely necessary to prevent more deaths (it wasn’t), then I don’t think murder can be justified. Hope that makes more sense.

            • WallofSleep

              That does make your position more clear to me, though I mostly disagree.

              First, I do not see it as revenge. Rather, I see it as necessary action to eliminate a credible threat. I wouldn’t even call it a “necessary evil”, just a practical solution to a deadly serious problem.

              Second, considering OBL’s methods, motives, and goals, “we” did not do the same thing he did in killing him. Not in theory, not in practice, and certainly not in principle.

              Third, I’d say this most definitely was a high-stakes situation, and absolutely necessary to prevent further deaths. Unless, of course, he somehow found Buddha and disavowed his terrorist ways. And his death was not immediate. It was the cumulative effort of three US administrations and their allies.

              Finally, OBL’s death was not a “murder”. It was a most justifiable homicide. He was a rotten, evil excuse for a human being that certainly deserved to be eliminated. Humanity is better for his passing.

              • Parth

                Say what you want, if you kill a human being for whatever reason, it’s murder. You might be able to try to justify it, but it’s still murder. Personally, I think the only absolute time it’s justifiable to kill someone is if they pose an imminent threat. Osama didn’t. His death was nothing more than revenge.

                • coyotenose

                  See my above post for why you’re mistaken.

                  Also, there’s a difference between killing and murder. Taking him alive? THAT would have incited murders.

                • sane37

                  It might have incited people to murder, that’s probably true. If killing people is wrong what does murdering him make us?

                • Barefoot Bree

                  Thank you Evelyn, Parth, and others. Here I’ve been thinking I was all alone in not celebrating bin Laden’s death, let alone viewing it as murder.

                • Thegoodman

                  I did not celebrate his death. I am sure he loved some people and people loved him. I do not think killing should be a commmo practice.

                  That being said, I believe that death was the suitable punishment for his crimes. Crimes he has publicly admitted to committing and tried to commit again. I would bear the cross of ending his life knowing that others might be spared with my burden. I would not rejoice in it, but I would do it.

              • http://www.thinkin.zoomshare.com/ Don Lutz

                He was killed because “trial by jury” would have allowed him to give his reasons for applauding 9/11. No free speech allowed…unless you speak in support of America’s bloody history.

            • Thegoodman

              “…absolutely necessary to prevent more deaths (it wasn’t)”

              You don’t know that.

          • The Vicar

            Maybe Evelyn isn’t, but I am. Sending in a huge number of armed soldiers under orders to kill immediately without even making an attempt at capture (as they were), to kill an unarmed sick old man, in a house where there were basically not even any weapons, is evil, amoral, lawless, and stupid. Dumping his body into the ocean afterwards amplifies all four. And people like you who can’t see why this is wrong scare the dickens out of me; it strongly suggests that there is no act which you would not be willing to justify, no matter how awful it might be, so long as it was done by people you approve to people you dislike.

            • coyotenose

              You don’t seem to be familiar with the idea that taking him alive, keeping his body, or burying his remains in a tangible spot would have all provided incentive for even more terrorist acts and recruitment. The decisions made regarding bin Laden hinged around saving more lives.

              Trying to use that to craft some twisted strawman of WoS’s ethics is vile.

              • WoodyTanaka

                “You don’t seem to be familiar with the idea that taking him alive,
                keeping his body, or burying his remains in a tangible spot would have all provided incentive for even more terrorist acts and recruitment.”

                Oh, bullshit. These are all excuses, post-hoc rationalizations to excuse the cold blooded murder. The article makes clear that he could have been seized.

              • Gus Snarp

                Yes, Bin Laden’s body, alive or dead, would provide far more incentive than a decade of war and “collateral damage”. Seriously, I don’t think that a lack of incentive is a real problem for terrorist recruiting.

          • sane37

            He should have been made to stand trial. His remains shouldn’t have been dumped in the ocean because it was forensic evidence. Justice didn’t prevail the night OBL was killed, we prevailed.

        • Thegoodman

          I agree, which is why I am ashamed of the terrorist/drone attacks we employ in that region of the world.

          However, I disagree that killing Osama bin Laden was unjust, immoral, or wrong in any way. He knowingly and consciously planned and executed terrorist attacks that purposefully killed innocents. His death was not a moment too soon and I would have gladly been his executioner.

        • marilove

          This kind of black and white thinking is dangerous, and I’m a woman of peace. Even buddhists recognize the need to kill for self-defense or for practical, logical reasons!

      • baal

        I’m on Evelyn’s side but could see a reasonable person thinking that the killing of the person, Osama bin Laden, was justified.

        What I can’t do is see someone using language like “lice ridden shit burger” as taking a reasoned position. That’s an emotional reason for his killing and sounds like pure retribution or vengeance. Which is fine…until you’re not the one in power and some other country or group decides they hate you. Then you’re the now dead “lice ridden shit burger”.

      • Gus Snarp

        Was the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki more or less justifiable than the killing of Bin Laden? What about his son?

        What if someone managed to kill George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice? After all, they planned and executed the deaths of thousands of Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis, including many innocent civilians.

        What about other murderers? Is it acceptable to kill any suspected murderer anywhere, any time, even if he’s asleep in his bed? Or should we continue to allow the courts to weigh the evidence and determine guilt and appropriate punishment first? Does being in a foreign country and having admitted your crime publicly mean we can now kill you at will without bothering with the courts? Or can we do it in America, too? Maybe we should just shoot anyone who’s confessed to a crime. And maybe we should beat a confession out of them first and then shoot them…. Yeah, no problem should come of saying there are these special cases of old men in foreign countries on dialysis machines who are such a threat by the fact that they occasionally release ranting videos that inspire people that we have to ignore all domestic and international law and just go kill them…

    • Pseudonym

      The third thing we now know is that atheists are just as capable of committing acts of violence as anyone else.

      I don’t miss bin Laden, but I also didn’t celebrate when he was killed. Necessary evil is still evil. Having said that, there’s something that’s just a little bit admirable about doing a job that’s abhorrent but necessary. There’s a certain nobility in taking one for the team.

    • bryce

      Why not? Leaders of religions feel that way all the time

  • John Small Berries

    I think your conclusions about The Shooter’s beliefs require more evidence than two ambiguous words; “not religious” is not always the same as “atheist”. (I’ve known several people who described themselves as “not religious”, but they meant they weren’t members of any organized religion; they still believed in God.)

    • Miss_Beara

      “I am not religious, I have a Personal Relationship with God.”
      - said by former fundie friend

    • http://twitter.com/Michael121176 Michael

      John is right. I am an atheist but there are plenty of people that are not religious and still believe in a power/deity and afterlife.

  • Miko

    He murdered an unarmed man at the behest of a government that thought that maintaining institutions widely considered fundamental to a free society such as trials by jury would be inconvenient. What’s heroic about that? All this tells us is that being non-religious doesn’t automatically make a person moral.

    • Helanna

      Generally I would consider murder a bad solution, yes, but what other options were there in this case? I see two main ones. The first would be allowing Osama to carry on planning the murder of thousands unmolested, which I consider far worse than killing one man.

      The second would be to further risk the lives of the team trying to take him out, plus the aforementioned thousands of potential victims if he managed to escape, by trying to capture him instead, so that we could put on a sham of a trial before declaring him guilty and executing him. This route is frankly more cruel than a bullet to the head, opens up more possibilities of rescue or escape attempts and turns everyone involved into targets. Did you read that article? A target is not a fun thing to be, to put it mildly.

      Yes, I think everyone should have due process, and yes, I understand that it’s important to treat everyone equally even if they seem obviously guilty. But suggesting that we put thousands of lives at risk in order to give one man a fair trial is ridiculous, especially considering that as far as I know Osama was never reluctant to take credit for the crimes he committed.

      So out of curiosity, what would you have done?

      • Parth

        “The first would be allowing Osama to carry on planning the murder of
        thousands unmolested, which I consider far worse than killing one man”

        What proof do you have of this? As far as I can tell, the dude was terrified and wasting his time watching TV.

        Also,”But suggesting that we put thousands of lives at risk in order to give
        one man a fair trial is ridiculous, especially considering that as far
        as I know Osama was never reluctant to take credit for the crimes he
        committed.”

        No it’s not ridiculous. Either you follow due process for everyone or you throw it all out. You can’t make exceptions for anyone. The danger is that once you accept it’s OK to break the rules once, it’s a slippery slope to further exceptions.

        Honestly, all I see are excuses to justify his killing. The dude was not sitting there, ready to just about to push a button that was going to kill thousands of people. We killed him out of revenge and then most of the nation celebrated his murder. That is not a mark of a civilized society. A civilized society would have taken all efforts possible to bring the man through the court systems and have the courts find him guilty.

        Sadly, even a nation like India pulled that off. They spend so much money and time proving that Azfal Guru was responsible for the attack on the Indian parliament and that Kasab was in the Bombay terrorist attacks. Honestly, you’re being somewhat paranoid, insinuating that had we not killed Bin Laden there and then, thousands of people would have died. India was in a similar situation, they did the right thing (except I don’t agree with the death penalty) and no innocent person died because the Indian government didn’t kill these terrorists right away.

        • The Other Weirdo

          As far as you can tell? If you knew all along that OBL wasn’t a threat, just a terrified old man watching TV in a Pakistani camp, why didn’t you notify the proper authorities so they could go in and arrest him. Problem solved. You withheld your knowledge and now a man is dead.

          • Game Over Man

            Hahahaha

        • Helanna

          You can see my response to WoodyTanaka for why I still think the risks of taking him alive outweigh the risks of killing him. Because, yes, there is a slippery slope to further exceptions, but honestly, people don’t get due process all the time. Policemen shoot rather than get shot at, criminals die in crossfire during raids, etc. There are generally ethical reviews of police actions during those times, but that’s the point – to make sure that killing someone without trial *was* justified. As I explained, with the knowledge we have of the event, I think this was. Honestly, I’m a lot more worried about other things our military is doing than killing one man who is self-admittedly responsible for terrorist attacks.

          I looked up Azfal Guru and the Bombay attacks, and I’m not sure that’s a good parallel. Both attackers in those cases were just members of terrorist organizations who were captured during the attacks. OBL was the *head* of the terrorist organization, who we already knew was responsible and who we’d been hunting for years. And funnily enough, Wikipedia says that in the case of Azfal Guru, his eventual execution (after 9 years of trials) caused riots and there was criticism leveled at the government for convicting and executing a man based on circumstantial evidence and without informing his family members, and because ‘public opinion forced his hanging’.

      • WoodyTanaka

        “The second would be to further risk the lives of the team trying to take
        him out,”

        This is nonsense. The “team” would have been in no more or less risk. They took the time to carry out his body and search the compound for computers. There would been no additional threat in zip tying a frail old man.

        “plus the aforementioned thousands of potential victims if he
        managed to escape…”

        Who is he, Jason Bourne? Why do you think that we should base policy and human rights on fantasy?

        “…so that we could put on a sham of a trial before declaring him guilty and executing him.”

        Or maybe we put on a real trial, instead. Let him present his evidence before a jury. You know, like civilized people.

        • Helanna

          After thinking about it for a while, I’m more open to the idea that we should have put him on trial.

          But still, who would we have gotten to do the trial? Did you read the article? The shooter can never, ever identify himself, to almost anyone, lest he make himself, his team, and his entire family a target. His children have been trained to hide at the first sign of trouble and are being taught to fight. His wife is prepared to fight. No matter where this man goes or what he does, he’s always going to know that a large number of violent people very much want him dead and would kill him in a heartbeat if they ever found him.

          If we put him on trial, everyone involved, from judge to jury to lawyers, would be in a similar position. I’m not sure, but wouldn’t the whole trial have to be done largely in secret anyway to prevent rescue attempts? I’ll be honest, you couldn’t pay me enough to be part of that trial. And it would be a sham of a trial. There is no way we could have Osama in custody and then just let him go free afterwards. It would have been a show of justice, but the end result would certainly have been the same.

          Finally, I believe that trying to capture rather than kill would have put the team in more danger, although I am not a member of an elite military team so I may be wrong about this. The shooter said that the shot was more muscle memory than anything – you see bin Laden’s face, you shoot, no thought required. Trying to change that way of thinking, going in with the intent to capture rather than kill, in that type of adrenaline-ridden situation, could have caused fatal hesitation. And sure, now we know that Osama was unarmed and didn’t have any tricks or traps, but going in, there was no way the team could have known that. They all thought they were going to die, because they assumed Osama would have traps and explosives all over. In fact, the shooter thought the woman with him was wearing an explosive vest. In that scenario, yeah, I don’t blame him for just taking the shot first, doing a detailed search of the room second.

        • Thegoodman

          So you condone the kidnapping of foreigners to bring them to the US where they can stand trial under US Law?

          To what sovereign nation did OBL belong? Whose laws should we have used to put him on trial?

          • http://www.thinkin.zoomshare.com/ Don Lutz

            The Taliban actually offered to turn him over to an international criminal court in 2002, but of course that wouldn’t serve American imperialism. He was allowed to live for ten years because he was a symbolic excuse for the US to kill hundreds of thousands in the “war on terror”, while achieving immense profits for the US military economy and big oil. Eventually it became politically advantageous for him to die before the last prez election.

            • Thegoodman

              @ahimsa67:disqus I wasn’t aware of the Taliban offer, I’ll check that out. Don’t mistake me for a subscriber of jingoism, I hated/hate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I am very embarrassed by the US foreign policy of imperialism in the name of “democracy and freedom”. I think George Bush is a war criminal.

              I do however think that assasinating/killing figureheads for a few million dollars is preferable to waging wars which kill hundreds of thousands and cost billions.

              I think the US presence in that area of the world breeds hate for us and our culture, which obviously does nothing to promote globalization and a pacifist society.

              • http://www.thinkin.zoomshare.com/ Don Lutz

                I don’t see how we have to choose between assassinating people and waging war.
                I still have this “quaint” old notion that justice is best served in a court of law, rather than with a swat team.

                • Thegoodman

                  In the future we do not have to choose either option. However, we have commit both acts in our recent history and I would have gladly chosen the assassination over the war.

                  ” justice is best served in a court of law”

                  Who’s court? Who’s law? Do you think kidnapping OBL and subjecting him to the laws of the US or the UN (which would ultimately result in his death since he openly admitted to the crimes of which he is accused) is somehow more just than just shooting him outright?

                • http://www.thinkin.zoomshare.com/ Don Lutz

                  International court, international law, as I stated in my previous post.

                  Just what war would have been prevented if we had assassinated him sooner?

                • Thegoodman

                  Which international court? Should we have mailed OBL to inform him he is under arrest? Asked the local constable to go pick him up? Who would be the presiding officials of this court? Which laws would be enforced? Why do those laws take precedent over US laws? What about Kindah (OBL ethnic origins) law? He had the status of stateless from 1994 until his death and Saudi Arabian before that. Saudi Arabia may now have wanted to be involved, or worse, offered him protection. What then? There is suspicion that Pakistan was hiding OBL.

                  The laws that much of the world would have liked to enforce upon Osama bin Laden were not the laws of Osama bin Laden himself. He did not adhere to them nor did he live in a place that bowed to our manufactured form of justice. So what were our options?

                  I think the hunt for Osama bin Laden was not completely unjustified. I believe that if he had turn himself in or been caught immediately, Bush and Cheney would not have been able to get everyone in Washington to sign up for the invasion of Iraq. The media outlets created an unwarranted xenophobia after 9/11 and the Bush administration took advantage of it to finish what they believed to be a worthwhile endeavor, dethroning Saddam Hussein. I do not think that Hussein or bin Laden were related even just a little bit, but Washington didn’t care.

                  His quick capture/death would have also prevented a lot of our presence in Afghanistan. The costs associated with putting so many resources in that region of the world would not have been signed off on if we didn’t have a clear goal, Capture Osama bin Laden.

                  Unfortunately we will never know the answers to any of these questions.

  • red

    It’s interesting – you’re pretty much arguing that because he didn’t feel protected by God that it was ‘more heroic’ than someone who did feel protection. I find that hypocritical because if he had even hinted at being religious this article would’ve been written with the exact opposite reaction decrying the woes of religion and how it always kills. Bravery is not quantified by lack of religious motivation. That’s absurd.

    Besides, atheism and being “not religious” are two very different things indeed.

    • coyotenose

      Your speculation as to what Hemant “would have written” doesn’t match his history.

      Yep, not being religious does not equal being an atheist. He’s reaching there.

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    It is not our business to make this guy into something he is not. He may not be religious but still believe in god. He may be an apatheist and he may convert tomorrow.

    However, when I read the very compelling long form article this morning that jumped at me as well. Mostly because a lot of these military guys do tend to be religious.

    • Parth

      If there was ever a special case…a lot of people in current and past US government positions would qualify. OBL killed 3000 innocent people. You have any idea how many innocent people’s deaths American officials are responsible for?

      The only reason OBL is considered a special case, is because he killed American citizens. Had he been an American ally and killed some enemy civilians, we’d probably hail him as a hero and maybe even give him asylum.

      Let’s be honest, we genuinely consider one American life to be more valuable than the 6.7 billion non-Americans. The news goes into great detail to talk about the hundreds or thousands of American soldiers that die, but not the hundreds of thousands of Afghanis/Iraqis we killed.

      • Daniel_JM

        “OBL killed 3,000 innocent people.”

        You do know al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been involved in more killings than just 9/11, right? Your numbers are way, way off.

    • WoodyTanaka

      ” I despise blowing up possibly innocent people who’s only crime is to
      walk in the vicinity of a suspected terrorist, but this Navy Seal didn’t
      do that.”

      How do you know? Who knows how many innocent people this person has murdered in his “job”?

  • Gavitron

    Let’s be honest. He was ordered to say this, bin Laden has been dead for years.

    • coyotenose

      I really hope you’re just satirizing the conspiracy theorists.

  • The Vicar

    It suggests a lot of things. It suggests that he isn’t very bright, because he thinks he was “put” here for “a purpose”, but he claims not to be religious, which is a contradiction.

    It also suggests that he was selected in part because, as with everyone involved up to and including Obama, he was totally hostile to the idea of capturing Bin Laden alive and holding a trial, even though that would have been better in every single way you look at it (it would have been more ethical, followed existing precedent for dealing with war criminals, would have reinforced that precedent for the future, would have made a useful tool for dealing with moderate Muslim countries by demonstrating that we aren’t lawless and savage, would have made an excellent propaganda point, etc. ad infinitum). Then again, that’s part and parcel with “not very bright”.

    At some point, we’re going to regret letting these people — once again, from this idiot all the way up to Obama — do that, just as we’re eventually going to regret having drones drop bombs on innocent people in other countries. (What do you think is going to happen when Russia or China or North Korea or Iran reverse-engineers the technology — as will inevitably happen; it always does — and decides to do exactly what we’ve been doing, hmmmmm?) Oh, but hey: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!!

    • coyotenose

      Stupid people don’t get that job. The shooter is very bright. Religion just isn’t something he is read up on.

      The second paragraph is rebutted above.

      Drones are, however, not very bright. They aren’t less ethical than manned missions, but they’re being used to commit overt murder and incite justified hatred of the U.S., and by extension of the West.

      • WoodyTanaka

        “Stupid people don’t get that job. The shooter is very bright.”

        There are many not-so-bright people in those jobs. In fact, the more you read up on it with a skeptical eye (and not one clouded by jingoism), you’ll see that the things that are prized higher than intelligence, such as a lack of empathy (i.e., low level sociopathy), willingness to follow orders without question, enjoyment of adrenaline rush, willingness to kill without remorse, willingness to value the “mission” above even one’s children. These are pretty fucked up people, overall.

        • coyotenose

          I have no respect for jingoism , but thanks for trying to cloud things up by assigning that to me sans evidence*. One can be bright and still possess all those negative qualities. What one cannot do is succeed at high level special forces missions without quick wits, trained memory and the ability to process many factors at once. Football quarterbacks are not stupid people. They just use their intelligence differently than how intelligence is typically defined. Saying that other qualities are even more necessary for the job does not in any way rebut my point.

          And I’m not a football fan either.

          *”Skeptical”, you say…

      • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

        Stupid people do indeed get that job. In fact, almost by definition ONLY a stupid person would take such a job. A smart person — if they somehow got into the position of being on a mission like this in the first place — is going to say “shooting an unarmed sick old man who isn’t even resisting is a violation of the military code, and carrying out the order will be a terribly bad thing for my country in the long run, I’m not going to do it” and know that the military code gives them leave to disobey orders which are wrong. Smart people also aren’t terribly likely to be so uninformed about U.S. foreign policy that they would join the military and stay there long enough to get into such a mess. (Then again, the fact that so many people rush to justify idiocies like this strongly suggest that “smart people” are a rarer commodity than one might hope.)

        As for the second paragraph being rebutted: regurgitating a bunch of baseless propaganda from right-wingers (and stealth right-wingers, like Barack “protect the banks, prosecute whistleblowers, and start some new wars” Obama) is not a rebuttal, no matter how much you might wish it is.

        Drones are, indeed, less ethical than manned missions. The only possible justification of killing someone in battle is “I had no choice because they would have killed me otherwise”. An unmanned drone, once again almost by definition, eliminates even that tiny sliver of ethical justification. A drone pilot is a coward, a commander of drones is a coward on an even larger scale, and an elected official who chooses to vastly expand a drone bombing program against people who would never under any circumstances even be in a position to hit their own country with a peashooter is a coward to an extent which is almost unimaginable.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    He may not be religious but by his statement of “I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific” it appears that he believes in woo of some sort.

    I also wonder about advertising the fact that the person who killed Osama wasn’t religious, was it done to take the heat away from the religious and to get his followers to concentrate on atheists?

  • coyotenose

    Equating “not religious” to “not believing in an afterlife” is silly. This sort of thing has come up on the blog before. It either means he just doesn’t think about it, or he has that “I’m not religious, I have a relationship with God” crap in his head. I think the context suggests the former.

    It is most definitely a plus that he doesn’t belong to the Pious Warmonger cult that the previous administration headed.

    • coyotenose

      Important qualifier: It’s not necessarily MUCH of a plus, but it’s one less complication.

  • MariaO

    I cannot understand those of you that rejoyce in how this was done. Apart from setting a very bad example for the rest of the world on how to conduct “justice”, what about punishment? If you do not believe in a afterlife, being dead is not a punishment. So, a quick, unexpected death compared to the rest of your life in a high security prison is much too lenient. Why did you not punish the guy and made him suffer for as long as possible? Why did the US let him get away with all he did so easily?

    Btw – do you think FIB would have captured Breivik alive? Not a chance! So, he is spending what will probably be a long life in more or less isolation in prison. Now, THAT is proper punishment.

  • Jason

    I think you might be doing what Christians often do. Reading into the text. I didn’t see a statement from the soldier regarding his belief in the afterlife. He might be non-religious, but that might just mean that he doesn’t actively worship. His belief that he was “PUT” on this earth for some reason is, in my opinion, a telling statement.

  • Thegoodman

    Those guys aint got time to pray, or bleed.


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