The Death of Bin Laden.

There was much rejoicing. But should there be?

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. (Prov. 24:17-18).

Taking the life from someone else will never be an act of  justice – it does not restore what has been lost, but rather, brings further loss onto the world.  When we die, we will have to face God. None of us know beforehand what to expect. When someone is killed, the world has lost another life, another good (however abused) has been lost. That person will have to face God as the rest of the world will have to face the consequences of that death. The gloating of one day can turn to terror and despair the next as the cycle of vengeance continues. Let us pray that does not happen. Let us hope that, somehow, we can overcome the cycle of death, as P. Federico Lombardi said

Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.

What helped bring Osama Bin Laden into existence? That is what we should seek to end, that is what we need to conquer and overcome. Fr. Anton Pascual points out at least one of the sources of violence in the world today:

But we need to address the root problem of the world’s social ills that is neo-capitalist hegemonic expansion exploiting the poor, environment and families in the name of pseudo-development and modernity.

Bin Laden, obviously, was not poor, but he exploited them, having learned how to do so by the leaders of the West.  When the poor become desperate, that desperation can become the means by which they are manipulated. Bin Laden learned that and used it for his own end. But he will not be the only one. As long as the worldwide economic crisis continues, people will rise up to direct the anger of the poor. Their violence, as with any violence, will not be justified – but it can be prevented if we take the time to deal with the root causes now before it is too late. It will cost far less life and resources to help the poor than to fight them, to help fix the world now than to try to fix it after the devastation of war.

The death of Bin Laden certainly leaves the world different today. As with every act of aggression, with every act of war, we should see it as a defeat for humanity. If only Bin Laden could have had a change of heart, like St Paul or St Vladimir. Think about the good he could have done. Now that would have been a victory.

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  • hoboduke

    The man who appoints himself to be a leader of terrorism and pretends to be a prince of worldly power is seeking to overthrow Christ and followers of Jesus. I would not ask anyone to sacrifice their life to convert the mastermind of the slaughter of thousands of innocent victims. David did not convert Goliath. God knows that we are in a battle against evil. Michael the defender of the innocents did not convert those intent on killing because the goal is to eliminate Christ and the followers of Jesus. We rejoice that the threat to peace is gone. Nobody cares to celebrate anything to do with Bin Laden. Let God decide his final resting place.

    • Henry Karlson

      On the other hand, David was pre-Christ. When we see the birth of Christianity, we see martyrs not warriors, martyrs trying to convert their persecutors not destroy them. Many who slaughtered thousands converted and became saints –that is right, saints. The Christian response is that of Christ, who forgives…

      • Rodak

        I have personally felt more grief over the deaths of three little children in our latest fruitless attempt to assassinate the Libyan head-of-state than I feel for bin Laden. But I agree with you that murder is never justified in the eyes of Christ. It is always counter-productive, and no good will come from this.

  • Ronald King

    The threat to peace is not gone with his death, Hoboduke. We are still here.

  • David Nickol

    Bin Laden, obviously, was not poor, but he exploited them, having learned how to do so by the leaders of the West.

    You go too far here, Henry. I agree that his assassination is not cause for celebration, but I would not be quick to condemn it, either.

    If only Bin Laden could have had a change of heart, like St Paul or St Vladimir. Think about the good he could have done. Now that would have been a victory.

    Apologies in advance, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of this:

    Maxwell Smart: “Well, that’s the end of Mr. Big. If only he could have turned his evil genius into . . . niceness.”

    • Henry Karlson


      When we were fighting the soviets, we trained the same fighters to fight for us. He certainly learned our ways, including our ways of propaganda, imo.

      And as I pointed out, terrorists (like St Vladimir) have been known to convert and become a force for good.

  • Thales

    I agree that the rejoicing is entirely inappropriate.

  • Liam

    Because God is outside time and space, and knows all that will happen within the bounds of time and space, we may pray for the salvation of the dead. The Fatima ejaculation is especially apropos. We need not scruple over a sense of relief (if not rejoicing) over the end of one mass murderer, but we are obliged to pray for his salvation, as with the salvation of every person.

    The vastness of God’s mercy is thus.

    • inceptorphilosophus

      Spot on, Liam!

  • Julian Barkin

    Personally I think that it is a lie. There are no photos yet of his body, unlike those that were leaked out about I think it was Hussein’s sons when the US did raids. Also, don’t you think it’s kinda odd that Bin Laden goes off the radar for years and almost 10 years later after 9/11, suddenly “He’s dead”? Finally, Obama is coming up to an election year and already he’s been exposed for the extreme liberal, pro-abortion president he is. He wasn’t what he was made out to be in his campaign. Don’t you think the timing is not coincidental? Guaranteed he will use this as part of his campaign to sway Americans to give him his term II.

  • Rodak

    Okay, then. We have our first “Hoaxer.” When will the pics of the Obama-Osama champagne toast be leaked?

  • Morning’s Minion

    Good post, Henry. I am appalled by the people cheering and dancing on Bin Ladin’s corpse, people who claim to the Christian. I even heard honking cars outside my house last night. What is wrong with this country?

    • Frank M.

      What is wrong with this country? — It’s full of ordinary human beings. Have a good look, because this is really “us.”

      • Morning’s Minion

        Yes, ordinary human beings….poisoned by nationalism.

    • Henry Karlson

      Thanks. Yes, I woke up this morning to hear about the death and the celebrations in DC. I immediately went about looking at what was said in the news, and to see if I could find some official Catholic commentary on it.

      What I have also found, however, is that some realize it is not a thing to rejoice over, but they do not want to see the full issue, to look deeper than the surface level, to see why the war is even going on. There is still a desire to see the US as innocent.

      • Phillip

        Though it is not clear that America is guilty. Probably a good study on the sources of terrorism concluded;

        “After controlling for the level of political rights, fractionalization, and geography, Abadie concludes that per capita national income is not significantly associated with terrorism. He finds, though, that lower levels of political rights are linked to higher levels of terrorism countries with the highest levels of political rights are also the countries that suffer the lowest levels of terrorism. However, the relationship between the level of political rights and terrorism is not a simple linear one. Countries in an intermediate range of political rights experience a greater risk of terrorism than countries either with a very high degree of political rights or than severely authoritarian countries with very low levels of political rights.”

    • Jay Anderson

      MM, I don’t disagree with you regarding the overexuberant jingoism of those celebrating bin Laden’s death (although I am probably more willing to be understanding of why the reaction is what it is and less willing to chalk it up to some deficiency in the American character). But perhaps the first person you should have a conversation with about that is Michael Sean Winters. Apparently, he wanted to be out there with the folks cheering, dancing, and honking cars outside your home. Did you see his post at National Catholic Reporter? Here’s a sampling:

      “… I do not normally take delight in the death of a fellow human being. Nor do I support the death penalty. But, if there was one man on the planet whom it was important to kill, not to just let die, it was Osama bin Laden. You should not be able to murder well nigh to 3,000 Americans and others with impunity. If you commit such a crime, you should fear every moment of every day that U.S. Special Forces will come crashing through the door to bring you to justice. I am sure bin Laden knew better than to be captured alive. (Given the legal nightmare of Guantanamo, thank God he was killed on the spot!) It took a long time to track bin Laden down, too long, and it is impossible not to think that we might have reached this happy day earlier if we had not detoured through Baghdad. But, this is no time for recriminations. It is time to celebrate.

      As I write these words, images of young people streaming into the streets in front of the White House chanting “USA” and singing the National Anthem are coming onto the television screen. If it were not so late and I did not have an early morning, I would drive down myself. Vengeance is not a healthy emotion, I know. Assassination is against the law, to be sure. But, better to indulge and go to confession. I am glad Osama bin Laden did not die in his bed, as I am glad Hitler did not die in his bed and as I am distressed hat Stalin and Mao did. Men who commit such evil do not deserve normal considerations of human sympathy or civilized respect. The world is well rid of bin Laden. It is a great day to be alive.”

      The part about knowing its wrong, but nevertheless indulging in and even celebrating throughts of vengeance, and then going to confession afterwards, is really troublesome. To be so presumptuous about the Divine Mercy of God for oneself and in the same breath to deny “normal considerations of human sympathy” for another (and on Divine Mercy Sunday, which is when he wrote this, no less) is disturbing. Contrast Michael Sean Winters’ post with the thoughtful and charitable post by Michael Denton at the allegedly jingoistic and nationalistic American Catholic:

  • Cindy

    It is a little unsettling to watch people rejoice in the streets. Reminds me of what they did over on the other side of the world when the Twin Towers fell. Somber reflection would be more appropriate. I wonder if any photo’s will be released or video though. I also wonder why we were so intent on protection his Islamic Tradition by burying the body (out to sea) within 24hrs. They didnt do that for Saadam did they? Maybe they did. I could be wrong.

  • brian martin

    I am in agreement with pretty much everything you said Henry, except for the part about “Bin Laden, obviously, was not poor, but he exploited them, having learned how to do so by the leaders of the West.” This suggest that people using power, religion or economics to exploit people is a) an relatively new phenomenon and b) a uniquely western phenomenon. I would suggest it is a human phenomenon. History is replete with people who exploited poor or less educated people for their own gain or for the sake of advancing their ideology. Food for thought, though. Catholic teaching on Capitol Punishment, stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
    2267 -The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
    “If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
    “Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’
    One could argue that Osama Bin Laden remaining alive, even incarcerated would remain a threat to humanity through the acts of his followers.
    The other side, of course, is that his death may also incite his followers to more radical violence.

    • Henry Karlson


      I am not saying such exploitation has not happened throughout history. However, we must understand that:
      1) the region was under British control, and many social structures developed during that time which
      2) continued after the British were no longer officially in power, but still guiding and directing through the leaders who took over the region (one can read, for example, of the complaints about this phenomena, and how the poor who were supposed to be helped were being squashed by the direction of British policies by their new leaders, in the speeches of Bharat Ratna Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan).
      3) the US got active in the region in the Cold War, helping, arming, training, guiding the rebels against the Soviets, rebels which got the trappings of newer, US ideologies and training methods
      4) they turned on us as soon as they could, following the same ideologies we trained them with. Indeed, it reads very much like the Tea Parties, with people who have all kinds of wealth (Bin Laden) acting like one of the people (the poor suffering from economic decline) all the while encouraging them to become revolutionaries (with Bin Laden, in a very literal sense). The propaganda was based upon marketing propaganda, and it works on people who are desperate.

      Our history in the region (British and American) have influenced the development of the region as we see it today, and yes, our weapon has been turned against us

      • Liam

        Thus perpetuating the pre-existing patrimonial tribal patron-client dysfunction.

      • brian martin

        Henry, all very valid points. The truth is “civilized” western culture was not needed to create religious fanatics willing to exploit the poor and ignorant to kill their foes. From a Muslim historical standpoint, Al Queda and other “terrorist” groups owe much to the Imaili “Assassins” of the 11th and 12th century.
        The use of religion to incite violence between different Muslim groups is not new.
        One is reminded of the Protestant-Catholic warfare…however, this warfare continues unabated. Even within the United States, moderate Muslims recieve death threats for not being pure enough. This has little to do with Western intervention or meddling. That is not to deny the role the west has played as you illustrate so well.

        • Henry Karlson


          Once again, we must not look at what is necessary, but what has led to the rise of Bin Laden. Certainly other paths could have led to violence. But we must look at the path taken and see how that path has also created the conditions and ways that violence has taken place.

          I would also be careful with terms such as “moderate Muslims.” There is often an imposition of a Western notion of Islam upon Islam, and that has also created, in kind, the type of Muslims we do not like. We often see the West talk as violent, authoritarian Islam as “true Islam,” helping the propaganda. However, I would say Badshah Khan is by far the more authentic Muslim and one who overcame what others have called the problem of Orientalism.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    I’ve been a bit surprised by the level of celebration. Perhaps our national obsession with sports has trained us to be uncharitable in victory.

    @ Cindy, the burial at sea might avoid having a grave become a shrine and site of future drama.

    • Cindy

      No I get that Bruce. I mean the whole doing inside 24hrs thing as to give him the Islamic Tradition of a burial within 24hrs? I mean why honor that? For fear of retaliation? Did they do that for Saadam? I can’t remember so.

      • Bruce in Kansas

        Saddam was hung after his trial and buried in his hometown, I think.

        I expect the burial at sea was an option okayed in the plan. It makes little sense to offend Muslims needlessly by desecrating the body. Remember OBL killed many more Muslims than Christians during his career. By treating the remains in accordance with Muslim custom we avoid offending millions of Muslims, many of whom share our dislike of him or would be willing to be aggitated against the USA if we had done something unseemly to the body. A quick burial at sea seems like a good decision, IMO.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        According to the Guardian, the U.S. asked several countries in the region if they could bury OBL there; they all refused. Burial at sea was apparently plan B.

      • Cindy

        Call me crazy, but I would like to see a photo, a video or something. I need the proof. Isnt that sad that I can’t totally take my governments word for it? I would really like to see the proof. I guess when they found Saadam in the hole, he was alive and that is why it went viral so fast.

    • Julian Barkin

      From a young person’s perspective (Me, being of 27 years of age) and part of the first wave of video game obsessed youth, I’m not suprized at this at all. Between poor cathechesis of the youth on the Church’s position on war, as well as a violence obsessed culture represented in the form of violent video games like Black Ops and Call of Duty 1 & 2, this is like just another “2x points” headshot to another “bad guy”. To the youth, it’s not horrific at all, if anything it is a victory or good thing as exemplified in these video games. Not suprising at all.

      Not to mention that video games and desensitization to violence is a commonly debated and explored topic in mass media and psychology. e.g. Anyone remember Columbine? Many media reports said that the shooters played violent videogames like Doom.

      And you wonder why these youth in pics and videos are cheering. Agree or disagree with me?

  • Paul DuBois

    The response of the Catholic Church posted on its web site.

    I think they got it right.

    • Richard M

      I also think that the Vatican response struck the right chord. It emphasizes his guilt and the magnitude of his crimes, while avoiding celebratory overtones.

      I have to dissent from Fr. Rodriguez’s comment, however: “What is needed, he said, is a serious policy of interreligious tolerance at every level — cultural, social, political and legislative.” What is needed, in fact, is for all men to convert to Christ (Matt. 28:19), and for the Church to more vigorously carry out the great commission. We should avoid religious war but we should not kid ourselves that sectarian violence will end before that true conversion takes place.

  • digbydolben

    THIS is all I’ll have to say, except to add that there are two women and four children who are likely to be murdered by the Pakistani ISI for what they know–or don’t know–and that their blood is on Barack Obama’s head.

    Obama is very likely twenty times as Machiavellian and cold-blooded as Bush, and all of this may be stage-managed to effect a withdrawal from Afghanistan by making it look as if the Empire has “won.”

    Of couse, what Obama and all the liberal secularists of his ilk just don’t get is that the Muslim jihadists are actually SERIOUS about their faith, are PROUD to embrace “martyrdom,” and are now prouder of Bin Laden than they’ve ever been before and may well CELEBRATE his “martyrdom” by unleashing “dirty” nuclear devices in European capitals.

    • Ronald King

      Excellent article Digby.

    • grega

      We will see Digbydolben – I would like to suggest that a much more fitting name for your webidentity :
      “She is a figure both of the epic tradition and of tragedy, where her combination of deep understanding and powerlessness exemplify the tragic condition of humankind.”
      – at times it is amusing to witness how you take your personal opinions just
      a tad too serious -often it is rather painful to witness how your deep understanding and smartness is simply wasted on us mortals- other times it is just plain annoying to read the predictable digbydolben comment – unfortunatelly you are correct so often – I pray not this time.

  • Rodak

    Or, they may AVENGE his assassination by unleashing “dirty” nuclear devices in American cities. What we can be quite certain that they won’t do is just let it slide.
    If they couldn’t capture him alive and make a sad spectacle of him, as was done with Saddam, they should’ve just kept him bottled up while picking off his street soldiers, one at a time.

  • Agellius

    Henry writes, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. (Prov. 24:17-18).”

    I find it highly unlikely that this is referring to a battlefield enemy. More likely a personal enemy. More apropos might be Ps. 20: “Prayer for Victory over Enemies… 1May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! … 5We will sing for joy over your victory, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners.”

    Or 2 Chron. 20:27: “27Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, Jehoshaphat leading them, to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies.”

    This is just what I came up with after a brief Google search. I assume there are more.

    I’m not saying these verses apply to the U.S. Army necessarily, as if to presume that we had gained this victory by God’s direct assistance. What I am saying is that it is not inherently immoral to rejoice over the defeat of your enemies in battle.

    Henry writes, “Taking the life from someone else will never be an act of justice …”

    That’s a matter of opinion.

    Henry writes, “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices …”

    Also a matter of opinion.

    “But we need to address the root problem of the world’s social ills that is neo-capitalist hegemonic expansion exploiting the poor, environment and families in the name of pseudo-development and modernity.”

    Yes because before capitalism we never had social ills. And non-capitalist countries don’t have them either.

    “Bin Laden, obviously, was not poor, but he exploited them, having learned how to do so by the leaders of the West.”

    Yes because Muslims have never known anything about exploiting the poor.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Agellius writes:

    “Henry writes, “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices …”

    Also a matter of opinion.”

    An example of when you think such rejoicing is appropriate? I am reminded of the Talmudic story that when the Israelites began to rejoice on the shores of the Red Sea after Pharaoh drowned, the angels wanted to join their hymn, but God forbade it.

    • Agellius

      David writes, “An example of when you think such rejoicing is appropriate?”

      Well, when I heard that OBL had been killed, my reaction was “God have mercy on his soul” and “Thank God we got him” (perhaps not necessarily in that order if truth be told). I consider that reaction appropriate.

  • Henry Karlson

    I thought I would put a heads up to my most recent (to date) post in my Anthony series; it really ties together with this one…

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