Osama bin Laden, the 9-11 mastermind, is dead. Our man in Afghanistan, the scion of a wealthy Saudi family who helped us defeat the Soviet Union in that Cold War theater, is gone. Three decades later, U.S. special forces nailed him in Pakistan.
But the Global War on Terror is still quite alive, as President Barack Obama, lawmakers, and pundits are reminding us. Al-Qaeda lives, and will probably retaliate. For many of our enemies, bin Laden achieved a martyr’s death that may fertilize their fanaticism and confirm their conviction that justice is done by inflicting extra-juridical death sentences.
He was killed by a “headshot.” This is the method the U.S. has adopted over the past decade, and al-Qaeda believes in the same. Thus a “take-no-prisoners” war rages on, undiminished, by mutual agreement. We couldn’t have tolerated the trial of a captured bin Laden, in which the history of his war crimes dating back to the 1980s (when he was a U.S.-backed freedom fighter in Afghanistan) would be publicized.
The collateral killing of the innocent is also accepted by mutual agreement. Obama described bin Laden a “mass murderer of Muslims” (along with the many Americans on 9-11), apparently referring to his routine suicide bombings which target U.S. forces and Muslim collaborators, and often kill innocent Muslim bystanders. More innocents, including countless Iraqis, have died as a result of our firepower.
Will this assassination help us end these wars? We cut off the monster’s head in Iraq by toppling and later capturing Saddam Hussein, who was subsequently hanged by a U.S.-financed government. That war rages to this day, only to be eclipsed by the current escalation of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As our troops stormed towards bin Laden’s execution, a missile (probably of U.S. provenance) had just hit a Qaddafi compound in Libya, reportedly killing one of his sons, along with three grandchildren, ages four, two, and one.
Our hyper-militarized nation must lay off the vengeance and international confrontation. This isn’t what democracy looks like.
I’m praying that we truly end these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq– and especially, may we end the war in our hearts.
Michael McCarthy is a leader of Blue Water Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organization. He lives in Port Huron, Michigan.