Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop of Canterbury on Osama bin Laden

Lambeth Palace press release: Archbishop on Osama Bin Laden

Q: Do you believe that the killing of Osama Bin Laden is justice for the 9/11 attacks and indeed other attacks? And was the US morally justified in shooting him even though he was unarmed as the White House now admits?

A: I think that the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done, in those circumstances. I think it is also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help here. I don’t know the full details anymore than anyone else does but I do believe that in such circumstance when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a ‘war criminal’ as you might say in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be observed.

Press reports:

See the video of this, from Ruth Gledhill Archbishop of Canterbury condemns the manner of Osama bin Laden killing

Press Association via Independent Archbishop ‘uncomfortable’ over Bin Laden killing

Telegraph Tim Ross Osama bin Laden dead: Archbishop of Canterbury criticises White House

Guardian Riazat Butt Bin Laden killing left ‘uncomfortable feeling’ – Rowan Williams

BBC Archbishop ‘uncomfortable’ over Bin Laden unarmed death

Channel 4 News Osama bin Laden killing leaves Archbishop ‘uncomfortable’

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Edward of Baltimore
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Edward of Baltimore

The U.S. justice system is based on presumed innocence and a fair trial: I don’t think Osama bin Laben could have counted on either of those today. Is the world better off without him? No doubt. Is the world a safer place without him? Likely. Was “justice done”? Not so sure. Was there an alternative? Can’t think of one.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Bin Laden has caused, directly or indirectly, the deaths of thousands of unarmed innocent civilians in many parts of the world, not just the U.S. Rowan Williams seems to think it would have somehow been better if Bin Laden had been armed. Why? To give him a chance to kill one more person? Huh?

Williams seems to operate in an alternate reality in this as in so many other matters.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

But as has been pointed out elsewhere, the fact that al Qaeda uses suicide bombers means that telling whether or not OBL was armed or not would have been difficult to do. At any rate, I’d much rather have an American soldier mistakenly shoot an unarmed OBL than have the soldier mistakenly think he was unarmed, try to take him into custody, and find out the hard way that he *was* armed, after all. Full disclosure: I’m not made uncomfortable by OBL’s enforced shuffling off this mortal coil at all. I *am* made uncomfortable by hand-wringing over the elimination of… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

… and I am uncomfortable with the Archbishop. He should have half the concern over the infringed rights of good gay men and lesbians. I don’t think any of us want to see the death of another human no matter how inhuman they may be, but when did the Archbishop last stand in an armed enemy camp and make a considered philosophical decision.

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

The Vatican has criticised this killing as well. Watching Americans, especially young people who were children at 9/11 dancing in the streets tells us how far things have fallen in the U.S. Or maybe their violent nature is just more open now. It looked like any jubilant crowd in Tehran. But then again, the U.S. has murdered its enemies before and wrapped itself in a cloak of righteousness. To them, they are the only people who mater on the planet, so, to paraphrase Nixon (with Frost), if the U.S. does it, it is not illegal.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The Sanhedrin once said (of the killing of Jesus): “It is expedient that one man should die for the people” Anyone who sets themselves up as a ‘Messiah’, for whomever, is bound to become vulnerable. We now know that the death of Jesus bought/brought life to all humanity. Can we say the same of Osama bin Laden? Did his killings bring anyone life? The life of Jesus brought the prospect of eternal life for all human-kind. Bin Laden believed that his murderous actions would bring life to Muslims only. I cannot blame the American people for the death of a… Read more »

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand
JCF
Guest
JCF

When reporters ask questions like this, I wonder why respondents (regardless of title) don’t just answer “I don’t know. God will judge.”?

Keith Kimber
Guest
Keith Kimber

People whose lives have been touched by islamist terrorism have reason to feel glad that Osama bin Laden one of its key authors, is dead. However, an extra-judicial killing as the ABC infers, leaves us feeling uncomfortable. Good for him for remarking so gently on the emperor’s new clothes. Such action is unlikely to guarantee closure, or any healing of wounds inflicted by Al Qu’aeda, notorious for extra-judicial action against truly innocent people. An International Criminal Court trial, with a body of multi-faith, multi-cultural lawyers for defence, prosecution and judgement, however challenging, complex or painful a process, would represent moral… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

I too found the shouts of USA, USA and the celebrations in the streets repugnant.

I am glad we gave that murderer a proper burial at sea.

And I am satisfied that he is dead.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Richard Grand posted “Watching Americans, especially young people who were children at 9/11 dancing in the streets tells us how far things have fallen in the U.S. Or maybe their violent nature is just more open now.” This is a cheap shot. The reality is more complex. Check out this interview that CBC’s As it Happens did with Donna Marsh O’Connor, spokes person for “9/11 families for a peaceful tomorrow.” It would humble any person of faith. If link one won’t work, click on link two and go to As it Happens for Monday part II. God bless America’s peacemakers.… Read more »

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

Simon, You may like to list the attached comments by the two New Zealand Archbishops, commenting not so much on the killing itself, but on our response to it. Reflections at the time of the death of Osama bin Laden The news of the demise of Osama bin Laden has been felt to bring a measure and a form of closure for thousands affected by the acts of terror over the past decade. It is crucial that the acts of terror in any form, including those masterminded by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, be challenged and overcome. However, the… Read more »

Murdoch Matthew
Guest
Murdoch Matthew

“Bin Laden has caused, directly or indirectly, the deaths of thousands of unarmed innocent civilians in many parts of the world, not just the U.S.” Many people are saying this sort of thing, and I wonder how they cannot reflect that the U.S. has caused the deaths of thousands of unarmed innocent civilians in many parts of the world, most recently and notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. And what of the deaths of armed nationals whose offense is opposing foreign occupation of their native lands? If we’re uncomfortable with the cold-blooded killing of a man (and his staff) in his… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

” But then again, the U.S. has murdered its enemies before and wrapped itself in a cloak of righteousness. To them, they are the only people who mater on the planet, so, to paraphrase Nixon (with Frost), if the U.S. does it, it is not illegal.” Wow, Richard, ALL Americans? How broad was thy brush. I find the bitterness and hatred directed at people for having the audacity to be no more than U. S. citizens a bit disturbing. I have condemned the celebrations, while an Englishman I know thought they were fine. I have questioned the validity of the… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Most unwise to have commented, especially as he prefaced his brief answer to the question by admitting he didn’t have the facts. The office of the Archbishop of Westminster was much smarter.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I don’t see anything that’s wrong with his statement. Of course it’s better if it looks 100% as if justice had been done, and in a Western democracy that means capturing your suspect and trying him in a court of law.

It doesn’t mean that this was remotely possible here, and I don’t see Rowan saying that it should have been. He simply points out that it’s not ideal.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

Very sane comments from Abp Williams — who was in New York on 9/11 and who lost a host and dear friend in a terrorist incident in Istanbul in 2003. The US vengeful glee has also been rejected by the Vatican spokesman. It is dragging us back to the tit for tat world of 2001 to 2003 at the very moment when the Arab world seemed to be surging forward to democracy.

Christopher Arnold
Guest
Christopher Arnold

I for one am quite happy that the spiritual leader of my communion is uncomfortable with killing. Even if justified, even if the target is the most odious and terrible of people, even if unavoidable in the heat of battle, the circumstances surrounding the taking of any life should make one uncomfortable. Well done, ++Rowan.

-Chris

Timothy
Guest
Timothy

The “Equivocator in Chief” strikes again. The ABC alert condition remains OPAQUE. (But he has a nice voice and good stole action for Royal weddings.)

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“The U.S. empire has operated outside public view in large part — who knows about the conquest of the Philippines or the murder of the opposition party by our dictator in Peru?” Well, you seem to know about them, as do lots of other people in the States who are equally ashamed of our actions. As for the morality of using drones as attack weapons, rather than only as spies in the sky, that is indeed debatable, and is debated in both military and civilan venues. I doubt Bin Laden engaged in subtle debates over the morality of random murders… Read more »

hitherqueen
Guest
hitherqueen

The ABC quite clearly said that he knew as much as any other person on the street about the circumstances surrounding OBL’s death. And as a Christian leader surely he is mindful of Matthew 5:44, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. The Americans have created a martyr out of a murderer and any consequences will have to be borne by them. I sincerely hope there won’t be any retribution for what’s happened, but I think we will be lucky if there won’t be.

Bob McCloskey
Guest
Bob McCloskey

It is so tempting to respond to the substance of these comments, as an American Christian and priest. I think all that could be said has been said. What bothers me is that ‘broad brush’ characterization of Americans, based largely on sensational media portrayals. To my friends and former neighbors in England, the birthplace and true home of my wife, Americans are as highly conflicted over this as those across the ponds. Archbishop Tutu’s well known remark about Anglicanism being very messy, is an apt description of American democracy – and getting messier [and nastier] by the day, which is… Read more »

Muthah+
Guest

Yes, there are those who will celebrate the demise of Bin Laden. And us Yanks do celebrate with more abandon that the Brits and chant USA at the drop of a hat. But not all of the US feels this way.

To say “bothered” means condemnation is also a broad brush. Any Christian should be bothered by war, by killing of any kind.
http://stoneofwitness.blogspot.com/

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

The capture, imprisonment and trial of a live Bin Laden would almost certainly have triggered a hostage crisis of unimaginable proportions, with many, many more innocent deaths.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“What bothers me is that ‘broad brush’ characterization of Americans, based largely on sensational media portrayals.” Thanks for saying this. The broad brush is always tempting, because it requires little analytical thinking, and makes ignoring complexity easy. I recently read a book titled “One Christmas In Washington,” about the meetings between Churchill and his entourage and FDR and his just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They met to hammer out how to conduct what was now a global war. The book gives biographical sketches of the participamts, and I was surpised and somewhat shocked to find simple-minded bigotry… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

I think the snark and criticism of high spirits at the death of a monster like Bin Laden is off-base (besides being an example of wrapping oneself in a “cloak of righteousness” in itself, Richard Grand). I’m pretty sure that people were excited when Hitler died, too; I’m also pretty sure that that’s okay.

I look forward to the purse-lipped tut-tutting when Gaddafi is hanging from a light-post and people are cheering in Tripoli. Or is it only Americans who must feel guilty for having human emotions?

JCF
Guest
JCF

I think judging all (U.S.) Americans by those relative few who partied in the streets Sunday night, would be like judging all English by their football hooligans. I think it’s fine to judge the USA by its (SCOTUS-approved) 2nd Amendment and gun violence to match, but to draw a “how far they have fallen {blood-thirsty monsters}” conclusion by last Sunday’s flag-waving is really rather ridiculous (not to mention self-righteous).

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Crazy Rabbit seems to have been one of very few people on this thread to have pointed out the obvious alternative to Osama’s killing – in the way it took place. To have taken him captive (even if he had agreed to such a thing) would have meant the future fear of terrorist activity in seeking his release. And, one must ask, what country – apart from the US – would ever consent to holding him in custody while lawyers decided what to do with him? It is too easy to criticise the U.S. While I, too, deplore excessive rejoicing… Read more »

rjb
Guest
rjb

On the one hand, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of celebrating the death of any human being. On the other, I had a sly G&T when President Reagan died and went to hell, and I have a couple of bottles put away for the Thatcher-Gotterdammerung too. I’m not particularly proud of it, and unlike Bill Dilworth I make no claim that it’s “okay”. I wish I were half as high-minded as Archbishop Rowan. Unfortunately, I’m just bloody vindictive, that’s all.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

Cynthia mentions people who have moral doubt about using drones. I remember President Obama joking about drones at his meet the press stunt last year — no moral qualms in evidence there.

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

ABC doesn’t inhabit the military world of tough choices.  We may de-cry the US ‘Lone Ranger’ approach from a safe distance and quietly ignore the idea that a combined internationally co-ordinated operation is more susceptible to be botched by leaks and ambushed. It was Bin Laden’s active current global leadership of indiscriminate lethal violence against large-scale civilian and especially American targets that made him a legitimate strategic target for US forces. While the operation was retaliatory, even our own military are employed to thwart active lethal adversaries (even strategic ones) with lethal force. If Bin Laden had renounced his participation in… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“Attitudes towards tyrants is inevitably coloured by personal experience of their wrath.”

Absolutely.

I also think it’s interesting that the celebrations in NYC and DC were primarily youth-driven, while lot of the of the condemnation, on the other hand, seems to be from older people. Some of the condemnation has the familiar ring of “The problem with young people today…”, but projected through an anti-US filter.

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

For once I agree with Rowan…

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

I had no idea that people would take me so literally. Of course, not all Americans are violent. Of course they have a legitimate reason to be happy. Perhaps I have overstated my opinion. Of course I know that reality is more complex. I simply had a reaction seeing people treating a death as if it were a sports championship. It is accurate to say that American administrations have done this before. My comment about the “openness” of the violent nature of Americans was unnecessary. But at the same time statistics about gun deaths and violent acts in the United… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

“The capture, imprisonment and trial of a live Bin Laden would almost certainly have triggered a hostage crisis of unimaginable proportions, with many, many more innocent deaths.”

That does not seem to have happened with the capture, imprisonment and trial of a live Saddam.

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“That does not seem to have happened with the capture, imprisonment and trial of a live Saddam.”

Yes, things in Iraq went (and are going) so *smoothly*…

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Spirit:

Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted by his own people in his own country for crimes perpetrated against them. Osama bin Laden would have had to be tried in a country not his own (Saudi Arabia has effectively washed their hands of him), by the countrymen of his victims, for crimes perpetrated against citizens of those countries.

It is and was obvious that no country wanted jurisdiction over this trial or responsibility for holding him.

I do not “celebrate” his death…but I recognize it as the only form of justice he was ever likely to get.

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand
Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

Richard, you could support absolutely any opinion you cared to take on the subject with selected quotes from the survivors of 9/11. They are not a homogenous group by any stretch of the imagination. The key thing is, it seems to me, that for some people, like Kristen Breitweiser, you, and +++Canterbury, it was not a day of celebration. For others, especially young people who had grown up under the shadow of OBL, it was. Curiously, I have not seen anybody accusing those who did not celebrate of not caring, or of being bad Christians or bad people. But many… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth
Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

The preacher at Mattins this morning reminded us that Dietrich Bonheoffer was part of the conspiracies to asssinate Hitler (and of course paid for it with his life). This reminds us that there may be occasions when such actions are necessary, but he, like many of us, have to wrestle with our ‘uncomfortable’ feelings too.

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

Bill Dilworth said “Richard, you could support absolutely any opinion you cared to take on the subject with selected quotes from the survivors of 9/11. They are not a homogenous group by any stretch of the imagination.” That comment is a two way street-it applies to you as well. Those “growing up uncer the shadow of Bin Laden” are no different from any of us who have lived with the consequences of 9/11. Young people have no monopoly. In fact, they don’t know what life was like unless they were in the military, flew frequently, or crossed borders in those… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

For me, the crucial question is not whether Americans have the right to be elated about Bin Laden’s death, but whether it is politically helpful to celebrate in the streets. We’ve all been offended by images of Muslims celebrating 9/11 and we know that images of celebrating Americans will be beamed in to those people’s homes. They will not know that most Americans are relieved but do not feel the need to dance in the streets, they will believe that the whole country is sticking up 2 fingers to them. The truth doesn’t matter, the perception will create its own… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The ABC’s comments in the press release are unremarkable as far as comments on general principles go. But, thanks to Bill Dilworth (8 May 5:47 pm BST) for the link to Maureen Dowd’s column on the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death. I read Ms. Dowd’s Column weekly, but had missed this one. One of the best analysis on the subject at hand I’ve seen. Dowd writes: “I leave it to subtler minds to parse the distinction between what is just and what is justified. … Morally and operationally, this was counterterrorism at its finest. We have nothing to apologize for.… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“…the crucial question is not whether Americans have the right to be elated about Bin Laden’s death, but whether it is politically helpful to celebrate in the streets.” I do not intend to live the rest of my life worrying about what the Muslim man-in-the-street makes of me, my life, words, or actions. And while there are any number of things in American society it might be “politically helpful” to change, inasmuch as they might (or do) offend overseas Muslims, I would be sorry to see any of them change as the result of giving the Muslim world a heckler’s… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

“I have still not adjusted to nor accepted the paranoia that pervades U.S. society. It would be great if that could end.” That’s made no simpler by mindless anti-Americanism. Those of us working from the inside to try to bring that about are constantly – *constantly!* – thwarted by the ongoing thoughtless us/them of anti-Americanism. I don’t care to promote an exceptional America – any more than I would an exceptional Canada or England or anyplace else. We are all human, and humans are not particularly exceptional, no race or nation having a lock on cruelty, stupidity, arrogance, murder, rapine,… Read more »

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

My comments on the paranoia that pervades the U.S. has nothing to do with anti-Americanism. I don’t know where that came from-your reaction says more about you. I am simply saying that I love many things about the U.S. and would like to get back to better times. These comments are based on what my AMERICAN friends say to me about themselves. They don’t like the situation they are in. They live it every day.