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Morality and War

There have been some interesting debates in the news lately about the morality of the US government killing Osama Bin Laden. Some have even compared his killing to the capture and war crime trials of former Nazi leaders. How come we didn’t capture Osama Bin Laden and give him his day in court, when we did that with Nazis? Aren’t we, as Americans supposed to be better than the scum of the Earth? Don’t we believe in human rights and due process? Yes, we do believe in those ideals, unless we are at war.

The US has repeatedly stated that we were at war with terrorists and in particular, Osama Bin Laden. When a country declares war on an organization, be it a loose collection of thugs or a country, that pretty much clears the way for killing not only their leaders, but also their followers. This is why soldiers are not considered murderers. They are acting in behalf of their government to enforce a political policy.

Had US Soldiers gotten to Hitler before he managed to kill himself, I have no doubt they would have killed him without remorse. At that point, the war with Germany was over. The reason we didn’t kill the Nazi leaders is because the US declared the war over.  End of hostilities. Let the courts try the followers of a lunatic national leader.

In Osama Bin Laden’s case, he was the leader of al-Qaeda and we are at war with al-Qaeda. If Bin Laden had given up and turned himself over to Pakistan officials or the US, we would not have killed him. Holing himself up in a secret compound while planning future attacks on our borders, is not flying a white flag of truce.

As others have noted, you can’t assume when going after Osama Bin Laden, that the man would not be rigged with explosives and ready to take out anyone attempting to kill him. That’s akin to assuming a Kamakazi pilot would not crash into your ship. The al-Qaeda operatives are known suicide bombers.

I don’t believe this war on terrorism is over simply because we killed the leader of al-Qaeda. The only real way to end this particular war is to win the hearts and minds of the people from which al-Qaeda recruit their followers. When you give a nation their freedoms, you give them their own path to liberation. This is not that different from keeping teens out of gangs. Gangs tend to thrive when the youth of an area are not occupied in socially respectable ways.

I do believe that a benefit of the current wave of democratic ideals in the Middle East, is that we may see a quicker end to terrorism than anyone would have thought possible. With fewer dictators in power and more democracies, the world is going to be a safer place for everyone.



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