A Significant Death

Today is a remarkable day. I woke to a beautiful sunrise in England and to the profound news that Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals this morning. It has been more than ten years since he declared war on the United States. There is rejoicing in many parts of the world, but I find myself sober and reflective.

I remember where I was and what I was doing that fateful Tuesday morning Sept 11, 2001. I remember the memorial service we held that night at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cincinnati. I soon started to research coming into the Air Force as a chaplain but the course of my ministry would postpone that decision until 2005. But this "long war", this "global war on terror" was on my mind and in the end moved me to join - to become part of the line to defend our nation from Osama and his ilk, indeed to defend justice and freedom.

Part of me wonders why it took so long to bring justice to Osama. Part of me wonders if it might have been wiser to capture him and bring him to justice in a public court of law. I read a comment by someone that now we can say "mission accomplished". But this long war is far more complex than just the life or death of this one man. He was this war's catalyst but it has grown much bigger than him, and in my opinion, had already grown much larger and beyond him.

I think it may not have been wise to kill him to early. Like a hydra, to make a martyr of him in the early days could have created many more impassioned leaders and a much bigger monster to slay. President Bush and our military went for the body, not the head. For myself the mission was accomplished every single day there was not a terror attack on the United States. Every single threat which was discovered and stopped was mission accomplished.

Yes the battle in Afghanistan rages, but think of it -- those who used Afghanistan as a harbor were so quickly devestated and unable to strike our nation again. What harm was Osama able to do after we moved to action in the fall of 2001? It has been a long road. One where pundits debate wisdom and morality. But what do we see. Iraq on its way to being a free nation - still has its problems -but no longer a threat to her neighbors nor under the thumb of a dictator. We see mass popular movements toward freedom and justice coming to birth.

Yes it is messy and the war rages on for it is more than just seeking the head of one man or stopping the heart of one man. This war is more about winning the hearts and heads of our entire human race. Liberty for all. Justice for all. Peace for all. A tall order. For there are still those out there moved by hatred. A shooting killing Air Force personnel in Germany. Another in Afghanistan. Families grieve.

I find it hard to celebrate a death - for I grieve at the necessity that exists within humanity that it is necessary to inflict death to preserve life. But in this case it was just.

I find it hard to celebrate this death for I doubt it will go far in changing hearts and minds. We isolated his influence and ability to strike our nation years ago. Osama had been isolated and locked down in his little compound limited to issuing a few statements now and then - the real battle leaders of terror had moved on. So I doubt this will change the reality of this war very much - for it has already moved far beyond Osama bin Laden.

I do fear that if we think the war is over because the life of Osama bin Laden is over and we quit - he may have given the final thing he could to advance his cause - turning himself into a martyr.

But perhaps the time has come to remove this symbol of where it started - now that new things are in the works and people in the Middle East are themselves calling for justice and freedom.

Time will tell.

I've seen this war up close and personal. I've been fired upon in Iraq as rockets pounded our base. I've held the hands of wounded and carried the dead. I've buried our dead in the hallowed sanctuary that is Arlington when they were killed by terrorists. I've walked the sacred ground where victims from the Pentagon rest. I've walked the sacred ground in Pennsylvania where the first American heroes gave their lives to prevent what might have been an attack on the White House or the Capitol Building. I've counseled those who had to deal with the loss of friends and comrades. I've counseled couples whose marriages were strained by repeated deployments. I've blessed those going out of the wire into harms way and given thanks when they safely returned. These young men and women are the truest of heroes, the truest of servants, for in the end it is their blood that pays the price for liberty and by their wounds of body and soul is justice preserved.

It is a long war. It suspect it is far from done. Every day justice stands and freedom endures is "mission accomplished".