Last night, when I awoke to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. Special Forces, I was stunned by the fact that celebrations had broken out. They made me feel extremely uneasy. The celebrations are certainly understandable in the light of 9/11, but it seems ungodly to celebrate someone’s death, someone’s killing - even if they have done horrible things in their lifetime.
I am reminded of my recent interview with Rabbi Capers Funnye when we were discussing the Exodus story. He said that the Israelites initially rejoiced when Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea. But God rebuked them, saying that they should not rejoice in the deaths of their enemies. And of course, I am reminded of Jesus who told us to “love our enemies.”
I see this killing as an act of war in the U.S. struggle against Al Qaida. But it raises the timeless question of retribution: an “eye for an eye.” This is an attitude that fuels conflicts that never seem to end, like the strife in Northern Ireland and the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
So, as I watch the unfolding news, I pray that the death of Osama bin Laden will undermine Al Qaida’s terrorism machine. But I also pray that it will cause us to re-think what we have done in response, from long detentions without trial in places like Guantanamo to secret renditions and even the use of torture.