Our Ruling Classes and Reality Management

Well, it’s been an exciting week and a half. On Mercy Sunday, we dispatched Osama bin Laden without mercy, and most people weren’t too broken up about that — including me. I’m a Just War kinda guy, and all the initial reports made it sound like we killed a knave in clean combat as he tried to hide behind the skirts of a woman. How could you not applaud that?

Of course, Catholics were, in general, properly conflicted about how to respond. As John Zmirak’s column eloquently articulates, most (American) Catholics came down somewhere in the neighborhood of cheering that justice was done, while trying to remember to pray for the old murderer in the spirit of “lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.” That’s about right as moral judgments go, it seems to me. A few were out at the ends of the demographic bell curve, either denouncing the killing of bin Laden or else fervently, seriously, and (to my mind) suicidally hoping for his damnation. But generally, most American Catholics struck the sensible balance of satisfaction and circumspect prayer and then were all for moving on.

Since then, however, various questions have arisen about the justice of the raid. In the absence of information, I’m not terribly inclined to fret about many of them at present. So, for instance, I’m not too inclined to worry about the violation of Pakistan’s precious sovereignty, since it does look rather like our dear friends there have been harboring bin Laden knowingly for years while taking billions of dollars in aid from us as they did so. The last country whose government harbored bin Laden was rightfully invaded by us and its government properly destroyed. If Pakistan gets off merely with a raid on their treasury to take back our billions, they should consider themselves lucky.

Other issues being raised include the question of whether this was a legitimate act of war or merely a political assassination. This, too, I’m not very inclined to judge harshly in the absence of facts. For the fact is, we hoi polloi know nothing of the circumstances on the ground that night, except that it was dark and our troops were going into terra incognita against unknown numbers with unknown weaponry. The goal was “get bin Laden and don’t get killed.” If (as current reports say) bin Laden offered even the slightest resistance, I have no problem with our troops killing him rather than standing around until he got a shot off or raised an alarm that brought jihadis running. One of our sons is worth a thousand of him, and in a combat situation, you have to think and act fast. Monday-morning quarterbacking from people who have not one inkling about the situation on the ground that night is, I think, ungrateful to the brave guys who got a difficult job done under trying circumstances.

So until I see documentation that bin Laden came out with his hands up, begging to be taken into custody, and that Obama ordered that he be lined up against the wall and shot, I’m not calling the killing of bin Laden an “assassination.” I’m calling it a legitimate act of war against the man who started that war.


Still, in the spirit of Tevye the Milkman’s “on the other hand,” all this does bring up another point: namely, that the reason we know extremely little about what happened is that we have no particular reason to trust our sole source of information about the operation: the Obama administration.

I suspect this is going to lead to a Tuscaloosa-magnitude tornado of conspiracy theorizing and distrust, some of it barking crazy (Obama killed bin Laden to cover up his fake birth certificate!) and some of it completely understandable — as, for instance, in this lament from a reader of my blog, griping about the shroud of suspicion again descending with the administration’s (in my opinion correct) decision not to release the photos of bin Laden’s corpse. My reader writes:

The problem stems from the ever-changing story. People expect facts to stay pretty constant, and what’s happened over the past few days goes well beyond minor corrections. It’s just that a lot of people simply don’t believe a single word that they’re hearing and want to see something objective (and all the more when photos of dead Americans are apparently okay). They don’t need to release them to the general public, but why not show them to, say, George W. Bush, Ron Paul, and a few other influential people of various affiliations. I think most people would be willing to accept the word of someone they trust in lieu of actually seeing it themselves. Or, at least, we can separate the sheep from the goats.

Understandable sentiment, but as the Zapruder film abundantly demonstrates, photos won’t fix the problem, because the problem goes much deeper. It’s not the problem of being unsure whether bin Laden is dead, as birther/deather kooks say. I mean, come on, both al-Qaeda and bin Laden’s own wife confirm it, and a host of evidence points to the fact. No, the real problem is that of the White House trying to construct a coherent narrative of how he was killed — based entirely on White House spin doctors massaging the message — without blackening the reputation of the Administration at home and the United States abroad.

The initial story was perfect and satisfied a deep need for closure for a people who have felt the open wound of 9/11 for a decade: A team of crack troops led by our gutsy and decisive Commander-in-Chief executed a brilliant “Mission Impossible” assault on a heavily guarded compound. The ruthless and cowardly James Bond supervillain grabbed his wife and a gun and used her as a human shield. Things looked grim for a moment, until one of our Finest got off a fantastic shot to the coward’s head that delivered maximum gore (for the imagination of the American who wanted him not just dead, but massively dead) and left the trembling, helpless woman safe and sound — and perhaps making her and all violent jihadis everywhere realize for the first time that her man was a pathetic monster and that there is a better way: the American Way.

Then, we seized the body and, using gleaming western Science beyond the ken of these Bronze Age savages, determined scientifically that Science proved it was scientifically clear that this was bin Laden. Finally, because we are a noble and good people who are magnanimous in victory, we gave even our worst enemy a burial according to his traditions, because our quarrel is with him and his radical ilk and not with all of Islam.

Now, the sacrifice having been offered and our president having addressed the nation to say, “It is finished,” we gather around our gutsy decisive Leader and, as a United States of America, celebrate our Us-ness through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the Unity of the American Spirit.

Establishing that message was, after all, the political purpose of Obama addressing the nation on May 1 and not just having any Talking Hairdo breaking the news. It was a political event calculated to acknowledge the troops but, most especially, to let our admiration of them and our satisfaction over nailing bin Laden serve to keep the focus where it belonged: on the Pol Who Made the Call.


Because of this politicized quasi-liturgical celebration of national communion in the American Spirit, everything in this narrative depends on the Purity of the Sacrifice and of the Political High Priest who offers it to achieve its main goal: namely, winning approval for himself. So controlling the message is everything. If it turns out that the whole “bin Laden hid behind a woman and was armed” thing is, well, false (as the White House has since acknowledged), then the flock naturally start wondering about the accuracy of the rest of the story. Some of the flock, already inclined to think Obama so untrustworthy that they can’t even believe he is an American citizen — despite massive evidence that he was born in Hawaii, as state records clearly show — quickly concluded that bin Laden is either a) not dead or b) that he died years ago, and the administration is concocting some massive fraud on a scale of faking the moon Landings.

These people are kooks for the simple reason that bin Laden is, in fact, dead, and he got that way on May 1. The administration can afford to marginalize these people as it can afford to marginalize birthers (often the same people). But it can’t afford to lose everybody’s trust. And that’s the real problem they face with the fluctuating accounts of the raid. For not everyone who has the sense that there is something hinky about the thing is so easily dismissible as a kook. Certain questions remain, which the shape-shifting narrative of the White House only invites, as my reader’s frustration demonstrates. For the basic question is not whether bin Laden was killed on May 1, but the manner of his death.

And that is something we hoi polloi simply have no information about, except through the shifting accounts of the White House. If it were to turn out, upon further investigation, that Obama ordered his troops to shoot bin Laden even though he was trying to surrender, then the proper term for that would be “murder” just as it was when our surrendering troops were gunned down at Malmedy (and we will have handed a large recruitment coup to al-Qaeda and related Islamic nutjobs, who will not be slow to exploit it). If it turns out that bin Laden offered resistance, then it will be marked down as perfectly legitimate battlefield tactics against the architect of the greatest mass slaughter of innocent Americans in our history.

However, we’ll never really know one way or another unless and until the complete background and audio and visual transcript of the operation (and the communications with the White House and military command structure) are released — which I highly doubt will happen.

So we are left with the shifting White House version(s) of events, as the White House attempts to manage the message and use it to rally the country around Our Great President and his Great Liturgy of American Justice — and with the natural tendency of the human mind to tell itself stories that suit its own desires, needs, beliefs, hopes, and fears in the absence of actual information. The letdown my reader and many others are feeling is the letdown of having the Purity of the Liturgy and the Sacrifice come into question as the White House Trumpet sounds an uncertain note, inviting even non-conspiracy theorist types to wonder: Did Obama engineer the death of a criminal mastermind who went down like a coward, or did he order our troops to kill an unarmed and unresisting man in cold blood? What’s the deal with the dodgy and changing narrative that forced Obama spokesman Jay Carney to admit: “Even I’m getting confused”? That’s what’s bugging my reader. It will bug lots of others — friend, foe, and fence-sitter — for quite some time.

Domestically, I think the psychological need for a Pure Sacrifice in the Liturgy of American Justice will overwhelm the question of how bin Laden was dispatched, whatever the facts turn out to be (assuming Obama ever permits access to those facts). Most people (and I am among them) do not feel a burning desire to do the legwork necessary to really establish if the Sacrifice was Pure and will content themselves that America killed the Bad Guy in a difficult and rapidly executed covert combat situation in which American lives were not lost — and that’s good enough. Trying to squeeze accurate information from the stone of the administration will seem like much more effort than it’s worth.


Meanwhile, in the immediate future, Obama’s efforts at focusing American unity on himself will fade the next time you have to put $70 into your gas tank, and we will be back to business as usual in our Disunited States. In the short run — meaning, “over the next couple of years” — somebody will nonetheless try to figure out the details of what happened on May 1 and, should they find actual rather than theoretical hinkiness, we will then be off and running with our American pastime of debating the morality of the fait accompli. In the very long run, what will be remembered is that Terrorism Doesn’t Pay and bin Laden will, quite properly, fade into American history as a byword for what happens to butchers who hurt innocents — till the next butcher emerges to carry on the fight.

But as far as our Ruling Classes go, the main thing is that the game will revolve around their exploiting bin Laden’s death to their advantage. Obama wasted no time on this and took great care to get that photo op with the troops, which will, in 2012, usefully remind us of the brilliance of Team Obama and of our manly warlike president who is in no way the liberal, pantywaist, bike-helmet wearer that those mean conservatives have been mocking for the last decade. Meanwhile, conservative strategists will be tasked with trying to figure out how to get themselves some of that electoral love for nailing bin Laden (of which more next week) while finding some way to continue portraying Obama as an incompetent wuss.

Bottom line: For our Ruling Classes, this entire event is about them and what they stand to gain from it politically. That’s why our vice president with the high IQ could immediately blab compromising information about our troops in one of his many fugues of garrulous and stupid braggadocio and, instead of winding up in jail for treason like Bradley Manning, remain a member in good standing of our Ruling Class, a heartbeat away from the presidency. The shifting messages my reader is lamenting are an indication of one basic fact: The goal of our Dear Leader and of our Dear Leader wannabes is to manage the message for their own maximum political benefit, not to inform you and me of truth, and emphatically not to treat us as citizens with rights equal to their own in these Disunited States of America.

Mark P. Shea


Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • Carl

    So many double standards here

    My sarcasm is meant to make a simple points and not insult.

    “So until I see documentation that bin Laden came out with his hands up”
    But you so easily confounded the Bush Administration for being responsible Abu Grab.

    And speaking of Abu Grab “They don’t need to release them [pictures] to the general public,” I don’t remember this to being your attitude with Abu Grab pictures—Obama neither.
    “However, we’ll never really know one way or another unless and until the complete background and audio and visual transcript of the operation (and the communications with the White House and military command structure) are released — which I highly doubt will happen.”
    But you were so certain that enhanced interrogation didn’t work. Was there an Army Field Manual and Geneva Convention briefing before the bin-Laden great raid? The fact remains Bush captured hundreds of terrorist operatives and I’m sure many if not most resisted—you seem pretty comfortable with just shooting them. I guess that’s one way to avoid the harshness of enhanced interrogation and the Guantanamo, Cuba prison. The fore mentioned insight violence but bullets and bombing drones are peace keepers?
    I can find no redeeming qualities about Obama… He speaks well from his teleprompter?
    “Dear Leader and of our Dear Leader wannabes is to manage the message for their own maximum political benefit” No it’s not. While there is some truth here…
    It’s really a pure Marxist solidarity verses the Tea Party/Conservative/original constitutional intent/free market system which is not far removed from actual Catholic social teaching—common good, subsidiarity, human dignity, and solidarity.
    There were redeeming qualities with Bush—Pope Benedict thought so.

  • Mark P. Shea

    Not to worry, Carl. We will be dealing next week with the Right’s claims of National Salvation Through Torture. This week, I just wanted to look at the White House Truth Massaging. What cracks me up is that you seem to think I’m somehow writing an apologetic for the Administration, while Facebook readers are upset at my obvious bias against Obama. Fascinating how people see and hear what they want to see and hear–which was kind of my point.

  • Carl

    “Right’s claims of National Salvation Through Torture”
    Sure you’re gonna single out a couple of mouth pieces and call it a majority view? This is exactly my point. At least the right is split on the torture debate while the left and the MSM is as unified on the torture debate as they are in finding no faults in anything Obama does.

    At least Michael Moore is consistent, wow, I can’t believe I just typed that.

    Never said you’re are an “apologetic for the Obama Administration,” you wrote about Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemini-American Cleric, currently number one on Obama’s Death list. Who by the way had a few bombs thrown his way unsuccessfully this past week. This action doesn’t appear to be a stick-em up your under arrest Field Manual/Geneva Convention scenario either.

    I don’t know, what is it? The left is not treated as harshly by you because they don’t talk the virtuous talk while the right does the talking but many times fails the walk the talk?

    Seeking perfection entails a long never ending wait. I’ll work with and vote for stumblers, its all we got, and it moves the ball down the field.

    While in your own words Obama is going to run the next campaign cycle on his shoot first because we don’t want them in Gitmo. Then you’re are gonna continue to beat the false claim that republicans are for torture and anyone who votes republican is a torturing sympathizer.

    • Brian English

      I think you are barking up the wrong tree on this one. The real double-standard is not evidenced by the OBL takedown, but by the “Kill Squad” at the remote outpost in Afghanistan. If Bush/Cheney were responsible for the actions of every soldier or intelligence officer, anywhere in the world, while they were in office, Obama should be held responsible for the “Kill Squad.” (Let me add I do not think he is responsible, but for those on the Left to be consistent, he should be).

  • Carl

    Really, your own words above you admit Obama is manipulating and obfuscating the details of his actions and choices. He’s “managing the message” for political purposes.

    And you seem comfortable having the facts of the matter being withheld from you.

    Whereas you have the goods on people like Bill O’Reilly and Dick Cheney as they seem to want to restart the torture debate. This isn’t “managing the message” this is putting foot into mouth honesty.

    It would almost appear that had Bush “managed the message” and kept the details from public view everything would have been comfy cozy on his war on terror. And maybe shot more resisting terrorists.

  • Mark P. Shea


    I know my limits. I’m not going to get past the White House firewall of information management. That will be for somebody else to do. When they do, then I will know more about what happened Sunday before last. At present, the message is hinky, but that may be due to the fog of war. So I opt for a charitable assumption that they behaved honorably and that our troops behaved honorably and rid us of a knave in fair combat. If it turns out this charity is misplaced, then we deal with that. But I’m in no position to get at those facts. Would you prefer I leap to the conclusion that our troops are, on the orders of Obama, murderers? I prefer not to do that.

  • You lose me when you say you aren’t willing to do the leg work.

    Politicians always lie. If we wait for the truth to start thinking about what is going on we’ll be a nation of vegetables.

  • Mark P. Shea


    How do you propose that I, sitting at my computer in suburbia, Washington, penetrate the shrouds of top secrecy surrounding what took place in the bin Laden assault? I will, of course, pay attention to what real journalists with budgets and sources find out. But I’m in no position to do that myself.

  • That isn’t true, Mark. The gift of the information age is that we can, if we are willing, can find out what the truth is to the extent that we can know the Absolute Truth as human beings.

    Read the executive orders. What does the positive law say we can do? It happened under our noses and the lying that is happening now is meant to conceal that. It is right there in the executive orders written by Clinton and Bush what have been allowed to do and are doing. The WH thinks we don’t have the stomach for it so they are trying to finesse it.

    This has been at play for awhile but most of us, myself, included, haven’t been paying attention.

    It may be that what we are allowed to do is, in fact, just. We just don’t have the courage, as a nation, right now to even discuss it.

    • Mark P. Shea

      I get that our law says it’s legal for the Pres to order the murder of anybody he chooses. What I don’t know yet is that this happened in this case. It might well have. But a) the WH is still saying he “offered resistance” in some vague way and b) I’m still enough of a sentimentalist that I charitably choose to believe, till I know otherwise that our troops would not simply murder a man in cold blood. As I say, the operation happened very fast, in the dark, with an unknown (at the time) number of opponents with unknown weaponry. So, in the absence of fact, I’m not going to declare that bin Laden was murdered merely because our present law makes it possible for the Executive to go around murdering anybody he likes. Yes, Reuters is reporting that bin Laden was unarmed. I need a fuller account than that to fault the SEAL team or Obama for killing bin Laden. They were under a lot of pressure in a very dangerous and unknown situation. I choose to cut them a lot of slack till we know more. And more knowledge is, alas, not likely to come easily through Administration filters.

      • The WH admits that OBL was unarmed. They also admit only one guy let off a shot from behind a door. That’s today. Tomorrow? Who knows.

        The point is whether or not they did, they can. That is as much an issue as this one which they can claim secret status on.

        Reuters is not just reporting that he was unarmed. That it was a kill mission, and that he was captured and then killed. They are citing an internal US security source.

        The other point is that these “targeted killings” have been going on up until now, this is just a very visible example.

        We simply won’t come out and say it because we’ve criticized Israel for it. Israel has been calling us on being hypocrites for years.

        Plus, Mark. Come on, man. Really. Just because they can doesn’t mean they will? They already have. And they will again. They are evading on this one very high profile case. There is currently an EO for a kill mission on an American citizen hiding in Yemen. al Awaki.

        • Again–I’m making no comment on whether or not it is just or good. I tend to think such expanded executive power is very very dangerous. I also tend to think the IDF defense applies to the bin Laden exception. But do exceptions remain exceptions? It’s becoming a main tactic and we have to be aware of what that means.

  • Journalists and budgets with sources? Reuters has been reporting, sourced, that he was unarmed and the mission was shoot to kill. Which, our positive law, has said we can do since Clinton.

    Why should we not believe them, just because other voices are ignoring it?

    I’m sure there are those who will say, sure Reuters. Hate America first crowd. But if the positive law says we can do it and the WH has been lying about it, and other international journalists with internal sources are saying that we have done just what our executive orders are saying, nay recommending, what we should do why should we doubt that this was a kill mission and that he was captured, unarmed, and then shot?

    It may be that this was the best and most just course. But we have to have the courage to say that is what we did and not be lulled by not even half way plausible garbage that aims to have us do what they would prefer. Not think about it. The Pelosi Doctrine. Don’t read it. Just give your vote to the Divine Vote Hoover and let us do it. We’ll talk about it later.

    • Brian English

      Since the first CIA para-military officers went into Afghanistan shortly after 9-11, the mission was expressly to kill bin Laden, not capture him. I would think the Seals shot as soon as they had an open shot.

      And as far as OBL being unarmed, it might turn out that was true, but how would the Seals know that at the time? Does not having a gun in your hand, but having one within reach, mean you are unarmed? And how would the Seals know he was not wearing a suicide vest?

      • Well that is EXACTLY the point, Brian. Yes.

        The hypothetical situation that Mark has called murder in another piece—shoot to kill, he is captured, then shot, unarmed–is what we are allowed to do according to domestic positive law.

        So why should we act squeamish or surprised now?

        Because we are ignorant of it. So much so, that we are willing to accept untruths about what happened inside Abbottabad, in the face of plausibility, and against international reportage of the event, because we would like what happened to not fall into that loop hole in the law. Or if it did…

        …we either don’t care or rather not know.

        Internationally, there is some room for argument that it is also licit. But the IDF has been under attack for these very same motives and the US has several times joined that chorus of criticism. Makes us look more than a bit hypocritical doesn’t it if we admit that we did, what we already have made allowances to do.

        This is cowardly. Either we decide that IDF’s methods are just and we stand with them, or we decide that they are unjust and we stand against them on this point of military strategy.

        We aren’t so much in violation of international law as we are providing an example of its inadequacy but then circumventing the debate. By so doing we are opening up an enormous grey area that threatens to swallow all standards of wartime conduct if it isn’t addressed.

        Is it just? I don’t know. We haven’t given it due process. We can’t. The truth is prior to the good.

        I do know we cannot judge it by the fact that Osama is dead and I along with most other people feel: good riddance.

        The truth is prior to the good. Whether or not what the law now allows happened in this case is almost irrelevant. The point is: it can.

        • Brian English

          “The hypothetical situation that Mark has called murder in another piece—shoot to kill, he is captured, then shot, unarmed–is what we are allowed to do according to domestic positive law. ”

          I think those are two different situations. Shoot to kill means you see him, you shoot him. The whole armed/unarmed discussion is irrelevant in a military operation like this.

          However, if instead they took him into custody and were safely away in a helicopter, the Seals could not then decide to throw him out of the helicopter at 1,000 feet.

          • Mark P. Shea

            The whole armed/unarmed discussion is irrelevant in a military operation like this.

            So Malmedy wasn’t a war crime?

          • Again–exactly. Malmedy WAS a war crime. These are novel events. They redefine warfare.

            Why? Well for one thing–we used to have a system for identifying combatants from civilians. With terrorists we don’t. We also can’t apply the four criteria of Geneva for designating someone a protected POW. Terrorists will always fail to meet three out of those four criteria.

          • Also, Brian–by “shoot-to-kill” I’m talking about what the order was. President Obama is saying that it was capture or kill. Reuters is saying from inside sources, the order was just kill.

            Washington Post suggested in an op ed, that it was kill and that it should have been kill, basically because a trial would have been a headache.

            The could not throw him out of the helicopter according to whom? to what laws?

  • Sorry, I’m comma happy this AM.

  • Andy

    The problem as I see it is that our government,or the ruling elites, regardless of who in power, care only for one thing – money and control of money. Being in power gives you access to lots of money and so anything that keeps you in power … my wife on the other hand sees the problem as one of greed – wanting money for the sake of money and then the power it provides. Obama’s narrative to be charitable is lost in the fog of war or more inappropriately lost in re-election blathering.
    I find it most difficult to reconcile America’s claim to be a christian country when we worship at the altar of money and power. If perhaps each of us, rather than saying the other side is wrong, could look in the mirror and ask what have I done to help someone else, we might be able to speak of a christian America.
    On to the issue of reality management – It is not reality that needs to be managed, it is the 24 hour news cycle that needs to be managed; it is our driving force to say that we are right and the other side is wrong that needs to be managed. If we can start to in a return to my misspent hippie days “think globally and act locally” we might all be a bit happier, a bit less suspicious and perhaps moving towards an understanding of the message of Jesus. It is time to drink coffee and go teach. Bless you.

  • Ender

    Given the exploits of the SEALs in previous operations (e.g. the Maersk Alabama highjacking) I have a hard time believing they would have been unable to capture bin Laden had that been their objective. Short of walking on water there doesn’t seem to be much they’re not able to do.

    Having said that, I’m also not willing to call the execution of bin Laden a murder. Those were military men, not policemen; that was a military operation, not a police roundup and the rules of war are not those of the LAPD.

    I understand there are rules, even in war, but it seems the best rule is this: don’t pick a fight with a country that has SEALs.

  • Brian English

    “However, we’ll never really know one way or another unless and until the complete background and audio and visual transcript of the operation (and the communications with the White House and military command structure) are released — which I highly doubt will happen.”

    I see no reason why the video feeds from the Seals’ helmets could not be released. Obscure the bullet impacts and any Seal faces that were on camera.

  • Carl

    This war on terror has no end in sight.

    I was willing to give Bush a pass on enhanced interrogations and I believed that the ticking time bomb scenario existed—and I still do.

    And actually my first reaction is to agree with Mr. Shea and as it appears most republicans/conservatives that bin-Laden is dead that’s all that matters.

    Under Bush though the left was insistent on a play by play on the war on terror almost exclusively to bash the Bush administration’s every step but now the left is only too happy with obfuscating the details.

    In my mind enhanced interrogations on the right and “managing the message” now on the left are necessary in this battle against hidden terrorists. But with no end in sight in this battle what are we becoming as a people by looking the other way—how far is this going to go with no end in sight.

    • Right, Carl. And the War that has no end in sight, means expanded executive power that has no end in sight.

      Which means the rules of the game can change without you even knowing about it.

      Do you see what I mean?

  • Scott

    Not sure why we seem to allow ourselves to be debating Bush vs. Obama… The issue at hand is really whether this was a just killing. It is a fair point to examine, as a rubric, if it is inhumane to apply so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, why is it acceptable and just to put two bullets in a guy’s head?

    ***New thought***
    As a former service member who now consults for the national security sector, I found myself happy that we “took him out”. As a Catholic, I had a difficult time reconciling those celebratory thoughts with my teaching to “love thy neighbor” and that teaching to “turn the other cheek”.

    Maybe we should all re-examine our consciences?

    • Mark P. Shea

      The issue at hand is really whether this was a just killing. It is a fair point to examine, as a rubric, if it is inhumane to apply so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, why is it acceptable and just to put two bullets in a guy’s head?

      Everything depends on if he was a combatant or a prisoner. In combat, you can defend yourself by lethal force against a combatant. You cannot therefore murder (or torture) a prisoner in cold blood.

      • That’s the problem–there is no way that any terrorist can claim POW status under Geneva. They fail to meet three out of the four criteria. Therefore there IS no war about AQ operatives and terrorists of that ilk. They aren’t soldiers and they aren’t citizens. There is no way to differentiate a citizen from a terrorists. Terrorists don’t exactly abide by the rules of Geneva. Therefore they’ve come to be considered under this nebulous term from Quirin, 1942 “unlawful combatant” which had nothing to do with execution or torture but that is exactly how it has come to be used.

        • I am not being clear, I’m sorry. This is the problem with “The War on Terror” there is no law. And we have made that lawlessness through executive order the law of the land when it comes to “enemy combatants” this one case is just an example of it. There were others before this one they just weren’t visible. There is currently an EO on an American citizen for a targeted killing. It’s a problem, simply because it is a novel event to which no law properly appeals. Our EO history has made it so no law can apply.

          • when it comes to “unlawful combatants” I meant.

    • Brian English

      “As a Catholic, I had a difficult time reconciling those celebratory thoughts with my teaching to “love thy neighbor” and that teaching to “turn the other cheek”.”

      Every October 7th the Church celebrates a battle where thousands of Turks were killed, and a Turkish flag captured in the battle was displayed near the tomb of St. Pope Pius V for almost 400 years until it was returned to Instanbul in 1965 as a gesture of goodwill (a lot of good that did us).

  • I question calling it “murder” — why not “execution”? Why would he not be seen as someone upon whom the sentence of death was justly executed regardless of whether he surrendered or not?

  • Brian English

    “So Malmedy wasn’t a war crime?”

    At Malmedy the US soldiers were already prisoners. They were marched into a field and then the SS opened up with machine guns. Some of the Americans sought refuge in a cafe, but the SS set it on fire and shot them as they fled the building. Others had played dead in the field, but the SS shot them on the ground.

    The action in which bin Laden was killed was more like a raid on an enemy headquarters. Not all enemy soldiers will be carrying guns, but they are still combatants.

  • “Most people (and I am among them) do not feel a burning desire to do the legwork necessary to really establish if the Sacrifice was Pure and will content themselves that America killed the Bad Guy in a difficult and rapidly executed covert combat situation in which American lives were not lost — and that’s good enough.”

    I am one of these people. I think it highly unlikely that the SEAL team would have killed Bin Laden after he was an unarmed prisoner in their custody. It seems to me that Bin Laden the prisoner would have been a great source of intelligence, not to mention that he would not be seen as a glorious martyr for the cause.

  • Brian English

    “The could not throw him out of the helicopter according to whom? to what laws?”

    Natural law. Even in the shadowy world of fighting terrorism you can’t just kill someone who has surrendered after you have accepted that surrender and they are in custody.

  • Bender

    There are reports out that now the U.S. wants Pakistan to make bin Laden’s wives available for questioning.

    The same wives who were detained in the raid.

    Why didn’t the assault team simply take the women and any others when they left?

    The fact that they did not take the women is strong evidence that there never was a plan to take any prisoners, especially you-know-who. The plan was — no prisoners. Get in, “get” bin Laden, get non-human intel — documents and computers — and get out. No room on the helicopters for prisoners, no plan for taking prisioners.

    I don’t fault the Seals. This was Obama’s doing. An execution, not a kill in action.

  • Confederate Papist

    All that keeps going through my mind is that the more the WH talks about this mission, the murkier the story gets…I was fine with just the 1 May speech…it’s almost like lying to your friends what a great football star you were in HS when you don’t know the differenct between a quarterback and a cornerback…

  • Brian English

    “The fact that they did not take the women is strong evidence that there never was a plan to take any prisoners, especially you-know-who. The plan was — no prisoners. Get in, “get” bin Laden, get non-human intel — documents and computers — and get out. No room on the helicopters for prisoners, no plan for taking prisioners.
    I don’t fault the Seals. This was Obama’s doing. An execution, not a kill in action.”

    The plan from immediately after 9-11 was to “get” bin Laden — kill him, not capture him. As with several other War on Terror issues, Obama did not see the light until after he became President.

    And by claiming this was an execution (which I don’t
    see in any of the descriptions so far) you ARE blaming the Seals. The Nuremberg Defense was rejected at the Nuremberg Trials.

    • Bender

      Don’t deflect. The Seals aren’t the issue. Obama and his disregard for the laws of war is the issue.

      • Brian English

        If you are accusing them of committing an unlawful killing, then you have made them an issue.

        I am still trying to understand why you regard this shooting as a violation of the laws of war. If you are raiding an enemy base or camp, you don’t have to wait for them to pick up a gun to shoot them.

  • Fred Stemp

    First let me say I enjoyed the article and agree with it. I think I understand the point Mark was trying to make and from what position he was writing from. I have not always agreed with some of his posts in the past. But they have caused me to think, pray and even research my faith, which is positive. Balancing one’s Faith with patriotism is a daunting task.
    As a former Marine and a retired Police Offer I can tell you situation like this are rapid and unpredictable. You train hard for the mission at hand and execute it much like a good batter at the plate, but in fact there is always the unknown that all you can do is prepare for.
    Many here commenting are looking for an ‘all-in-one’ solution or answer to these types of issues. Wanting to justify a need or desire to ‘see it all’ and compare all past and current events as apples to apples. We cannot always compare actions, such as these, in the apples to apples methodology. Context is the issue here.
    The context of Mark’s article, I believe, is how the current administration, and others, will use this ‘victory’. I agree with Mark. They will get the maximum mileage they can out of this. All the rest is noise and serves no real purpose other to distract and destroy.
    Without detailed facts one must go on faith, as we Catholics do, that our government and the military acted justly, honorably, and righteously. Yes the inconsistencies in the news are disconcerting and require us to be vigilant in our quest for facts. Reality is full disclosure of the events may never happen, at least not in the near future. And frankly while we are engaged in these types of ops we don’t always have a need to know the details. The Public’s quest/desire for ‘truth’, most of the time; I think it is an excuse for a self-serving, morbid curiosity that does not out weight the need for security of the public or those ask to provide that security.
    Be comforted with the fact you can live and worship in a country where you can have such discussions without the fear of losing you head. Be charitable where and when there are opportunities appears and mostly pray for ALL those who have to make and execute these discussions. Trust me, until you have to fulfill one of those roles, YOU will never understand the gravity of that weight on your shoulders!
    My two cents…


    I don’t see why people are grousing about wheather OBL was armed or not when he was killed. Eglon, the king of Moab, was unarmed when Judge Aud pig-stuck him with a concealed dagger. No other scripture condemns what he did, so why should we care wheather this arch-criminal was armed or not?

  • Carl

    Where were all these “sensible and reasonable” comments when the last administration was being called murderous and terroristic by the likes of US House Representative Jack Murtha and US Senator John Kerry? Just to name two.

  • Michael PS

    Using the Malmedy episode as an analogy overlooks the cardinal difference between lawful combatants and franc-tireurs.

    All publicists agree that franc-tireurs, like spies and saboteurs, may be shot on capture, or after interrogation. Field Marshall Lord Robert’s proclamation to that effect, during the Second Boer War, could confer no rights on British forces that they did not already possess under customary international law.

    Bin Laden was clearly not a member of a regular armed force; nor did he qualify for the limited protection conferred on guerrillas, for these only apply to those who (1) carry arms openly (2) wear a fixed and distinctive sign, visible at a distance (3) obey commanders who are responsible for their subordinates and who (4) observe the laws and usages of war. Al Quaeda meets none of these requirements.