Re: Osama

James Farlow writes: “I think you need to be careful…terror attacks can never be justified.”

I agree that attacks against civilians are barbaric and should not be pursued by anyone for any reason. However, it appears that you and many others suggest that U.S. attacks can be justified. This leads to me one question: who decides what violence is justified? Congress? God? (and if so which one?) The victims of previous violence?

“It is profoundly disrespectful to those who died and to their relatives to mock their deaths or reduce them to the result American foreign policy mismanagement. Corporately, America bears responsibility for events we have done.”

I want to make clear that there were 9/11 victims who were completely innocent. Young children for example certainly did nothing to earn or produce the international terrorism that ended their life.  There are some older ones who may have, in how they voted or were complacent with their involvement in politics, or their continued to our reliance on foreign oil (and the policy decisions that we have had to make to protect those interests) who bear some incredibly minimal responsibility.  I would suggest this minimal responsibility for what happened on 9/11 is share corporately by all of America as you suggest. We have all made decisions that have influenced the macro forces at work that have contributed to international terrorism.

“But Bin Laden was a psychopath and mass murderer. He inflated the west as a mythical enemy to assuage his own ego and in an attempt to try to start a fascist evil government in the Islamic world. His family was not killed by American atrocities; they are incredibly wealthy and in cahoots with a corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia.”

Bush and Obama are psychopaths and mass murderers.  They inflated Islamic terrorism as a mythical enemy to assuage their own ego and desires for power.  They used fear of Islamic terrorism to consolidate their power in the Western world.  Their families were not killed by Islamic atrocities; they are incredibly wealthy and in cahoots with the corrupt House and Senate of the United States.

While I do believe some of this, (how much power has the federal government gained since 9/11?) I am being intentionally over the top to drive home a point: one’s perspective changes everything.  People who have suffered from the actions of the U.S. government can vilify and describe us in the same manner as we vilify Osama bin Laden.  If we suggest we are justified in killing him, and everyone we’ve killed in pursuit of him, because he was like/did “x,” then it stands to reason that if other see the U.S. as being like/doing  “x” they also would be justified in killing or pursuing vengeance against us.

“Bin Laden advocated a style of government where women could be murdered for attempting to go school. Whatever our problems, that is not what America is.”

Yes Osama bin Laden supports, excuse me, supported Sharia law.  Yes this is barbaric, sexist and backwards by Western standards.  No I do not support it.  Yes America is different.  However, historically speaking considering only the slavery of African-Americans and the genocide of Native Americans we clearly have done some barbaric and backwards things as well for decades with ample support from the Bible and Christians.

“Having been on the mission field, I can personally testify that compared to many despotic regimes around the world, America is a remarkably free, just and open society.”

You mean like the despotic regimes we support when it is convenient for us?  America is free and we have many benefits, but many of the price of these benefits have been paid by others?

“…American diplomats often work tirelessly to fight for peace and freedom around the world. If you don’t believe me, just read the wikileaks archives of our diplomatic cables.”

To be totally honest I am not sure what you are referencing but certainly there are U.S. diplomatic efforts, programs, businesses and citizens who do seek to export good to the rest of the world in non-violent ways.  I applaud this and think it is a good thing.  Such responses and engagements with other nations is not what produces terrorism, nor were these things our response to 9/11.  Our response to 9/11 was military action against two Middle Eastern countries with our armed forces and igniting a global war on terror.

“As a person who is often critical of our society, I find your comments extraordinarily offensive. Let us not support a man who would treat women as if they were dogs on the street and celebrate the death of three thousand innocent civilians.”

I do not think anything I said was in support of Osama bin Laden.  Understanding the complicated realities of our world that have led to modern Islamic terrorism does not mean that I think that Osama bin Laden was righteous in planning 9/11 or all 3,000 people that died in the 9/11 attacks directly brought it upon themselves and we should not mourn them. While again I believe corporately that the U.S. is responsible for its decisions at home and abroad, and some of these decisions contributed to the reasons terrorists hate the U.S. and have attacked us, this responsibility was not to be solely located in 3,000 people in a nation of 300 million.

I am against terror, violence and war, whoever perpetrates them and under whatever flag, ideology, or religion they are done in service of.  I am against international terrorism, the military industrial complex, certain U.S. foreign policy decisions and any other system, policy, or people that exports violence in pursuit of their goals.

“The murder of civilians can never be justified, and those who died in the World Trade Center did nothing to deserve a fiery end that September Day.”

James, I agree the murder of civilians can never be justified.  I would simply suggest we extend that truth to non-American civilians as well.  What have the Afghani and Iraqi civilian casualties of our global war on terror done to deserve their deaths at the hands of the U.S. military and private military companies?

Kenneth Sylvia writes: “Kevin you are going to be one of two people: an incredibly wealthy author and talk-show host like Limbaugh because you know how to push people’s buttons who make them come back for more, or a complete outcast because you do not know how to respect both sides of an equation as you yourself work through the struggles in your mind and heart. I respect and love you as a Christian brother, but I’ve seen in more than one post, similar to your Prop 8 stuff, and the like. That you are quick to announce YOUR PERSPECTIVE, and not ATTEMPT to understand the other(s)… which is where true wisdom is found. You seem to come across hypocritical as you, in essence, do the very things you condemn. I’m not saying I’m perfect, and yes, I probably fit the descriptions you often write about, but wisdom is rooted in the pursuit of humility, and the more that I pursue that, the more I come to understand how much I truly DO NOT know, and how my OPINIONS are often VERY SHORT SIGHTED.”

Kenneth, I appreciate your concern and take it as genuine. I often push very far and very hard on one point to push people’s buttons, get a reaction, or challenge people to think (for the first time) through their faith or their politics.  Sometimes I feel that only by being extreme can we actually get through to hard-headed/hard-hearted people. Sometimes in this I can become very dogmatic or appear to be presenting only one side of the argument or as incredibly dismissive of the other side.

But I think you may have missed something in reading my article. The entire thrust of my post was explaining how the news of the death of Osama bin Laden hit me differently because I have changed because I humbly admitted my previously defended position was wrong.  As such, much of this article serves as a confession of my previous nationalism that was and is completely incompatible with the Christian faith. I do not think you can justifiably call me prideful or unwilling to engage the other perspectives on this situation if I am humbly admitting that I was wrong and clearly at one point and time in my life only saw the world from the perspective that I now oppose.

In your reaction to both Prop 8 and this post you have attacked me by accusing me of pride.  I think this is because you cannot attack what I have said, but still disagree with me.  I would encourage you to really engage in the debate and push back on what I have said instead of pushing back on me.

Additional Note: I edited out some of the content I originally had in this post and maybe this would help clear up your concern for me to understand the other side. In high school and after 9/11 all I wanted to do was enter the military, and become a Navy S.E.A.L. officer.  This was not a pipe dream for me and in a Jr. Navy program I did a Boot Camp, Amphibious Warfare Training, and even a Jr. Navy S.E.A.L. training.  To this day I know a lot of the jargon, nomenclature and history of the military though I never went in.  I thought it would be “cool” to be a sniper and use a .50 caliber sniping rifle to kill people. 

I did, thought, and acted like this while professing I was a Christian and I claimed to believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired word of God.  My nationalism prevented my faith from being anything but a civil religion, akin to the civil religion rampant in Nazi Germany. (The majority of the Nazi were professed Christians.)  Because my allegiance was to my country first, and this was propped up by my “faith” I was willing to do very non-Christian things in service of the state.

I deeply regret that my allegiance has historically been more an uncritical faith in the U.S.A. (the Republican party in particular) than to Jesus Christ. I am thankful my time in Canada began to expose me to this ugly reality and where this was leading me.

Graham Bates writes: “I find the equivocating the planned and well-executed killing of innocent US civilians far away from any military apparatus and the accidental killing of human shields appalling. I cannot for the life of me understand why people condemn the USA when our troops continue to fight in uniform and drive clearly marked military vehicles.”

First, Graham you are painting a rosy picture of U.S. military operations.  You seem to suggest that we only accidentally kill civilians whom the terrorists use as human shields to guard legitimate military targets we are going after. In the chaotic nature of counter-insurgency warfare this is hardly the case.  It’s not like the terrorists have a tank factory that we really want to kill and they are ringing it with civilians against their will.  Counter-insurgency is complicated, dirty, and incredibly difficult.  Due to the nature of the conflict, the urban environments we are fighting in, and our decision to use certain weapon systems civilians are getting killed despite our best intentions and hopes.

Second, regardless of if we are fighting in or out of uniform, or using marked or unmarked vehicles we are still pursuing our goals through violence.  This violence is the common denominator that I am examining and concerned with.  I think anti-American sentiment can and has been produced by our actions regardless of any markings we have, any official declaration by congress, or what symbols are painted on our aircraft.

“Terrorists like Osama bin Laden hide amongst women and children, bomb women and children to kill US troops and kill women and children routinely for not obeying their laws. How is our military ANYTHING like that?”

I agree that U.S. servicemen are abiding by strict ROE and do everything they can to avoid collateral damage at great risk to themselves, and this marks them different than the terrorists.

However, this does not always work out, nor has this always been the case. For example if a U.S. military convoy is traveling at high speeds and a child steps into the street the child will be run over because the child might have been used by terrorists to spark an ambush.  Also, historically and currently we will kill women and children if they are deemed to be acceptable collateral damage or in certain situations.  We nuked two Japanese cities, firebombed Japanese cities, carpet bombed Germany, and large swaths of jungles in Vietnam just to name a few places. All of these attacks were carried out by the U.S. military and I’m fairly certain women and children were killed.
“Killing Osama bin Laden was not the only goal of our involvement in Afghanistan. People who say we should leave now apparently have not learned from the past. If we leave Afghanistan now another person will take his place and we will have more attacks on the US and the world. It’s time to give an olive leaf to the terrorists granting immunity for anyone who will surrender to our military and allow their people to rebuild and protect themselves. Don’t abandon Afghanistan because we got our selfish little prize.”

I never advocated for any of this so I’ll assume you were venting from what you read/heard from other people.

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About Kevin

I am figuring out life and faith and taking other people along with me on my journey. Sometimes as fellow travelers, sometimes as hostages.
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