The Trial that Still Must Come — The Death of Osama bin Laden and the Limits of Human Justice
by Albert Mohler
As is always the case, we are left with a sense that a higher court is still needed. Christians know that Osama bin Laden escaped the reach of full human justice and a trial for his crimes, but he will not escape the judgment that is to come. Bin Laden will not escape his trial before the court of God. Until then, sober satisfaction must be enough for those still in the land of the living.
Osama bin Laden is dead. President Obama spoke with clarity and resolution when he addressed the American people last night: “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
That single sentence, delivered in a nearly unprecedented late-night Sunday address by an American president, encapsulates the moral context of the action. First, the President took responsibility for the act that ended bin Laden’s life. Osama bin Laden did not die an accidental death, nor a death by natural causes. The United States “conducted an operation” that resulted in his death. Second, the operation ended the life of one who was “a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”
In his short and historic address, the President justified the military action in terms of an act of war. In reality, the operation was a stunning affirmation of the effectiveness of American military expertise, combined with a remarkable intelligence achievement. Bin Laden was killed even as he was within a highly-guarded, encircled compound with walls and defenders. The act was fully justified by the demands of just war theory, the historic Christian means of moral reasoning that measures the justification for acts of lethal force.
Osama bin Laden was the one human being most responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, including the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States — attacks that left more than 3,000 civilians dead. He claimed such responsibility and pledged future attacks. The death of Osama bin Laden means that all people of the world should sleep more soundly in their beds, even as those who plot their own acts of terror should sleep less soundly in their own…
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