Last night was a festive atmosphere at the White House, as people celebrated Bin Laden’s death. I even saw girls standing on shoulders, falling into arms as a cheerleader would at a college football game. For some reason it reminded me not so much of the jingoism that accompanied the first gulf war on campuses, but instead those revelry scenes from Demille’s Ten Commandments. You know, the ones with bearded men swigging from huge goblets while women with splayed arms and heads to the heavens slink from one arm to another.
I don’t lament the passing of an evil man, but when George Tiller was murdered I didn’t think to dance in the streets. Today there were loads of “rot in hell” wishes for Bin Laden in newspaper headlines and Facebook posts.
It bears reminding that all men are image-bearers. We can thankful when others are spared by a wicked man’s passing, and yet remember Proverbs 24:17: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.”
I’ve been wondering lately how many innocent people the U.S. government has killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan over the past 10 years. No doubt many times more than those who died on 911. Some believe the deaths number well over 100,000. Who mourns these souls who are nameless to Americans? We rightly remember the dead of 911, but a more immediate question is this: what makes American lives more precious than others? Nothing, Biblically. Foreigners are image-bearers too.
Back in a 2008 debate, Ron Paul offended Republicans by stating something that is so obvious that it’s hard to believe anyone can deny it with a straight face. He said that our foreign policy– bombing, invading, meddling, aiding tyrants for our economic interests — creates blowback. It creates bitterness and hatred among the occupied. We wouldn’t like having Arabian troops in Indianapolis or Chinese troops in Georgia. Why would the Pakistanis want American troops in their country? Shelby Foote told an anecdote once of a confederate who was asked why he fought the North. His reply: “because you’re down here.”
Michael Scheuer long noted that Bin Laden didn’t “hate us for our freedoms.” Instead, he hated American interventionism and support for Arab police states. It doesn’t excuse the evildoer, but if you go down into the hood wearing a lot of bling, don’t be surprised if you’re mugged. Didn’t Jesus counsel his disciples to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves?
I’m surprised that more people, especially those given to “anti-government” views in economic matters, aren’t more skeptical of the military. It’s another government bureaucracy that wants to grow as bureaucracies do, and an especially dangerous one given that it’s armed to the teeth. The old conservatives were well aware of the danger to liberty posed by wars. Yet today the same conservatives who think of the post office, the EPA, and the IRS as hopelessly corrupt unflinchingly embrace the military and militarism. And few think of the innocent lives in foreign lands or the potential for blowback that Ron Paul has so wisely warned us about for many years.