Friday, 26 August 2011

For God and Country?

The 8th August 2011 edition of the New Yorker magazine has a fascinating article on the death of Osama bin Laden.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/toc/2011/08/08/toc_20110801 (see Reporter at Large “Getting bin Laden”)

It’s an amazing tale of:
1. superb CIA planning,
2. excellent CIA/Navy logistics,
3. first class Presidential backing,
4. immense professional skill, courage and expertise on the part of the U.S. Navy “Seals”.

It’s easy to forget that this CIA/Navy operation could have gone seriously wrong.

I suppose that it was “necessary” to kill bin Laden.  I hope that his death will make our world a safer place.

One part of the article made me jittery.  It’s towards the end and it reads thus:

Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country”.


It’s the “For God” bit which worries me.


The shooting and death of Osama bin Laden may well have been good for “the country”, (i.e. the USA).  But only terrible hubris would equate American military success with the will of God.


I get very ancy when Christians assert that G-d’s will and America’s success are identical.
I get very ancy when Muslims kill others in the name of Allah.  (Incidentally “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for the same G-d who is trusted by Christians, Jews and Muslims).
I get very ancy when my Jewish sisters and brothers assume that the Holy One is “on their side”.


In 1991 I was in Atlanta, GA, USA on my sabbatical leave from St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield, MA,


This was at the time when USA President George Herbert Walker Bush authorised American and NATO forces to push the Iraqi army out of Kuwait.


One Sunday I attended my first and only Southern Baptist Church.  The Pastor spoke.  He said “many people have asked me ‘On which side is God in this war’?”


His answer surprised and heartened me.  “God”, he said, “is always on the side of the poor and the oppressed”.  “That”, he said, “is an answer as old as Scripture itself”.


I am certain that a Southern Baptist Pastor in Atlanta GA had a better hold on truth than any claim than any bombastic slogan such as “for God and Country”.

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