After talking with my friends and colleagues I am confident what I am about to write will receive little applause (most of them already thought I should have my head examined before I wrote this blog). I take the risk to express my thoughts because I think in the long run the values expressed here will be of higher importance than the short term actions we have taken.
I first became aware I was thinking differently when I read the transcript of the interview between Steve Kroft (60 Minutes) and President Obama. They were discussing the “Osama Bin Laden hit.” Take a minute to read it below, you will notice the quote that caught my attention highlighted in blue.
KROFT: This was one man. This is somebody who has cast a shadow, has been cast a shadow in this place, in the White House for almost…a decade.
OBAMA: As nervous as I was about this whole process, the one thing I didn’t lose sleep over was the possibility of taking bin Laden out. Justice was done. And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn’t deserve what he got needs to have their head examined.
You probably have guessed that I don’t agree with the President. Let me be absolutly clear, I hate the actions of terrorists. I was aghast watching the towers fall on 9/11. The mere thought of intentionally collapsing a skyscraper with 1,000′s of people inside was well beyond my imagination. If there is a definition of evil this is it. During the attack I could only myself ask why, who could possibly hate us this much? Over time it became aparent who it was. I felt the same anger and the desire for revenge as most people.
With all that said, I still seriously question the way we went about bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. I realize we had been hunting him for 10 years and we feared this man would act again. We did not trust Pakistan to keep a secret, nor did we know if he had weapons or an escape route. It would be political disaster if we missed him again, especially if we lost soldiers – the stakes were very high. However, when I look at the facts, the whole event turned into something that looks more like a mob hit. We went uninvited into another country, shot this man in the head and chest in his bedroom, apparently unarmed, and then quickly dumped his body in the ocean. The news spawned celebrations which were broadcast around the world. I was feeling uncomfortable, but I was not sure why. It dawned on me later I felt Americans had let our standards slip. Yes, he was a really bad guy, yes I am happy he is no longer here, but I started to wonder how we looked in the eyes of the world. Did we do the right thing? I am sure many people think so, certainly the President does.
Dumping his body in the ocean made my eyebrow go up. What was that all about? Why so quickly… wasn’t this only going to fuel skepticism and make him an even bigger martyr? From everything I read in the media, it was possible to have taken him alive. If so, why not put him on trial and expose the truth of Al Qaida for the world to see? Maybe our government was afraid if we captured him there would be unprecedented terrorist attacks around the world, making the better choice killing him to save lives.
Gandhi once said “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” In America you are innocent until proven guilty, even in the face of the most egregious crimes. Have our values become circumstantial? My experience as a leader often forced me to make a choice between two highly cherished values. Many times it is difficult to recognize the higher value, especially if there is pressure to make a choice quickly. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a world leader, but in this situation, given what I know, the higher value was our commitment to fairness and justice – even in the face of the worst act of terrorism in history.
Maybe it is not our heads that need to be examined but rather our hearts.
Update 6/16/11 HERE WE GO AGAIN
Update 10/1/11 ANOTHER KILLING – MORE DEBATE