From The Telegraph:
Dr Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the 80-million strong worldwide Anglican Communion, criticised the White House for repeatedly changing its account of the raid on the al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan.
Killing bin Laden when he was not carrying a weapon meant that justice could not be “seen to be done,” the Archbishop suggested.
|Rowan Williams raises questions on bin Laden's death.|
A senior Government source described the Archbishop's comments as “very unwise”, adding: “One has to give some thought for all the unarmed people that bin Laden killed. This was a very silly thing to say.”
Dr Williams’s intervention represents the most outspoken statement so far by a mainstream religious leader since the US Navy Seals team stormed bin Laden’s hideout and killed the world’s most wanted man on Monday.
The row came during another day of developments in which the US was seen to change its account of the controversial special forces raid yet again.
US officials disclosed that just one of the five men killed in the operation was armed, contradicting the White House’s earlier picture of a continuous 40-minute shoot-out between special forces and terrorists.
Relations between the US and Pakistan worsened as Pakistani military chiefs demanded that America reduce its troop presence in the country to a “minimum”. After days of questions in Washington over how bin Laden could find shelter in the town of Abbottabad, army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani threatened to “review” cooperation with the US in the event of “any similar action “violating the sovereignty” of Pakistan.
President Barack Obama visited Ground Zero in New York, to meet relatives of those who died in the World Trade Centre attacks and lay a wreath. The President said bin Laden's death proved that America would never fail to bring terrorists to “justice”.
“When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” Mr Obama said. "We were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act - that they received justice.”
However, during a press conference at Lambeth Palace, Dr Williams questioned whether “justice” had been demonstrated by the US action.
“The killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done,” he said.
The White House’s “different versions of events” during the past week “have not done a great deal to help”, he said.
“I don’t know full details any more than anyone else does. But I do believe that in such circumstances when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal, in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be observed.”
Read it all here.
Has N.T. Wright "jumped the shark" from lofty position in academia? Or has he forgotten there's a war going on?
UPDATE: Noted Anglican theologian and former bishop of Durham NT Wright has also written a piece critical of the United States actions against Osama bin Laden as well:
But now imagine that the British government, seeing the murderers escape justice, sends an aircraft carrier (always supposing we’ve still got any) to the Nova Scotia coast. From there, unannounced, two helicopters fly in under the radar to the Boston suburb where the terrorists are holed up. They carry out a daring raid, killing the (unarmed) leaders and making their escape. Westminster celebrates; Washington is furious.
What’s the difference between this and the recent events in Pakistan? Answer: American exceptionalism. America is allowed to do it, but the rest of us are not. By what right? Who says?
Consider another fictive scenario. Gangsters are preying on a small mid-western town. The sheriff and his deputies are spineless; law and order have failed. So the hero puts on a mask, acts ‘extra-legally’, performs the necessary redemptive violence (i.e. kills the bad guys), and returns to ordinary life, earning the undying gratitude of the local townsfolk, sheriff included. This is the plot of a thousand movies, comic-book strips, and TV shows: Captain America, the Lone Ranger, and (upgraded to hi-tech) Superman. The masked hero saves the world.
Films and comics with this plot-line have been named as favourites by most Presidents, as Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence pointed out in The Myth of the American Superhero (2002) and Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil (2004). The main reason President Obama has been cheered to the echo across the US, even by his bitter opponents, is not simply the fully comprehensible sense of closure a decade after the horrible, wicked actions of September 11 2001. Underneath that, he has just enacted one of America’s most powerful myths.
Perhaps the myth was necessary in the days of the Wild West, of isolated frontier towns and roaming gangs. But it legitimizes a form of vigilantism, of taking the law into one’s own hands, which provides ‘justice’ only of the crudest sort. In the present case, the 'hero' fired a lot of stray bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan before he got it right. What’s more, such actions invite retaliation. They only ‘work’ because the hero can shoot better than the villain; but the villain’s friends may decide on vengeance. Proper justice is designed precisely to outflank such escalation.
Of course, ‘proper justice’ is hard to come by internationally. America regularly casts the UN (and the International Criminal Court) as the hapless sheriff, and so continues to play the world’s undercover policeman. The UK has gone along for the ride. What will we do when new superpowers arise and try the same trick on us? And what has any of this to do with something most Americans also believe, that the God of ultimate justice and truth was fully and finally revealed in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, who taught people to love their enemies, and warned that those who take the sword will perish by the sword?
Ruth Gledhill's got it all here. The Rt. Rev'd Dr. N T Wright, formerly Bishop of Durham, is now the Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.