Obama’s Unseemly End-Zone Dance (JEWISH PRESS OP-ED) By: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach 05/09/12)
JEWISH PRESS Articles-Index-Top
What a difference a year makes. Last year I praised President Obama
for not wanting to “spike the football” by releasing gruesome death
photos of Osama bin Laden. But this year, forget spiking the
football – the president is doing an end-zone dance.
The Bible says that when someone incurs the death penalty and his
body is hanged on a tree as an example to others, he still must be
buried the same day. We’re not to desecrate the body of even the most
vicious killer because God created humans in His image. So America
had no need to put out pictures of bin Laden missing a part of his
cranium. The president last year stood by this and it was impressive.
And Proverbs 24 expressly forbids celebrating the death of our
enemies. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart
be glad when he stumbles.” We fight bad guys like bin Laden because
we have an obligation to protect the innocent by resisting the
wicked. But we don’t gloat in it. War should never be about winning
glory but protecting innocent life.
The obligation to protect the weak and punish their butchers is
famously conveyed in Leviticus 19: “Do not stand idly by the blood of
your neighbor,” and again in Psalm 82, “Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”
Osama bin Laden was evil personified. We had a moral obligation to
abhor him, as the Bible makes clear in Amos: “Hate the evil and love
the good.” But while feelings of revulsion were justified, feelings
of elation at his demise were not. This too President Obama
understood last year and I praised him for it.
But all that has changed with his current victory dance.
We’re in an election year. I get it. But that doesn’t mean our morals
should change. What was particularly strange was the president’s
inviting NBC TV into the Situation Room, which had never before been
penetrated by network cameras. There he spoke about how tough his
decision had been to send in the SEALs to get bin Laden.
I am a huge fan of the mostly moral foreign policy of George W. Bush
which largely held tyrants accountable for slaughtering their people.
I contrast this with Obama’s lack of response after Ahmadinejad
killed his own people; his leading from behind on Libya (even though
in the end he did the right thing); his lack of leadership in the
Arab Spring; and his failure to do much of anything in Syria.
But even Bush stumbled when he prematurely plastered “Mission
Accomplished” on an aircraft carrier in May 2003. The same was true
when Bush used words like “dead or alive” about bin Laden. The
pursuit of glory in battle nearly always ends badly.
The American way is not to gloat in war. It was summed up by Colin
Powell in a brilliant speech at the MTV Global Discussion in February
2002: “Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the
Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of
the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past
century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated
Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II…. And when
all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and
conquer? No…. We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which
they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any
land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our
dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.”
This uniquely humble American ethos stems largely from Judeo-
Christian ethics. We Jews have suffered more than most. But we
stubbornly refuse to celebrate the demise of our enemies or any
military triumph. King David is Judaism’s most famous warrior. Yet
David’s request to build the Holy Temple was expressly denied by God
because he had taken life, even in the defense of life: “But God said
to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have
been a man of war and have shed blood’ ” (1 Chronicles 28).
Indeed, the great king was celebrated by generations of Jews not for
dispatching enemy combatants but for his beautiful Psalms accompanied
by harp and lyre.
Chanukah celebrates the miraculous military victory of the Maccabees
over the Assyrian Greeks in the second century BCE. But it was the
miracle of the lights of the menorah the Jews chose to emphasize
rather than the necessary slaughter of enemy soldiers in self-defense.
Even on Passover, as we recite the Ten Plagues that culminated in the
killing of the Egyptian firstborn, we pour wine out of our glasses so
as not to revel in the demise of our enemies.
The prophet Ezekiel expressed it best. “As I live, says the Lord God,
I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked
turn from their ways and live.”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the best-selling author of 27 books. He is
currently running for Congress from New Jersey’s Ninth District.
Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley. His website is
www.shmuleyforcongress.com. (© 2012 JewishPress. 05/09/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY