The Common Good

Osama bin Laden: The Death of the 'Madman with a Sword'

The mix of relief and grief displayed by crowds in the streets outside the White House and the Capitol building was a human response to the news that U.S. military forces had killed Osama bin Laden

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At the same time, there is nothing glorious in violent murder -- whether in bin Laden's death or in the horrific deaths of his thousands of victims. "I am not celebrating this man's death," said Francesca Jerez on ABC news, whose father was killed on Sept. 11. "That's not what this is about. It's about final justice. Now he cannot take credit for anything else. He cannot hurt anyone else." As Charles Wolfe, husband of a 9/11 victim said in an interview, "We let the Judge of All Things pass justice on [bin Laden]."

A recent article by nonviolence expert Michael Nagler on Libya provides a framework that can be applied to the death of bin Laden and put it into some kind of context. Nagler writes about what Gandhi called the "madman with a sword" analogy:

Gandhi said flatly that if a madman is raging through a village with a sword he who "dispatches the lunatic" will have done the community (and even the poor lunatic) a favor. Here are Gandhi's exact words, from The Hindu,1926:

Taking life may be a duty

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