Given that Osama was more effective and dangerous totemically than operationally, have we, in fact, seen the last of him? Treating him as a warrior rather than a criminal could play dangerously into his followers’ fantasies about him. In a world where people deny the moon landings, 9/11, and the death of the Princess of Wales, we can look forward to a rich flourishing of conspiracy theories about it.
Nobody who was not in Osama’s bunker this time last week knows exactly what actually happened — indeed those who were present must have been in a state of mind very different from judge and jury. The troops themselves had to calculate their risks in real time, reacting to all the circumstances they found. The rest of us will be profoundly grateful we didn't have to make that call.
What the debate about Osama's death has revealed is a startling moral relativism in many reactionary journalists and a few of the politicians they phoned around as they strung together a story out of this.
We must respect humanity because it is an absolute created by God. He made human beings in his image and likeness. Humanity is not a privilege accorded by other creatures, but the Maker's Mark. My own sense of moral reference is a basic way of honouring God. My respect for the humanity of someone else is not a privilege for me to play God and give them, nor a reward for good behaviour. Furthermore, people are capable of all kinds of evil, all of us, Christians (Adam and Eve) believe. The Church calls realism about this the doctrine of the Fall, and it is the context of all human behaviour to a greater or lesser extent. This doctrine carefully preserves the truth that nobody is, in any simple sense, evil, although they can do massively evil things. God saw all that he had made and it was good.
It follows from this basic theology from page 1 of the Bible, that if I commit an act, like a lynching, that denies the image of God in another human being I not only act out my own fallen nature (thus losing the moral high ground), but I also behave in a way that compromises my own humanity — thank God he gave it as an absolute that no human being can take away, not even me.
The moral relativism of some journalists about this (“Normally, of course, we should respect life, but he didn't so we don't have to”) is a real slippery slope, morally. It betokens not Conservatism, but Pelagianism — one of the oldest heresies in the book. They must not be surprised if bishops, including the Archbishop, do not collude with their Pelagian views.