Talking about about how he would deal with Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama said: “What would be important would be for us to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he’s engaged in and not to make him into a martyr, and to assure that the United States government is abiding by basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism.”
First – Terrorists do not abide by any “basic conventions,” and our doing so is not going to inspire them to. Not that we should abandon basic conventions, but don’t have any illusions about them strengthening our position against terrorists.
Second – Maybe he doesn’t realize it, but there is no way to not make bin Laden a martyr. Killing him on the battlefield (or whatever cave he is hiding in) makes him a martyr. Executing him after a long trial and whatever appeals will still make him a martyr, so we have to question whether Obama has the resolve even to do that. Even leaving him to rot in prison would be seen as a form of martyrdom, especially since we wouldn’t do anything that might have some religious deterrent, like feeding him ham 3 meals a day, and would drag it out over years or even decades.
We need to stop worrying about whether these people are seen as martyrs. If anything, we should be extremely obliging about making them martyrs.