A President’s gravest decision

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2020

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Former President Obama, when asked by Pastor Rick Warren about abortion and when a baby should be considered to have “human rights,” dodged the question with the famous answer, “That’s beyond my paygrade.” Another way of saying that would be to say, “I don’t want to make that decision.”

As president, though, Obama, did not hedge on making the monumental decision to pursue Osama Bin Laden all the way to his death. He ordered a contingent of soldiers to attack Bin Laden’s compound and kill him.

Bin Laden, of course, was the head of a snake by the name of al Qaeda, a terrorist organization that was probably behind the infamous 9-11 World Trade Center massacre. Bin Laden had the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands.

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Current President Donald Trump has also pursued terrorists with American blood on their hands. He has ordered the killing of Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi and, within the last week, the Iranian planner of terrorism, Qasem Suleimani. These are the gravest decisions an American President has to make.

Every day the decisions that a president must make can be very serious. What to do about the economy, immigration, our military presence in the world, how to balance relationships with the good and bad; these are hard decisions that the leader of the nation cannot avoid. And the president is not going to please everyone in the decisions he or she makes.

The decision to send Americans into harm’s way, knowing that some will be killed is a heavy decision. The President of the United States is charged with making such decisions to protect our nation from outside enemies. He or she is not worthy of the office if that heavy decision cannot be made.

Somehow, though, the intentional targeting of one man with the exact purpose of killing him has to be a more difficult decision. Both Obama and Trump have had to make that decision.

The decision is driven by this truth. The taking of this one life will save many, perhaps even thousands. In that way there is justification for the gravest decision to be made.

These three mad men that I have mentioned, Bin Laden, al-Baghdadi, and Suleimani, all seemed intent on killing others for whatever misguided purpose they had conjured in their minds. They were bad men and deserved what they got. Still, the decision is grave and the presidents deserve our prayers.

Many want to ask, “What now? Where will this lead?” I don’t know the answer to those questions and, in a way, it doesn’t matter. Mad men, who seem to target innocents, are better off gone, regardless of what happens next.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be anxious. A president’s decisions cannot be made worrying about what happens when just and right decisions are necessary. That’s why we pray for our presidents and the one we have now deserves just as much prayer as the one we had before him.

The presidency is not an office for the faint of heart and the responsibilities the he or she faces are, definitely, above my paygrade.

When situations like the killing of Bin Laden or Suleimani are before us, I think of the story the late Senator Zell Miller told about the nest of copperheads that he found near his backporch.

“I didn’t call my wife Shirley for advice, like I do on most things. I didn’t go before the city council. I didn’t yell for help from my neighbors. I just took a hoe and knocked them in the head and killed them. Dead as a doorknob,” Miller said. “They were a threat to my home and my family.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)