An airstrike has blown up insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq.
Our president, George W. Bush, was actually rather restrained in his speech a few hours later. He solemnly declared that justice had been done, but he did not exult in the inflammatory way he has exhibited in the past. He did not smirk. Perhaps his handlers injected his face with massive amounts of Novocaine to control it.
It is not justice when you kill a person in a way they expect to die as an occupational hazard of the profession they feel divinely compelled to pursue. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may not have welcomed death, but he can't have been too surprised to have it finally catch up with him. If you care to believe that he really believed in glorious martyrdom, he can't have been too put out.
Justice really eludes us in cases like this. We have to settle for pest control. But because we are dealing with people, who can interpret and reinterpret events to suit an artificial philosophy, the mere fact that retributive death has been meted out takes on whatever meaning the observers wish to give it.
Now we swap the enemy we knew for the enemy whose style has not been displayed yet. It may be more of the same, it may be worse or it may be better. Now we endure the violent reaction to a powerful leader's death.
When humans advanced to the point that nonhuman predators no longer could make significant dents in our population, we had to start substituting other methods of keeping our own numbers in check. Sure, disease still thinned us by the thousands, but in that arena we have also progressed.
The ways we seem to prefer for reducing our herd seem to be motor vehicle accidents, wars and bad personal habits. Pop out kids, teach them to love God, guns and General Motors and send them out to fight. This is vastly preferable to having fewer kids, spending much more time with them and trying to teach them to enjoy life and the many challenging creative pursuits they could explore with fascination through many happy years.