Senator Obama tore himself away from the orgy of mourning for Tim Russert, where he reportedly sat side-by-side with Senator McCain like two explorers caught ogling the rituals of Skull Island, to participate in a foreign affairs round-table discussion. At the event, he expressed his preference for capturing Osama bin Laden alive and trying him Nuremberg style, but assumed the prerogative, granted the chief executive by Bill Clinton in 1998, to kill the sheikh if necessary. The important thing, Obama stressed, was that bin Laden not emerge from the ordeal as a martyr.
The easiest way to that end, presuming that bin Laden is taken alive, is not to put him to death. The next president would have to concede ahead of time that he'd have to maintain the man in some maximum-security facility for the rest of his days, and with that decision comes the danger of fresh waves of terrorism, most likely hostage-taking, intended to force the government to release bin Laden.
If the U.S. kills bin Laden after a trial, especially one in which he orates in his own defense like Hitler after the Beer Hall Putsch, or on the battlefield, he's a martyr pretty much by definition, unless either Obama or McCain was willing to try an approach neither has shown any interest in. Osama bin Laden or any of his comrades are or will be martyrs only for those who accept certain premises beforehand, most importantly the premise that God's will as revealed in the Qur'an makes jihad against America imperative and just. Some Americans are willing to challenge this premise only so far, arguing with questionable authority or plausibility that God's will does not make jihad imperative or just. Fewer would dare go further, to challenge bin Laden's credibility on the ground that there was no revelation, there is no God, and Islam is nothing but a 1,400 year old fraud on the public.
I'm occasionally intrigued by the idea of atheists challenging Jews, Christians or Muslims to the same test Elijah inflicted on the prophets of Baal in I Kings, Chapter 18. Let any of them lay a cut and dressed bullock on an unlit woodpile and call on their god to answer with fire. Have them do it exactly as Elijah did with his bullock; let God light the fire after they've dumped four barrels of water three times over on the pile, meat and wood alike -- and let them worry about what we'll do when the fire doesn't come. This is a test that "infallible" scripture records God passing, so a new test of "prophets" presumably as devout as Elijah, should have the same result. But when the time has expired, let them know that they won't be killed like the prophets of Baal, because we're not barbarians like Elijah's people. No one who goes through that experience, in which the intent is not to destroy but to humiliate the victim, will ever be considered a martyr. At the least, his lack of faith would be blamed for God's failure to perform, and his erstwhile followers would probably leave him to rot in prison.
But as I said, this is a spectacle that no American president would want to participate in. In the interest of national security, then, the Think 3 Institute advises Senator Obama, in the event of bin Laden's capture, to turn him over to us.