On the reactions to bin Laden’s death

I was watching a movie with my sons last night when my wife called me to tell me that Al Jazeera was reporting that bin Laden had supposedly been killed.  My immediate thoughts were that

  • if Al Jazeera was reporting it, then it probably was true – they have a better track record for actual news lately;
  • it has been too long; if this news had come eight years ago during the “Mission Accomplished” speech, then it would be a different story
  • Al Qaida has grown too much;
  • how influential was bin Laden anyway? “mastermind of 9/11”? probably not; certainly no more than President Obama was the “mastermind” behind this strike
  • and in the grand scheme this wasn’t going to be as good as it might sound

More on those later. I checked the Google News headlines (nothing from Fox, of course…I guess they hadn’t figured out how to credit President Bush yet) and saw the “Breaking News” on CNN.

I stopped the movie to watch President Obama’s address when he came on, and then returned to the movie, not thinking much more on the issue.

Until today. I was profoundly shocked to see pictures of Americans cheering, waving flags, acting very much like our Olympic hockey team had just beaten Canada. Why was I shocked? Because “rejoicing” in the death of an enemy  – this singular enemy – makes no sense to me:

– we didn’t win “the war”; you can’t win this war; you can’t win a war against means and methods – there is no “terrorist”, no “terrorist” organization, “no terrorist” nation; there are people who use terrorism as a mean to their ends, there are many groups who use terrorist tactics…but no one organization, there is no nation that is a terrorist nation, despite any labels we might apply…there are many nations which may or may not harbor the people we label as terrorists, but we can’t invade and conquer them all, and we certainly did not defeat the organization known as Al Qaida

– we took out a titular head – not the generals. Think about it…that would be like killing Hitler, but leaving the entire German war machine including its masterminds in place. A hollow victory at best, and one sure to spur many deadly responses.

– his network has grown in scope and power and is the proverbial multi-headed hydra; cut one head and three more arise.

Could bin Laden have been taken alive?  What would have the ramifications been if he had been taken alive? Worse than those that will undoubtedly result from this manner of death? I don’t think so.

The U.S. Navy SEALs are among the best at what they do. We showed that we can execute (deliberate verb) a plan regardless of where in the world. Of course, it took nine years to find him, and nearly another to set up the operation. Yes, it worked, but it could have failed spectacularly like our attack on Gadaffi in 1986, or the hostage rescue in 1979. This time, no such failure. That’s a good thing and we should be proud of our armed forces.

But what has really been accomplished? Can I travel now without a body cavity search or adding to my lifetime exposure to radiation? Sadly, no.

With this latest development, I’ve seen questions like, “Was 9/11 an unjustified attack?” As you can imagine, the chorus sings loudly, “Yes!”

I don’t think so. Who armed Saddam Hussein against Iran? Who gave/sold/whatever him chemical weapons that couldn’t be found 20 years later but watched as he used them against Iran and the Kurds? Who overthrew the Iranian Prime Minister in 1953 and propped the Shah until the 1979 revolution? Who sold arms to Iran after they took U.S. citizens hostage? Who armed the Afghan “freedom fighters” that later became the Taliban? Who later overthrew that Taliban? Who blanketed the South Vietnamese jungles with napalm, Agent Orange, and a bombing campaign that was truly “shock and awe”? Who took down that same Saddam Hussein and still occupy TWO countries that happen to be Muslim? Oh, and play a significant role in the current campaign against another Muslim country? I think you know the answer to each of those questions. We’re not clean and shouldn’t be thinking or pretending we are. We’ve had our fingers in the Middle east pie for a very long time – I’ll leave you to reason why. That still doesn’t justify any terrorist attacks (I can see my words being twisted), but it sure can go a long way toward explaining them.

Think about it from their point of view. If I haven’t painted a good enough picture, read what I wrote here and watch the video Dr. Sam Richards made at TEDxPSU. Maybe he can help you understand.

So I find myself embarrassed and supremely dismayed at the reaction that I deem wholly inappropriate. The rejoicing in the streets comes off to me as wrong on so many levels. A Facebook post is circulating and it strikes a chord with my unease over the reaction:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”
~ (attributed to) Martin Luther King, Jr.

(he said the “Darkness cannot drive out …” part, but I can’t verify the first part)

Andrea reposted that quote on her page earlier today and sparked a string of responses. In that string, Andrea noted:

“Please know that I feel that justice has been done, but you won’t find me dancing in the streets. To act otherwise puts us on par with the extremists who clamor for our blood. I think as a country we’re better than that and should lead the world by example.”

And she also reposted a couple of comments from the friend’s page who she got the quote from, highlighting the tone of the opposition:

“…The war on terrorism is not about love. These people real killers who do not give a shit about you and I. Or anyone around. You cannot talk love with these people. They are natural born killers and you will have a bullet in your brain before you can say hi.”


“I have to agree with … on this— these are people who strap high explosives to CHILDREN and march them into the police station to die, along with anyone else who happens to be there.”

Her response to those, on that thread:

The point is we’re ALL natural born killers – reading Biblical history makes that clear. We as a nation and as individuals need to rise above in our behavior and thinking, while still seeking justice for our people. It’s the only real hope for peace our world has.

Well said! The cheering in the streets, the rejoicing over a slain enemy, those are straight out of the Bible – same theme, different “chosen people”.

We do need to rise above. And be prepared for repercussions. Chris Hedges wrote an excellent article at truthdig.com (“Chris Hedges Speaks on Osama bin Laden’s Death“); he should know – he got a Pulitzer for covering Al Qaida.

One less bad man and the world is so much scarier. Wow.


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