The Death of Osama bin Laden
*** I am willfully violating my long-standing policy of writing anything but satire on this blog. The gravity of current events and the lack of a permanent home for my op/eds compel me to make this difficult decision. ***
Osama bin Laden is dead. On first hearing the news, I reacted as if it was a non-event and marginalized his death as insignificant to the operational functionality of al-Qaeda and serving as nothing more than inspiration to fanatics to commit further harm to our troops and our citizens. It took talking to a friend and seeing the people pour into Lafayette Park and into Times Square and Ground Zero to realize how I used that marginalizing to make myself feel better over the passing years that he remained unpunished for his crimes. I had convinced myself that him dying in some cave of kidney failure was sufficient and that a public display of justice was unnecessary, if not harmful.
In the past nearly ten years of war, from “mission accomplished,” to Abu Ghraib, the failure to find WMDs in Iraq, the nearly 6,000 servicemen and women lost, the endless politicizing, the constant hostility of debate, and the anguish that comes with fighting a faceless enemy who wears no uniform, it has been an unbelievable catharsis to put the proper face back on our enemy. The face that taunted us for years prior to 9/11, mocked our beloved dead, and continued to finance and inspire new ambassadors of hatred has finally fallen. How fitting that he lived (and died) not as he preached. Not as the nomadic jihadist, braving the elements and surviving by the support of his followers, but isolated in a million-dollar mansion compound, living in relative luxury with servants while his followers sleep in caves and starve. I hope in his final moments, when he knew it was over, he felt 1/10 of the terror the people on Flight 93 felt.
What a relief that he was tried, convicted, sentenced, and buried in a twelve-hour period. After the sham that was Saddam Hussein’s trial, the ridiculous rants that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is allowed to put on record in his military tribunals, the nonsense about trying other Gitmo detainees in US Courts, I welcome this old-fashioned justice. Holding someone accountable to your own ideals and justice system is irrelevant if that person has spent a lifetime fighting those very ideals. Sometimes it is necessary to fight fire with fire.
On another note, while watching the crowds in Washington and New York, I couldn’t help but notice most of the people in the streets are young people; people for whom 9/11 permanently changed their understanding of the world. Often maligned as “Generation Me” and the narcissists who tweet and facebook, who don’t understand the value of hard-work, who have lead the most privileged existence in the history of the Earth, it was good to see “us” let off a little steam. We lost parents, brothers, sisters, friends that day. We’ve continued to lose them in the wars that followed. We’ve borne the brunt of the combat operations and have become the most battle-hardened generation perhaps in our nation’s history. More importantly, we had the safety and security that our parents and grandparents had the privilege of having the majority of their lives ripped from us in our adolescence. Our generation has faced a long and painful test and we have answered with the same bravery and dignity that the “greatest generation” and others showed in their times of trial. The men and women of our generation serving in the armed forces have earned us the right to stand with our forefathers as shepherds of the precious gift of democracy.
Finally, the president called the death of bin Laden “the most significant event to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda.” I disagree. Seeing fingers stained purple with ballot ink in countries that haven’t seen an election in generations. Seeing Afghani and Iraqi girls go to school with parents and teachers who know they could be killed for their participation, but attend anyway. And now, to see these oppressed people pour into the street in demonstration against oppressive regimes across the region, these are the most poignant victories. His death may strike a lethal blow to al-Qaeda as we know it, but the wars waged by courageous individuals every day against the fear he spread across the Arab world gives me much more hope for the future than his demise. He is one man and there will be others like him, but as long as we fight against and support those who fight against the evil men like Osama bin Laden spread, their own ideology will be their undoing.
The death of Osama bin Laden feels good. The evidence of his dogma losing its grip on the region feels good. After nearly ten years of war, we are completing our mission. We are seeing progress, and progress feels good.