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bin Laden

When the ticker ran across the screen announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, I didn’t know what to think at first.  It wasn’t too long before I decided that what I wanted more than anything was to see how the rest of the world was reacting – not online, but in person.  I went up to the neighborhood bar to watch the news and have a quick drink.

All I knew was that I wanted to remember where I was when the news came.

By the time I settled in the crowd was getting restless.  The news was stalling for the formal announcement by President Obama, talking but saying nothing.  It gave everyone a chance to voice their opinion.

“I won’t believe it until they can prove it.”
“I can’t believe they really did it.”
“How do we know it’s real?”

One person in particular was frantically bobbing his head up and down from the television to his handheld device.  His was a young man with a tough expression and a wiry build.  He eventually told me that he was about to be deployed by the US Army to Kuwait, and this news was the best going-away present he could ask for.

“I’ll bet they’re getting wasted at the base. Man, Fort Hood is probably just erupting.  You should see all the texts my buddies are sending, they can’t believe it either.  I hope it was Army that got him.”

He paused for a moment as his eyes looked far away to where he wanted to be, where he would be shortly.  There was suddenly some distance between the moment and the many thoughts that were racing behind those eyes.

“Still, you have to give the guy credit for being able to avoid capture for this long.”

The line caught my attention as he dragged me into the whirl of emotions that it betrayed.  Was he afraid of how the scene was about to change where he was to be deployed?  Was he worried for the men who carried out the raid, whom we still did not have news of?  Was the formality of those two words, “avoid capture”, the smallest sign of respect for an adversary that he had been measuring up before he joined the fight?

As a stranger, I was not going to press him too hard.  This was his moment and he had a lot of thoughts as he waited for the official announcement to come and give him some sense of what really happened.  It meant much more to him than it did to me, even though it meant a lot to all of us.

What I can say this is that despite the first adrenaline of the moment it wore on him quickly.  He genuinely did not want to celebrate death, even the death of someone hated as a sworn enemy of our nation and a gleeful mass murderer.

I can’t say how I feel either, to be honest.  The world is safer without bin Laden and our forces did their job well.  The terrible time it took to achieve this may have made it look like we were blundering, but it also showed that we will stay on our enemies for as long as it takes no matter the price.

But to celebrate death is to be a bit too much like bin Laden himself.  I don’t want to be that kind of person.  I want to move on and be thankful that a terrible period of our history is moving a bit further behind us.

We will never forget what happened and we will continue to do what we can to make the world a better place.  Our military is still the best, even if politicians often ask them to do far too much.  I could see in the eyes of at least one young man who was joining this fight that the seriousness of all this is not lost.  That was enough for now.

14 thoughts on “bin Laden

  1. It’s like putting down a rabid dog. You do it and move on. I don’t feel like celebrating either.

  2. Listening to the radio a lot today I’m really moved by the people who have been most effected by this. None of them sound like they are ‘celebrating’. The media keeps going back to those who were lost in 9/11 and in the war. Its more of a day of rememberance than celebration. I think that feels about right to me as well.

  3. Jim, Anna, I do think that the media I’m hearing has found the right tone so far. It seems a bit self-centered to concentrate on our losses along the way, but I’ll forgive that today. We did lose a lot and we had to seek justice for our losses. The world supported us for that reason and I hope that it continues to come down that way.

  4. How can one not think about the moral damage done to the US by this whole business? The war crimes, murders, torture, kidnappings, assassinations, concentration camps, abolition of basic legal protections … the rationalizations for all this that are similar to those used by the Nazis…. and with all this, what has been accomplished? If there is anything to celebrate here, damned if I can see what it is.

  5. A very good point, Alan, as usual. This whole sorry mess brought out the very worst in us, including the utterly pointless diversion in Iraq that killed so many people. I heard someone on the radio today trying to justify that war – and I couldn’t believe he was still trying to do that.

    It is time to talk openly about what we did in anger and why so much of it was wrong. That is the best way to put this truly behind us.

  6. I know a lot of terrible things happened in Iraq. But we did free that country from a ruthless, bloodthirsty dictator. Let’s allow ourselves to take some credit for something good coming out of this, even though it came at such a great cost.

  7. Take a look at the Washington Post daily email for today.
    I’d argue that for all practical purposes this is (quasi) official government propaganda.

    On the other hand, look at what Chris Hedges has to say:
    (Hedges spoke at Macalester in St. Paul a few days ago.)
    (For what its worth, I think Hedges is wrong in saying Hitler’s role was symbolic and not operational. In fact, Hitler not only made strategic decisions, he often, sometimes disastrously, exercised direct military command. He could be wrong about Bin Laden in this regard also, but his basic points stand…)

  8. Saw an interesting film this weekend called “Two Indians Talking” one of the points they made is the stupidity of pan-native, when each tribe was unique in its own way.

  9. Erik, thanks for this thoughtful post. Our sentiments echo.

    Looking “way back” to 1993 (seems like yesterday!) and the WTC bombing that occurred at that time, I seem to recall there was an opportunity to convict bin Laden then, but the memory is fuzzy. Unfortunately, at the time, certain politicians felt that the sitting president was just trying to divert attention from a scandalous affair….

    I have become quite cynical regarding this great country’s deployment of military muscle around the world. I cannot say that we should never intervene: think Hitler and Hirohito; however, I do feel that our troops should remain closer to home and that we should only intervene where invited or absolutely necessary.

    How many sons of Gaddafi have “we” killed in the past thirty years? Two, by my count, and what has the world gained? Higher oil prices.

    Agreed: there is no cause for jubilation.

  10. Pingback: Back to Reality | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

  11. I’ve been slow to respond, but I think we have a good topic here. I think I regret saying that Iraq was “pointless” – I should have said “not worth the tremendous blood and cost”, but we can differ on that one no matter what. The point is that it’s time to move on and take care of what we should – keeping our nation running and increasing freedom and opportunity around the world (which is to say not taking the easy way out with bullets and dictatorships).

  12. Hmmm. Seems to me we are commenting on this with the mindset of liberal imperialists, as opposed to the Bush-style conservative imperialists we love to hate. Aren’t we just so much better? Aren’t we just so willing to sit silent while OBAMA starts another war?

    But the war, the death, the incredible suffering, is happening, friends, in IRAQ (etc). So it’s the opinions of Iraqis (etc) that should matter when we are blathering about freedom and democracy. I’ve never met an Iraqi who wanted the US occupation to keep on. Doubtless there are some, but …..

    Lets look in the mirror for a moment (or two) and ask ourselves how much we really give a shit about the people in the countries we attack…..

    “On dune and headland sinks the fire…..” (thankfully)

    No more out of me–I hope!–on this thread.


  13. Pingback: Little Things | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

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