Sunday, May 1, 2011

Was Killing Bin Laden Right?

Was killing Osama Bin Laden right?

What havoc have we wrought that leads us down this dark and uncertain path? I will preface what I say with the basics; the inescapable truths. Osama Bin Laden was a human being. He was the mastermind behind many terrorist acts against the United States. His hatred for the West was so fervent that he had no qualms about destroying two iconic buildings full of civilians. Thousands died. Bin Laden was killed today in Pakistan. A US military operation was carried out and Bin Laden was shot and killed during the operation. His body is in US custody.

But those facts suggest the utilitarian good. I’m not sure that I have those moral values. I want justice for Bin Laden and the crimes he committed. I want justice in the most American of forms. I wanted him to stand trial for his actions. I wanted to see him sit before the court of national and international outrage. I wanted him to hear the pain that he caused to thousands upon thousands of souls. I wanted him to understand that his cause was one that only led down a destructive path. No one won anything. Don’t tell me that the empty space in the soldier’s wife’s bed is part of the prize. Don’t tell me that missing limbs, the blood of innocent civilians, and two intractable wars are the prizes. Please don’t. It breaks my heart to think that this is our justice.

And I will never deny that Bin Laden committed atrocities. I will never deny that he has been as much a factor in all the pain as we have. I just wonder how we got here in the first place. It didn’t happen on 9/11 and it didn’t happen when the World Trade Center was bombed in the 1990s. Angry, fear driven international policies have made the US look like a ruthless dictator doling death out like candy. Our indifference to the larger impacts of what we do shows just how ignorant we can be.

Our actions have consequences that are decades old. We have reaped what we have sown, self-interested policies that create fervent believers like Bin Laden. And now he is dead. How do we fight like this? Bin Laden could not be reasoned with. Clinton tried. He would not be talked to or lectured. He was an angry man with a vendetta. Someone with his morals so ingrained in him that he would never concede his own evil doings. And let me be clear on how evil his deeds were—exceedingly. Talking was an option removed from the table in the early days. Bin Laden was not to be talked to by any means.

And he drove us down the path of murder and sin. We fought a fierce enemy with hatred and fury beyond diplomacy. And we took the path of retaliation. What cheek is there to turn when both have been slapped? We, America, had been violated by a man who wanted to implement an authoritarian regime over the entire world. His ambitions were nothing short of a single world ruled by his twisted version of Islam. But it wasn’t even Islam; it was a series of circular arguments made to justify his anger.

And yet he remained a man. Do we sacrifice our morals to capture the amoral threat? What levels are we willing to sink to in order to believe in a cause? I can’t tell you that, but I believe that we are a nation of diverse interests, but fundamentally similar in a few ways.

We never wanted to go to war. Peace is what we would prefer. We try hard as a nation to protect the weak, challenge the foolish, and be morally righteous. We do not want to fill ourselves with anger and sorrow. We want to live in peace and we welcome the peaceful dissent of the world. We will defend ourselves if we are attacked.

Will Bin Laden become a martyr? I hope not. I hope that his brand of unreasoning hatred can be stopped forever. And I hope the next time—because there is always a next time—we will stop the tragedy before it starts and bring hatred to stand before the power of a Democracy. A people united in their resolve to maintain their dissent. We are a nation that encourages the free and peaceful expression of all ideas. And I hope that we can start to challenge that hatred; wipe it from the earth. Bin Laden is dead, but now the real work begins.