When my daughter called me at 10:30 last night to say that Obama was going to make an announcement, I figured that it must be something the White House considered good news, since no politician rushes out late on Sunday night with bad news.
When it was leaked out soon after about the death of bin Laden, I felt a curious sense of anti-climax. I realized that it was because I had long felt that bin Laden was a spent force and had become just a symbol, to some a source of inspiration and to others a convenient specter with which to frighten people and continue wars and assault civil liberties. Both sides will find new reasons to continue their present course.
Although I would have liked to seen bin Laden arrested and brought to trial, I realize that I am a relic of a bygone era where the idea of summary justice and execution is seen as abhorrent. I had always considered the events of 9/11 a mass murder and not an act of war, and thus saw the problem as one for law enforcement and not as a military issue. But in the present climate in which even the thought of trying low-level captives in Guantanamo in regular courts seem to drive our political leaders into hysterics of fear, there was no possibility of bin Laden ever standing trial. So the reports that the commandos had been given orders to kill him and not even try to capture him and bring him to justice did not come as a surprise.
I did find the reports of raucous celebrations in Washington and New York to be unseemly. The death of anyone, however much we dislike them, is not an occasion for scenes similar to those following sporting victories. It reminded me of the gloating over the deaths of Saddam Hussein’s sons, with front-page displays of their bloodied corpses. I am certain that photos of the dead bin Laden were taken and it is only a matter of time before they are revealed as the speedy burial of his body at sea will undoubtedly create speculation, at least by the dead-enders who doubt Obama’s eligibility to be president, that this whole event was a hoax staged by him for political gain. It would not surprise me in the least to hear this theory propounded in the days to come and that 27% of the public believes it.
Were the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the destruction of two countries to kill this one person worth it? Not to my mind. It struck me that the manner of bin Laden’s death, the result of actions by a small commando unit on the basis of precise information obtained by intelligence agents as to his location, was something that did not require the massive death and destruction unleashed by a nearly decade-long war waged in two countries, coupled with the dismantling of centuries old constitutional safeguards protecting civil liberties at home.