After bin Laden

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.


  1. Tim says

    Thank you, Mano. I had a similar reaction. You are saying important words that need to be said.

  2. Bruce says

    Quick thoughts from you on how quickly the body was disposed of. I’m not ready to jump on with conspiracy-theorists yet, but why not allow the world more proof of his death. Did we suddenly have to get so sensitive about death rites?

  3. Henry says


    I’m sure they took pics and video. I know it’s been reported they took DNA samples. I’m guessing they probably took fingerprints as well.

    I think the administration wanted to provide as little ammunition (forgive the pun) to militants (as if they needed it.)

    Even now some are saying a burial at sea was not appropriate for some killed on land.

  4. says


    I too was surprised by the urgency with which the body was disposed.

    I do not think the concern for Muslim rites had anything to do with the decision. I think they wanted to get rid of it quickly to avoid the messy issue of what to do with the body. If they held on to it, then there might have been requests from bin Laden’s family to have the body returned to them. Refusing the request and then dumping the body into the ocean might have caused more problems.

  5. Henry says

    Just to add. I find it interesting that the burial preferences of non-Americans seem important to this administration but not the civil rights of American citizens.

  6. says

    Several aspects of the President’s speech jumped out last night. First, we had a veritable orgasm of American Exceptionalism -- a climactic event supposedly proving to all the world that Americans are a special people capable of anything. Second, the President enjoyed his delivery rather too much, relishing the use of the first person to associate himself with this victory, and delivering the ultimate riposte to the birthers, close on the heels of last week’s humiliation of the “carnival barkers.” And, at the end, we had the ever-obnoxious invocation of the nation’s imaginary friend, God, who apparently blesses his chosen people, even when they behave in a decidedly un-Christian fashion.

    But the most salient feature for me was the President’s assertion that “we did not choose this war.” America, in this noble version of events, was an entirely innocent victim of external aggression. To the extent that we buy into this fallacy, we not only reinforce the myth that America can do no wrong; we commit the parallel error of failing to examine the long-term consequences of our actions. The late Chalmers Johnson was one of the few foreign-policy analysts who did not make this mistake.

    Osama bin Laden’s emergence was not a spontaneous event. We had much to do with his turn to violence, with the seeds sown in Charlie Wilson’s War against the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan, and ample fertilizer applied throughout the Middle East ever since. Does the American people hear about that? Do we take any responsibility or share in any of the culpability for the dreadful harvest reaped on 9/11? Do we have a national discussion about the costs of supporting a Jewish state that routinely murders Palestinians in their own homeland, or the staggering human toll of our sanctions regime against Iraq after the first Gulf War? Of course not.

    Far from being a cause for celebration, bin Laden’s demise is a miserable reminder of the darkness of our hearts and the ignorance of our minds.

  7. says

    I think most people mistake The Twin Wars as being related to terrorism, and of course the government framed it this way and Obama has continued to allow the frame. It is part of a long-term struggle for energy; for who controls it and the countries in which we extract it. Osama bin Laden satisfies our thirst for revenge and has nothing to do with justice.

    Can’t say I mourn the bastard, but I certainly don’t feel any better about the deaths of nearly 3000 people because of his passing.

    He was just a face to hate, and we are good at finding them.

  8. says

    i didn’t watch the announcement from Obama about bin Laden. i only heard it from my friend. i just never thought that the reaction of USA citizens would be that much (well, i think they were over-reacting to this news). anyway, i don’t think Laden’s death is the end. think we should keep aware.
    i love your post Mano.

  9. peter says

    Bravo, Richard Frost. I couldn’t agree more, nor express my thoughts as perfectly.

    But are you certain Mr. Johnson is dead? For some reason I thought he was still living…

  10. says

    I agree with your thoughts for that is what i also first thought about. Laden’s death is still lingering in my head as something that did not happen at all. And if it happened, was it Obama’s personal benefit or American revenge? Any one can still doubt the hurry in his burial. Still, let me hope that they killed and buried the real Osama.Tanzania Vacations

  11. Joey says

    Thank you. I have the same feelings and have been doing battles over them: trial, embarassing celebrations, etc. It’s nice to know that, although I may be in a minority of opinion, I am not alone.

  12. says

    well, conspiracy theories will be rife on this matter for years to come, would it not have been more valuable, if he was still so active (as appears so from the docs found in the compound) to capture him and interrogate, imagaine how much more small bits of info may have been gleaned, personally, I think they have him, how long is it before relevant docs become public?

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