Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Great Day for America?

Late tonight word came that the U.S. military had killed Osama bin Laden, the supposed mastermind of the attacks that brought down the twin towers in New York City a decade ago, the man who has been the symbol and face of terrorism ever since then. The focus of the country's hatred for a decade. A troll in the eyes of millions. Surely the top of the most-hated list in this country. (Here is the AP account of the attack that succeeded in killing the guy. Along with links to other aspects of the story: the celebrations, the unit that carried out the killing, etc.) The president went on television to announce the news. It was "a good day for America," he said. He went on to say "Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we cannot do." The country's reaction to the news is well illustrated in the picture above. Frenzied flag waving and manly chest-beating and celebrations like the team just won the Super Bowl would about sum it up. I read that the number of tweets on Twitter about bin Laden's death set records.

Well, at the risk of being the only person in America to say this or have these feelings, I will state that I have doubts about this being "a great day for America." And I categorically reject the notion that this military operation proves that as a nation "there is nothing we cannot do." I was from the beginning, from the very day of the attacks, against employing the US military in what I regarded then and still regard as a police matter, that is, the capture of criminals who carry out murders. The rest of the world which has also been victimized by terrorists, with the exception of Israel, I suppose, deals with attacks on its civilians as matters for the police to handle. But that is not the way the vile little pretender who occupied the White House from 2001-2008 handles things. He immediately called for vengeance and embarked on a course of war. We are still yet on the course he put us on, a trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives later.

A great day for America? I have always stood for peace. Peace first. Always. So we should wave the flag and bellow "USA! USA!" at anything that in any way vindicates what we've been doing for the past ten in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya? No way am I celebrating that. How can I possibly cheer an event that excites the blood lust of people and stirs up frenzies of so-called patriotism in millions of people? the idea that whatever this country does is right by definition? that wars we initiate are just by definition? that the killing of enemies is a path to glory? that it's an event worthy of flooding out onto the streets as if it were a carnival? No. I'm not going to cheer that. Summary execution does not get my approval either.* This country is supposed to be a nation of laws. In my humble estimation, the legality, not to mention morality, of our ventures in the Middle East over the past decade are at the minimum questionable.

And as for the ridiculous notion that this killing somehow proves that the US is in the same category as God Almighty--"there is nothing we cannot do"--this is the kind of nonsense that Obama should be ashamed of himself for propagating. The fact is plainly that we cannot do many, many things as a nation, things far more important to our national welfare than a revenge killing which in the long view of history will simply be another death in a the carnival of death we as a nation have visited on that region. We cannot decently educate the vast majority of our citizens; we cannot insure equal justice under our laws; we cannot pass essential legislation to fight the warming of the globe; we cannot devise a health care system that is fair and effective; we cannot exist without war. Nothing we cannot do? This is not even a beginning of a complete list of everything that would fit that description.

Is it a good thing that bin Laden is gone? Yes. Is the price we have paid as a nation worth his death? No way. And one other thing. What do you think will change because of what's happened?

*Update I: The news reports Monday evening say that the mission against bin Laden was instructed to take him alive if possible. It's also reported that the CIA ordered that he be killed. Which version do you believe?

Update II: According to corrections made by the White House today, Tuesday the 3rd, bin Laden was not armed as first reported. But he was shot twice: once in the chest, once in the head over the left eye.
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