Tuesday, May 03, 2011
One of my brothers was the first person to inform me that Osama bin Laden had taken, in his words, a "dirt nap." That was good news, but I wasn't completely clear about what, exactly, it meant until I heard a loony lefty call in to a radio show as I was driving. The "perspective" he had to offer on the celebrations taking place across the country was that we had killed, in his words, a "human being."
I wasn't sure I was even going to comment on the death of bin Laden's body until I heard that caller. While I am grateful that our armed forces tracked this murderer down and killed him, any urge to celebrate on my part is more than made up for by the knowledge that, thanks to a weak foreign policy, we are not fighting an effective war against the Islamic totalitarians, and that the Obama Administration signaled weakness by giving the carcass full burial rites. We should have bombed several Middle Eastern states into oblivion years ago, and broadcast an image of the dead body as soon as we bagged it, to use an appropriately respectful turn of phrase. So this is a pale semblance of even the symbolic victory it should have been, and valueless (if that) as a deterrent to future, similar barbarism.
But back to why I am posting on this at all. I've already argued -- but hardly as well as others -- that killing bin Laden and his allies is both proper and well within our right to self-defense. There is, however, one thing that still needs to be said, as the caller I mentioned earlier made apparent to me.
Let's set the table with some context. I've talked enough about how bin Laden's barbarity affected me, and that's small potatoes, in some respects anyway, compared to what this reprobate brought into being for others:
Living in Lower Manhattan immediately after 9/11 and into 2002 was a nightmare. Evacuated shortly after the attacks, camping out at my eldest uncle's uptown apartment, we couldn't go home for two weeks, and when allowed back into our Tribeca loft all we could smell was the fumes from the crematorium that Ground Zero had become. Dust and ashes covered the roof of our apartment. It was complete and utter Hell. My parents saw people jump from the Trade Center towers with their own eyes, and live with it every day. Posters of missing persons covered walls across the city, makeshift and heartbreaking shrines dotted the landscape, and for months despondence was the prevailing mood. No zombie horror film could come close to real life. Even at the age of nine, I understood what had happened and immediately knew what it meant: the world, and my life, would never be the same.In the deeper, spiritual sense of what it means to be a human being, for Osama bin Laden to have caused something like this to occur, he had to have murdered the best within himself ages ago. Whatever social pressures the young bin Laden might have faced due to his Islamic upbringing, he still had free will. He could have chosen not to do any of this. However difficult it might be to question a suffocating religious upbringing, it can be done, and even many who don't do that manage, at least on some level, to be decent human beings in spite of what they've been taught. But bin Laden decided that abject obedience to the alleged dictates of an alleged being trumped anything and everything else. From the mundane, like the way he ate his meals, to the big decisions, like how he chose at least three of his wives, all the way to the mass murders he orchestrated, we can see that he systematically strangled his mind and renounced rational values in favor of arbitrary dictates. This was no hypocrite betraying noble ideals. This was a truly evil person living according to life-destroying ideals.
Osama Bin Laden was as much an unambiguous symbol for Evil for my generation as Hitler was 60 years earlier. I think pretty much every kid in my third grade class that year had either an Osama dartboard or toilet paper with his face on it well into 2002. The red hot hate I felt for him 10 years ago dimmed, and honestly I thought we'd never know where he ended up -- that kidney condition could've killed him years ago. I'd forgotten the bitterness, but this unexpected news has brought it all back.
We had the right to kill bin Laden, based on what he did. But whatever benevolence or beauty there might once have been in his soul, he had snuffed it out long ago. On May 1, our men killed what was left -- a dangerous animal.
I don't want to leave the impression that I imagine that the smallness of this enemy lessens in any way the valor of our men, or that I feel any less gratitude for what they did. I'm glad bin Laden is, finally, completely dead. My deepest thanks go to our armed forces.