Let’s start with this.
The presumptive goal of the “War on Terror” is to end terrorism.
So, allow me to pose a query (please read in mock-British accent or with a bitterly ironic tone).
Which scenario is more likely to accomplish said goal, to diminish the amount of terrorists and the impact of terrorism around the world:
1.) The United States kills Osama Bin Laden. People in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, etc…turn on Al-Jeezera or CNN International or whatever state-run media apparatus they watch, and see the following:
Thousands upon thousands of crazy yahoos flooding into the streets, yelling and screaming, waving flags, and chanting U-S-A like we’d just won the world series.
A Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, holding up a copy of the Daily News with a picture of Osama Bin Laden and the headline “Rot in Hell”.
The President of the U.S. giving a speech where he sounds like a third grader telling his family how good he was in the school play.
Other newspaper headlines that read “Vengeance at Last”, “The Butcher of 9/11 is Dead”, and “We Got the Bastard” and a picture on CNN (!!!!!) of the Statue of Liberty holding Bin Laden’s severed head.
2.)The United States kills Osama Bin Laden. People in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, etc…turn on Al-Jeezera or CNN International or whatever state-run media apparatus they watch, and see the following:
Images of Americans greeting the event with dignified solemnity.
A Senator from New York explaining coolly the reason this man had to die and the tragedy he had inflicted on members of his state.
The President giving a speech that recounts the operation and explains to the world why the U.S. had to thwart convention and carry out a clandestine operation in the country of an official alley without their knowledge.
Newspaper headlines that read simply “Osama Bin Laden Dead” which was what most papers saw fit to print after Hitler committed suicide.
The requisite sensationalism and reactionary fanaticism that the U.S. inevitably brings to occasions such as this are it’s own worst enemy.
Osama Bin Laden wasn’t Skeletor and the U.S. isn’t He-Man.
He wasn’t some evil villain plotting to take over the world for his own selfish reasons. The guy was born into an uber-wealthy family but CHOSE to sleep in caves and crudely constructed bunkers almost his entire life for a cause he believed in. That doesn’t make the cause right or just. It wasn’t. But the bigger point here is this:
As long as people in America carry an elitist and willfully ignorant attitude toward the world, the poor and disenfranchised of the world will continue to hate Americans and irrationally blame them for their situation. It really is as simple as that.
The “War on Terror” isn’t The Civil War. It isn’t World War II. There are no clear cut sides and there are no General Pattons or Ulysses S. Grants. It won’t be won by burning a city to the ground or deposing some evil dictator.
This war is almost entirely ideological. And on May 1st, 2011, nothing changed. Osama Bin Laden remains for violent jihadist what he has always been, a valuable symbol. He represents the first man who, in their eyes, was able to successfully stand up to U.S. tyranny.
If anything, the U.S.’s over-the-top revelry upon the news of his death serves only to increase his value as symbol. (By the way, how are we still not getting the whole jihadist/martyr thing. Killing these guys isn’t a deterrent. That’s LITERALLY what they want.)
Without getting into a long diatribe about Osama Bin Laden’s break with Saudi Arabia and the extraordinary abuses of its rulers, the U.S. backed House of Saud, I will just say simply that the world is complex. The more we choose to see the “War on Terror” in simple black and white, good v. evil terms, the longer it will last.
I’m not saying it is not a good thing Osama Bin Laden was killed. It is. It would have been better if he was taken alive but there are lots of reasons that wasn’t going to happen.
Still. His death is a very good thing. He was a dangerous man. His views had become so one-sided, so reactionary and cemented, that he blinded himself to the suffering he’d caused to thousands and thousands of innocent people. His version of Islam left no room for compromise.
Earlier I accused citizens of the United States of willful ignorance. I accuse Bin Laden of the same.
Without hesitation, I indict any Islamic jihadist who thinks they can somehow improve the world with violence and terror.
The thing is, the U.S. should not be attempting to fight fire with fire. Not in this case. It won’t work. Just ask Metallica.
If we’re supposed to be “on the side of good” (as President Bush was fond of saying) then we’d better start acting like it.
Only a sincere portrayal of the “good” we so ardently claim will change the “hearts and minds” of millions of people that currently see the U.S. as pure evil.
We can’t just say we’re “good”. We need to be “good”.
And “good” doesn’t celebrate death with a parade.