Commentary on the subject of the week, on Modern Mythology:
This is how it works with terrorism, by definition. Our own psychology works against us. Fear, a popular tool of the Bush administration, was used to do a real disservice to their own “war on terror” by painting the picture of this guy hanging out in his underground bunker with Destro, Cobra Commander, and The Joker. (That is should they ever hope to win a “war on terror” — I assume they actually intend to “win” as much as the “war on drugs” could ever be won, as we meanwhile prop up the regimes that supply the materials).
Recent reports say Osama didn’t have a gun. But that’s almost beside the point, since the deed is done and it’s not likely we’re going to be seeing criminal investigations in the assassination of a figure like Osama Bin Laden. In the end he did share at least one thing in common with Saddam Hussein — both of them were tools for US interests for a time, and unlike puppet dictators, these used their own horrific means to their own ends and thus ‘had to be stopped.’ But in a National sense, maybe in an international sense, the blood is on all our hands, and it has been for a long time.
This might seem like an odd thing to say. Obviously none of us flew planes into any buildings. But yet in taking pride in violence, we’re strengthening a narrative of vengeance. There’s a MLK quote going around that had a different line added to the beginning of it. But the line from it, that is MLK, which I believe is the most relevant is this:
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
So it isn’t about whether it was right or wrong to kill him. We can have that debate, but the point when that debate was relevant happened in the situation room. I’m personally uncomfortable with the precedent of political assassination without a trial, but I can see how it becomes a moral imperative in very specific situations.
Aaron Sorkin played with this theme in the assassination of Abdul ibn Shareef plot arc of the West Wing (excerpt of a scene). No matter which side you come out on, it’s a hoary mess, but it’s patently clear to me that it’s barbaric to party in the streets over the death of any human. Even an enemy.