U.S. forces did what was unpleasantly necessary, and not a decade too soon. Like many others, I would have preferred that he was taken alive. However, if he chose to fight to the last breath, so be it. This is war, after all. Some reports now say that bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot. Whatever. He had already slipped through the net at least twice before – no more playing it safe. Also, a cornered man with 30 years’ experience of guerrilla warfare is not necessarily a neutral threat just because he isn’t holding a machine gun. As to the woman, possibly/maybe one of his wives, who was killed too, that’s unfortunate. Yes, I know that sounds callous. No, it is callous. I despise the term ‘collateral damage,’ and will not legitimise its use, but when you live with the world’s most wanted man – even if it’s under duress – you can’t not expect something like this.
So to the reaction:
The relief is understandable. The celebrations? That’s a bit crass. There was a quote running all over the internet yesterday – I’m sure you’ve seen it – falsely attributed to Martin Luther King. I will write specifically about this later, but regardless of who said it, it’s a fair comment. It’s one thing to endorse this necessary action. It’s one thing to (forgive me for using this term) get closure from it. But if you think it’s cause to punch the air and chant U! S! A!, then I’m sorry, but you’re probably a dick.
Obama has been sensible to treat this occasion with the gravitas it deserves. No flying onto aircraft carriers, no “Mission accomplished” banners, no saying, “We got him.” You can leave that last one to the headline writers anyway. However, he is wrong to say that justice has been done. It has not. Not unless you call retribution justice. Not unless you think there can ever be justice for the enormity of some crimes. I am not saying it’s an INjustice – certainly not! I’m just saying the justice is more than just finding a guy and killing him – not that there was any other option, as I’ve already mentioned. This is what might reasonably be called Satisfaction.
On to some other talking points...
I’ve heard it said on several lesser news outlets that bin Laden was “executed.” He was not. If he had been condemned to death by some court (however trumped up) and then killed in some state or military sanctioned manner, that would be an execution. Or, if they had caught him and restrained him, tied him up, dragged him outside, said, “This is for New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, motherf***er!” and blown his brains out, that could also be described as an execution. Nor was he assassinated. That implies some kind of surgical strike. Bin Laden was killed in a military operation. I know that sounds better than what he deserves and probably is, but that’s what happened.
“Could he ever have had a fair trial anyway?”
I dunno. Did Tojo get a fair trial? Did Hermann Goring get a fair trial?
“This proves the value of waterboarding.”
Except that is doesn’t. A former Guantanamo interrogator said they got more valuable information with cookies than with any form of “enhanced” techniques. Also, waterboarding (allegedly) hasn’t been used since for nearly five years, which means this must be very old information and leads one to wonder what took them so long. If anyone wants to take this as a vindication of waterboarding, they should perhaps dig up the Japanese soldiers who were hanged for it back when it was a war crime.
“Obama just happened to be there at the culmination of what Bush started.”
Logic dictates that this must apply to the recession as well. Next!
“How can we be sure he’s dead?”Never mind that, how can we be sure he even existed? All we have seen is a few photos and grainy videos of a bloke with a beard in a turban and we are told he’s said bad things. If you want to get all conspiracist, go all the way.
Finally, there is very real question of how bin Laden was living in an affluent bedroom community about an hour out of Islamabad. Pakistani officials are expressing (or some might say feigning) surprise and embarrassment that he was right under their noses. That’s probably a good plan for now. The “we’re not evil, just stupid,” line worked well enough for the Bush administration, after all. Some have suggested that having eliminated bin Laden, now is the time to reduce the millions of dollars of US financial aid that goes to Pakistan. I have some sympathy with this point of view. It would also be the stupidest idea of the century. Shall we consider some of the other countries that the US dropped like a hot potato when they were no longer useful? Specifically, Afghanistan and Iraq. How did that turn out? Although it hurts, and although it may seem like a kind of protection racket, the US now needs to build a reasonable working relationship with Pakistan and help them with education and welfare so that Pakistan does not turn into another Afghanistan any more than it already has. Need I remind anyone that Pakistan already has the bomb?