The American media’s orgasm over the reported killing of Osama Bin Laden is unseemly and ill-advised. Here is why I think that.
Our morning newspaper had a single-word headline in huge black type, over Bin Laden’s photo:
At least they put quotation marks around it, appropriate to indicate a mis-applied word. And such an important word, too, concerning which we Americans have a particular pride. The United States: nation of laws.
The killing of Bin Laden was, of course, no more “justice” than a lynching is. What was it? Justifiable, yes; revenge sweet on the tongue of Americans, yes; necessary, perhaps—if only to tie up a politically embarrassing loose end.
I recognize that it was an impossible situation. There is no place on this planet, except perhaps Antarctica, where this man could have had a safe and reasonably public trial. Even if the trial were held at Camp McMurdo, there would predictably be suicide bombers elsewhere, mass murders of the innocent, just because.
So it had to be death, not capture. But having done it, let us not revel in it. And we might have done it better.
We could at least have pretended that we killed Bin Laden “during the fire fight”. The President in his address said “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body”. And Obama is a famously careful and considered speaker. Admitting that it was a deliberate killing, not one necessitated by combat, is honest, but it will enrage Muslims even more.
The more we gloat, the more payback we will receive. No one should imagine that we have in any way made the US or the West safer by this deed. Islamic extremism is not a snake with one head to be cut off, or even two heads; as terrorism experts have endlessly told us, al Quaeda has for some years been a “franchise” with branches in many locations, and there are Muslims everywhere capable of low-budget, virtually impromptu, attacks. This is not like killing the political leader of an enemy nation; the root of the strife is no nation, but a religion.
Having killed Bin Laden we quickly disposed of his body to avoid the martyrdom issue; it might have been wiser to capture him, film his execution for later broadcast, and then drop the body in the ocean. He’ll be a martyr to many anyway, without doubt, and filming him alive and then showing his death would undermine the inevitable rumors that it’s all a hoax.
In matters concerning survival, clear thinking must be chosen over pleasing though misleading emotion. This is my effort.