Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden - Monday's Post

My first thought when a technically ragged announcement of breaking news interrupted the exciting conclusion of the Amazing Race was can't this wait for 10 minutes?

Then the nature of the breaking news was revealed. "Osama bin Laden has been killed, US has custody of his body."

Wow! A little mental fist pump.

My next thought. Will there be retaliatory strikes that raise the threat level during my trip?

I was in the midst of drafting last night's blog and thought to insert the news right there. Then I crossed it out. I would be hard to go back to quilts and kittens after news of that sort, and it would no longer be breaking news by the time I hit the "publish" button.

Surveillance for months developed leads on location ... planned by the President's national security team in a closely held secret ... Don't you just think immediately of "The Unit" with Dennis Haysbert leading the charge?

At the same time that I had a good "take that, you son of a bitch" cowboy reaction, it seemed a little unseemly to be celebrating a death with jubilation in the streets. But, I think, it's payback for when people "over there" celebrated the attack on the Twin Towers. They'll see how we felt." (Article on this topic that interested me: "USA! USA!" is the wrong response)

Something in my unease harks back to a long-held belief that "Americans don't assassinate" in war. A fine line it is, between killing in war and assassination, and perhaps my perception of this comes from the portrayal of American ideals in movies years ago, when people weren't killed, simply shot in the leg. And also remembering the ambivalence I felt in the knowledge that a man I knew fairly well was very likely a sniper in the Vietnam war and all the assassination-related implications of that. It was a topic alluded to but never discussed. He was a tough little s.o.b. and I think he would have protected me like he protected his buddies.

I was relieved to hear that the assault on the bin Laden compound included contingency plans for taking him alive, as well as dead (even if it's with a bit of wink-wink), that they would not stand an unarmed and unresisting prisoner before them and execute him.

So I read and read, articles, opinions, legal frameworks, comments and rebuttals, and the usual flaming accusations that this was the work of the Reckless War Mongering Right, rebutted by this is the Work of the Reckless War mongering Left, as each has historically war-mongered. Is it or isn't it assassination if sanctioned by, for example, an international body? Can we just kill any head of state we don't like (discussed apropos of Ghaddafi)? Can our head of state similarly be killed with the sanction of an international body? My mind fuzzes as I listen to pros and cons.

If there's solace in the fact that it took ten years to bring justice to the central symbol of the attack on America, it's that so many Muslims have also now welcomed his demise for the ill-repute he brought on all Islam in the eyes of so many Westerners.

The "enemy" is religious fanaticism of any stripe, the kind that brooks no deviation from its doctrine as the only way to God and is even willing to kill the unbeliever. Like I say, this can come in any stripe, not just Islamist fundamentalists.

By the time I get the Internet connection up long enough to get this posted, this may all seem like old news, but the final thing I want to comment on is the burial at sea of OBL. It's been reported that he was given burial according to Muslim precepts and practices, that of an ordinary person and not that of a martyr. Some have scoffed at giving any consideration to Muslim practices as affording more respect than he deserved, given that his victims weren't given any respect. My response is that we're better people than he was. We don't sink to his level. Colin Powell said something to the same effect after I'd written this down.

In the end, relief.

  • I'm relieved that a festering sore now has a chance to heal.
  • I'm relieved there won't be lawyers and trials and angry demonstrations outside courthouses.
  • I'm relieved he's gone from public display.
  • I'm hopeful that the Arab Spring will take the nations of North Africa and the Middle East towards democracy and away from Islamist fundamentalism or any fundamentalisms that deny life and freedom to those whose concept of God may differ from their own.

I will not be scared off of travel by whatever threat levels ensue.

It is so cool that there were no leaks in the security team. These photos released by the White House tell such a story in the faces.

tense moments
the team

Struck by this odd seating arrangement...awaiting the President's address?

light at the end of the tunnel

See you soon.



  1. As Laura and I traveled to our Med cruise about the same amount of time as after 9/11, you too will travel safely. We looked at our "odds", and decided the odds were with us.

  2. You are probably safer today than you were last week! Remember the threats we traveled under in October 2010? Taking on would be car jackers? Wafting into Paris on fumes when there was no gas to be had? You are very brave, my friend, and traveling when there is a consciousness about danger means everyone will be 'aware' of their surroundings. Have a fun trip!