+ The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

Celebrations outside the White House
Photo via This Is Bossi @ Flickr

When I woke up this morning and read dozens of headlines announcing Osama bin Laden’s killing and President Obama’s assertion that “justice had been done”, I found it hard not to feel uneasiness at celebrating death, regardless of whether it’s from a man who faciliated the deaths of thousands.

Lots of people around the world will feel a genuine sense of relief and happiness at Obama’s efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to pay for his role in 9/11. I agree that we should be happy a man responsble for such actions is no more, but why can’t people question WHY he held the views he did, and why it’s a safe bet that he will not be the last person to want to ‘punish’ the Western world?

A survivor of the Twin Towers attack, Harry Waizer, sums up the conflict between congratulating a person’s death and wanting justice for the atrocities of September 11th: “If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that […] But I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.”

Here are some interesting opinions I’ve read in the past hour or two on the killing of bin Laden:

Even if one accepts the official narrative of the events of that day, killing Bin Laden fails to address the core issues at the heart of modern terrorism. Attacking Al Qaida addresses the symptoms of the disease but not its root cause; it’s like bailing out a sinking boat but ignoring the holes in its hull.

If terrorism exists, it exists because we encouraged it by our own actions. The actions of American corporations – and the puppet government that it controls in Washington – are the real cause of hatred against America, and therefore the cause of any acts of violence against us. If the United States was not engaged in five concurrent wars, we would have far fewer enemies. If the U.S. military empire did not have outposts in some 150+ countries, we would have far fewer enemies. If American corporations – aided by the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. government policies – were not involved in the systematic exploitation and suppression of developing nations around the world, we would have far fewer enemies. If the U.S. did not continue to offer unrelenting financial and military support the brutal Israeli regime, if we hadn’t directly caused the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi children, we would have far fewer enemies. In actuality, if the U.S. refrained from any sort of interference – either militaristic or economic – in the affairs of other nations, we would have no enemies whatsoever.>

The Failed Empire blog–Obama Reports Death of Osama Bin Laden – Why Should We Care?

Nothing is actually resolved, nothing concluded, and nothing to be celebrated in taking away life. If we want something to celebrate here, we should celebrate the end of one of the pieces of war propaganda that has driven the past decade of brutality and death. […] A decade ago, if a president had announced his new power to assassinate Americans, at least a few people would have asked where in the world he got the power to assassinate non-Americans.

David Swanson–Killing Resolves Nothing

He was an evil human being, one who corrupted himself. And now he is dead. He is to blame for this outcome. Justice served on a killer, a vicious man removed from the face of the earth.

But this is also not perfect justice. Perhaps he could have been captured. He certainly would have been a valuable prisoner, and his imprisonment would have denied Al Qaeda a martyr. It’s too bad we didn’t get him alive, not to mention one more thing…

This was a human being, in his core, like you and me.

The Ethics of Killing Osama Bin Laden

I am genuinely scared that we can so easily see a person’s death as a reason for celebration and dancing without looking at the bigger picture. Why can’t people think critically about the motives surrounding bin Laden and any other human being who feels strongly enough to want to enact such an atrocity? Why can’t we question the easiness with which a president can assert justice can be carried out in a foreign country with no trial?

Exclaiming with happiness about the death of one terrorist is all well and good, but it should be done so with at least a grave nod to considering the implications of bin Laden’s death around the world and how it does not, by any means, signal an end to unjustifiable wars and problematic foreign policy.

At the risk of sounding like a bleeding-heart Liberal, we should only truly have cause for celebration when troops pull out of Afghanistan and war is seen as a barbaric practice witnessed only in history books rather than today’s newspapers.

In President Obama’s speech announcing bin Laden’s death, he employed several instances of rhetoric surrounding the concept of “unity”:

On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family. We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. […] Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I look forward to the day that all countries can identify as united with common interests and shared hope in what can be achieved in the absence of nationalistic superiority, “us” and “them” mentality and irrational religious extremism.