It is the next day after Obama’s dramatic, Sunday night announcement about Osama bin Laden having been killed by U.S. forces. The Internet lit up and was no doubt strained with the citizens of the world searching for news and pictures and updates about Osama’s death. MSNBC kept cutting to the crowds gathering in the streets to celebrate the death of America’s arch nemesis, bin Laden. There were fist-pumping twenty somethings, crying mothers, and family members of those lost on 9/11. The celebrations were both serious and savage (read that here).
America had been chasing this phantom for ten years. America spent a trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all in pursuit of terrorists and potential terrorists, and nobody asked any questions. Everybody was too afraid to ask if invading Middle Eastern countries out of anger and hatred was the right direction to take. The only direction, for most Americans, was a rapid and highly violent, vicious direction. Iraq and Afghanistan felt it, but Osama bin Laden remained elusive for ten years. While hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered or displaced from their homes, America chased her phantom around Afghanistan, and more absurdly, Iraq.
Last night’s celebrations seemed as hostile and hasty as America’s assault on the world following the September 11th attacks. We didn’t ask questions, we didn’t want to know all the facts, we wanted to strike at something and pump our fists over it. Something about last night’s national celebrations seemed misplaced. ‘Misplaced’ was the word Peter S. Goodman used in his article (found at the Huff Post here). Goodman captured what I’ve been trying to say better than anybody else I’ve read so far today:
Osama bin Laden is gone, and that is better than the alternative. But the celebration over his death feels misplaced. The remnants of his most successful strike on American soil remain intact through the collective sense of powerlessness that frames the conversation. He has proven to our adversaries that, when we are frightened, we lose our way. Until we find our way back, standing in the street, high-fiving his death may feel good, but our circumstances are little changed.
Goodman is right on the money when he says it’s our collective sense of powerlessness and our lost way that makes it feel like Osama bin Laden has, so far, won the battle, even though we’ve got his head (well, actually, the U.S. buried bin Laden’s body at sea — why would they do that? To avoid martyrdom?).
The celebratory, congratulatory celebration today is no different from last night. Facebook and Twitter feeds are dominated with ignorant shouts of praise and exaltation, as if America solved the her problem, won the battle, and everything, every day, from May 2, 2011 and on will be good again. That is misplaced. America has left one of the most destructive warpaths the world has ever seen, and millions of people in lesser understood nations have been affected, and that will not go away. America has planted fear and hatred in millions, and from that breeds terrorism, so the terrorists will keep coming, again and again, forever and ever. And we, as a nation, will be exuberant enough to continue destroying them, their countries, and anybody we feel poses a threat, and all of those people around them. America will continue its war, as long as it can pretend it has the money, and as long as its citizens treat it like a sporting event.
Osama buried at sea, but president Obama presented former president GW Bush with bin Laden’s heart (here)