When I was a student at Franklin & Marshall College about 30 years ago, Col. Donald P. Shaw was an instructor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He also taught my International Security course at F&M. One day Col. Shaw said something in class that has resonated with me ever since: “I think the good Lord will forgive me for rejoicing in the death of another human being. In 1953 something absolutely delightful happened: Stalin died.” My sentiments exactly regarding the death of Osama bin Laden.
The killing of Bin Laden is detailed in an AP story entitled “Bin Laden’s Demise”, which should be required reading for every American. According to the AP, Bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy SEALs on Sunday evening, May 1, 2011, on orders from President Obama. After DNA tests were performed, Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea.
Bin Laden’s whereabouts were gleaned during years of intelligence gathering, including information obtained from the “enhanced interrogation” of September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh-Mohammed which eventually led to the identification of Bin Laden’s courier. That identification, in turn, led to the location of the secret compound in which Bin Laden was killed.
When he was president, George W. Bush took a public relations beating for ordering enhanced interrogations of al-Qaeda leaders. This still-controversial technique has been condemned as torture by prominent American leaders, including Sen. John McCain, a war hero, pilot, and Republican presidential nominee who suffered horrifically after being shot down by the North Vietnamese.
This writer does not intend to second-guess Sen. McCain or attempt to resolve this issue. That said, one cannot escape the fact that enhanced interrogation led to the killing of Bin Laden, and that’s a good thing. A quote attributable to George Orwell comes to mind : “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
The brave SEALs that did violence to Osama bin Laden in his lair on Sunday night made people around the world sleep more peaceably in their beds. An excellent National Journal article on “The Secret Team that killed bin Laden” provides fascinating details on this elite group of the U.S. military.
Reflecting on these matters makes my personal problems, which seem insurmountable at times, trivial by comparison. My father, Eli Ellison, a brave man who was a World War II radio truck operator on the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge, told me long before September 11 to be thankful that no bombs were falling nearby and no one was shooting at me.
That Bin Laden was an evil man is beyond dispute within sane, civilized circles. The only tragedy in his death was that he was allowed to be on the lam for nearly 10 years after ordering the slaughter of nearly 3,000 defenseless American civilians. Bin Laden’s followers will undoubtedly attempt retribution. That does not disturb me because brave, rough American men and women stand ready to do violence on behalf of me and my fellow citizens.