If you haven't heard the news, you're still sleeping, but let me reiterate: Acting on President Obama's orders, US forces finally found and killed bin Laden last night.
This does not actually solve any of our current woes. Terrorists are like HYDRA - cut off one head and two more grow - and the truth about bin Laden is that we effectively neutralized him as an Al Qaida leader back in 2002. The minute you take a man who has to be the head of an organization and drive him into exile, sans Internet or phone, is the minute someone else has to be leader. Killing him does nothing more to prevent future terrorist attacks than assassinating Dubya now would prevent future wars.
It also does not solve the larger problem of American politics - namely, that most of us honestly seem to believe that we were playing innocently in the sandbox, minding our own business, and suddenly this meanie came along and kicked sand in our face! Truth is that we've been meddling in Middle Eastern politics for years, all in attempts to keep the oil flowing, and the attacks are a direct result of a people who've also been hurt significantly by American policies and, yes, our guns. I really do wish that America-the-culture would pay as much attention to what we're doing abroad as America-the-government does, because I think if we as a people really kept an eye on what we were doing, we'd have a better idea of why a lot of people want to like America, but really can't do it in practice.
That may sound like an excuse for terrorism to some. It isn't. Hitler operated in a Germany that had been starved and economically beaten in the wake of World War I, to the point where its currency was a joke. I can say, quite legitimately, that the Treaty of Versailles was a short-sighted move born out of panic by overextended politicians - and its unwise decisions led to a culture in which a monster like Hitler could rise. From the standard of "I really want as few Hitlers as possible," it's in my best interest to encourage decisions that don't create fertile ground for monsters.
But Hitler made his own choices. There were plenty of people growing up in Germany who didn't do what he did, and certainly not to his extremes. That distinction is why I can say both, "The Treaty of Versailles helped make this awfulness happen" and "I fucking hate Hitler."
There were reasons for Bin Laden to hate America. But even if the only thing he'd ever done was to kill 3,000 civilians, that'd still be a decision he made. He had to plan and execute such a thing, in cold blood, and there's no excuse. In my book, that makes him, you know, evil.
It also does not make the past ten years disappear. If we'd caught Bin Laden three months after 9/11, maybe that might have had an impact - maybe then our government wouldn't have been able to use the terror generated by Bin Laden to rob us of rights, subject us to humiliating searches, invade foreign countries for oil, jail people who were only arguably connected with terrorism. But that bee's flown from the box, man; you're not getting it back. It's been a long time, and even Obama occasionally harps on the whole fear thing. It's part of our blood now, like an infection we can't rid ourselves of.
For me, Bin Laden was a visible sign of America's ineffectiveness - for all of Bush's big talk, he still screwed up enough that Bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora, and then he decided shortly after that hey, Saddam Hussein's bad, Bin Laden is bad, they're both the same thing. And then he effectively said, "Bin Laden's not important at this point. Let it go." Note that Obama said, "shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against Al-Qaeda" - which implies strongly that it wasn't a top priority when he arrives. (And yes, that could well be political smoke and mirrors, but assuming he's telling the truth about elevating it to top priority, I certainly believe it wasn't when he got there.)
It was important. Not tactically, maybe, since Bush was technically correct about Bin Laden's impotence, but in the sense that here was the guy who killed 3,000 people and caused untold damage by collapsing two landmarks, and he's just walking.
Ever had your car broken into? Your radio's stolen, your window's smashed, and you're footing the bill. And the cops shrug and say, "Yeah, well, we don't have the manpower to chase down every stolen radio, man. If we run across it, we'll letcha know - but don't call us, we'll call you."
That makes you feel small, stupid, humiliated for coming to a government with problems it clearly doesn't care about. It makes you feel like the cops are barely trying. It makes you feel like you live in a society that's both incompetent and uncaring.
Bad enough when it comes to a radio, man. But when it's three thousand fucking people dead, you want a little more than the beat officer's shrug. You want some men mobilized, and kept mobilized until that's done.
For me, the capture of Bin Laden is the sign that really, America took this shit seriously. Okay, my insurance paid for the broken window and I got another radio and hell, at this point I've bought a new car... But it makes me happy to know that they caught the fucker. It means my government can do something for me, and not just sit back with its thumb up its ass. It means they heard my frustration about the radio, and instead of giving me the coldly realistic answer of, "Do you realize how hard it's going to be to look for that one guy?" they bumped it up on their agenda.
To me, Bin Laden is the fulfillment of a promise. It's the sign that our government can actually carry out promises.
Should I be glad he's dead? Better people than me have argued we should never celebrate a death, and I don't necessarily disagree; it feels barbaric, cheering for someone's head. At the same time, though, we are talkiing about the death of a mass murderer, someone who set out to make people around the world terrified - and I'm not so nice a guy as to not do a little dance on his grave. I think the celebrations are unwisely premature for the people who think this does solve everything, who'll drink some beer and go home as though Bin Laden == End Of Terrorism - but there are extremes. If I'm gonna do the rhumba on someone's corpse, it's Bin Laden.
And so I will dance today. Call me inhuman. If it helps, I feel a little bad as I'm cha-chaing.
Like I've seen in a lot of places: This solves everything. This solves nothing. But it makes me happy to know that after all this time, the dude who masterminded 9/11 didn't get away with it. Not forever.
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