Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Musings: The Death of Usama

The twisted titular head of Al Qaeda is dead. Kudos to President Obama (his address to the nation struck exactly the right tone), his national security and intelligence teams and, in particular, the special forces who carried out the mission so quickly, thoroughly and professionally – without harming innocent civilians.
Mark Twain perfectly captured my feelings about this: "I never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." It’s hard not to identify with the excitement of the crowds celebrating the end of this hatemonger. And I truly hope it provides some degree of closure for those who lost loved ones on 9/11 or in Afghanistan.
But I worry we’re making too much of this. I was never comfortable with how we (meaning mostly the media and government) turned bin Laden into the “boogie man.” The FBI “Most Wanted” photo of his bearded face with its hooded and slightly dead eyes became the symbol of Islamic fundamentalism and evil. (I’m sure quite a few people have had nightmares featuring those cold eyes.)
By making him the symbol of the problem, his death may cause people to think the problem of terrorism in the name of religion will go away or lessen. That’s not going to happen. (Religious hatred has been around as long as there’s been religion so one man’s death isn’t going to reduce it.) Bin Laden has been nothing but propagandist and provocateur for some time, with no real control over anything. He spun off a spider’s web of groups that are carrying on the Al Qaeda agenda with no help from him. The hatred he fomented will not change with him dead. Fanatics will continue to kill and maim in the pursuit of fundamental and extreme religious views.
At least bin Laden is gone, dropped into the ocean where he belongs. I always worried about what would happen if we captured or killed him. Put on trial, and he would have had a pulpit to spew his venom. Lock him up in Gitmo and his mere presence would have inspired attacks. Killed and buried, and fanatics would have a martyr’s grave to visit. I always thought it’d be best if he just disappeared so, to that extent, the decision to dump his body into the ocean is the best possible outcome. He certainly got a much fairer shake than any of his victims.
Here’s to the end of all hatred and extremism - and to the spread of peace, acceptance, tolerance and understanding in its place.

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