Monday, May 02, 2011

bin Laden

I'm trying to sort through my feelings about the assassination of Osama bin Laden.  To say the least they are complicated.  I couldn't even really organize them the way I wanted.  I tried to create a narrative but I ended up ennumerate them instead.

1.  I remember a conversation back in '02 or '03 with a friend of mine about the hunt for OBL.  I said there was no way he would be taken alive.  Even if he surrendered what 20-something soldier isn't going to put a bullet in this guy's head?  And apparently, that was never going to happen.  Giving what I know, if I had been the one sitting in the White House I would have given the same order. Note, as I'm typing this NPR reports that Obama issued a statement that bin Laden would have been taken alive if possible.  I'm taking a few grains of salt.

2.  Obama said in his speech last night that "justice has been done."  No, it wasn't.  I'm happy that bin Laden is no longer a threat to our nation. I'm happy that he no longer provides leadership - be it real or symbolic - to al Qaeda.  Justice, however, is meted out via an unbiased legal system.  Assassinating a man in his home is revenge.

3.  Bin Laden was staying in a million dollar compound built 5 to 6 years ago in a city near a Pakistani military base.  A city that is a favorite of retired military leaders.  It seems unreasonable to say Pakistan did not know he was there.  They seem to have looked the other way for years while he lived in their midst.  And they seem to have looked the other way as our helicopters flew within miles of their military base and took him out.  Again, on NPR as I'm typing, Pakistan is saying they believe OBL moved in only in the last week or two.  Time to take a few more grains of salt.

4.  While I'm happy bin Laden is gone, while I would have given the same order in Obama's place, I find the celebrations over the death of human being, no matter how vile and repugnant, somehow perverse, vile and repugnant itself.

5.  Bin Laden's body was reportedly burried at sea and predictably is being criticized by some imams.  Once killed this was a no win situation for the U.S. and I'd say they did the best thing.  They burried the body within 24 hours as Islamic tradition dictates and they did so in a way that made sure his grave could not become a rallying / pilgrimage location.

6.  Bin Laden's body was positively identified when DNA was matched against that of a deceased sister.  The deceased sister's died of brain cancer in the Boston and the U.S. government has possession of the brain.  As far as I know, DNA is DNA, so I have no idea why they kept her brain versus some other tissue sample.

7.  The same people that say slaying bin Laden is a great victory for the U.S., in the same breath, say that the U.S. is still in danger and must remain on constant vigilance against terrorist violence.  These two statements are at least partially contradictory.  If bin Laden was such a grave threat his killing should reduce the terrorist threat to our nation.  If it doesn't then his death isn't all that strategically important.  See #2, justice vs. revenge.

8.  Bin Laden's death will have only a minimal impact on the 2012 elections.  Gas prices and the economy will the be the ultimate arbitors deciding winners and losers.

9.  The stock market proves again that it is driven entirely on emotion,  mostly fear.  We kill a man who only released one amateur video tape a year threatening The West, but hasn't successfully followed through in 6 or 7 years, and has been hiding in a non-oil producing country for a decade, and oil prices plummet.  Nevermind that the a civil war continues in a country that actually produces a large amount of oil.

10.  I've heard claims that victims of U.S. torture gave up information that lead to finding bin Laden. I remain dubious of these unsourced claims.  My taste buds are being overpowered by salt.  Even if true it does not make torture right.  Even if you accept the 'imminent threat' excuse for torture - and I don't - bin Laden was not about to launch an attack.  We are better than what they are.  Or we should be.  And we should never, ever torture.

11.  Another quote from Obama's speech, “Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of the American people.”  Talk about lowering expectation.  A team of some of the most highly trained warriors the world has ever known killing a 54 year old on dialysis makes a nation great?  Off the top of my head here are a some other ideas: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rightsgoing to the moon, humanitarian relief after the Aceh earthquake and tsunami, rebuilding Eurpoe including Germany after WWII.

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