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To the Victors Go the Vanquished

by on May 2, 2011

I am an amalgamation of all that I read.  Therefore, the many responses I have to the death of Osama Bin Ladin have already been written.  There are Americans chanting “USA!  USA!” in the streets; a feat that does not often happen.  There are people who say “so what?”  There are people who are happy, who are mad, who are mostly indifferent.  I feel I am all of these.

Let’s accept the proposition that Bin Ladin planned the attacks on the World Trade Center, the attacks on several US embassies in the ’90s, and other attacks.  Does that justify his death?  I accept the notion of the death penalty; it seems a more cost-effective (including emotional and societal costs) route than life in prison, which must be funded, even with the flaws and mistakes of prosecutions.  I accept even more strongly, though, the belief that we follow the rule of law, and not just the rule of law but the law that is morally right.  Is death for Osama acceptable because we say it is?

I am not proud that my country killed Osama.  I felt a moment of interest when I read the news, and I can appreciate that the president did something he said he’d do, even if I’m not convinced that Osama – or the War on Terror – is worth pursuing.  I wasn’t jumping up and down yelling “USA!;” the death of an individual is much less a national accomplishment than the victory of a nation.  This isn’t is a victory; optimist though I am I do not see this being the end to the War on Terror.

Politically, at least in the short term, this helps Obama on both a domestic and international level.  He’ll receive great praise in the US for this – he already has – and his campaign can use this to show that he does what he says he’ll do.  Conversely, and simultaneously, if he uses the ‘tough guy’ card in his campaign as America becomes more and more tired of being involved in two officially unofficial wars, and a third unofficial war (Libya), (if we include Yemen it’s four, and Pakistan it would be five officially unofficial wars), Obama’s support from peace-seeking Democrats will plummet.  At the same time, this helps Obama on an international level, if he chooses to pursue peace and not ‘tough guy.’  It gives Al Qaeda  a reason either to fight or to stop fighting, depending on how Obama can use this to his advantage.  It gives him leverage as well with allies, and it gives allies leverage against the US as they can argue that the US no longer has a cause to fight for.

My interest in the death of Osama Bin Ladin is mostly political.  I have written in the last about fear of government, about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Peace Process, and about international intervention.  Our fear of our own government has become justified over the past decade.  We have great reason to fear that the death – assassination, really – of Osama is just an extension of the many things we should fear about our government.  It is inescapable to observe the Middle East and ignore the effects of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; most violence directed from the Middle East (or indeed the world) toward the West is rooted in the inability to make steps to solve, or ameliorate, the problem.  We, the ‘West,’ have spent a long time engaged in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq.  In at least one of those ‘engagements’ our goal was to get revenge for 9/11.  At what point do we move on?

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