Pyrrhic

We have killed Osama Bin Laden

We have killed Osama Bin Laden. My nation is united today with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and closure. There is a sense that somehow this victory belongs to us all.

I don’t want it. This is not my victory, and if that makes me a bad American, than so be it.

Let me be abundantly clear, I will shed no tears over this death. My own spiritual beliefs and gods value just revenge. Given the chance I would have lost no sleep over taking this life. But with those who attacked this nation nearly a decade ago dead in that very attack, Bin Laden became the focus for the United States’ thirst for vengeance.

There are many reasons, that I cannot share in the glory of my countrymen.

First and foremost, I didn’t kill the mastermind behind the attacks of 9/11/01. If we are to revel in this death, honor is surely due above all to the ones who stormed his mansion, the one who pulled the fateful trigger, and those who designed the attack plan itself.

That said, the overwhelming reveling throughout my nation in this death shakes me. A man is dead, granted, a truly horrific one, and one that by all rights deserved his death. But to see America so united in celebration over their/our vengeance frightens me. We have become what Osama Bin Laden made us. He has shaped, and even corrupted our nation’s soul in a way that disturbs me.

In our hunger for vengeance and fear of attack what have we forged ourselves into? We have bankrupted ourselves financially and morally. Becoming all too like our enemies in our quest to “ensure American safety,” a worthy goal, but at the cost of what has made our nation a beacon of freedom for a hundred years.

Let us not forget the detritus left on the road to this victory:

  • Over $1 Trillion Dollars spent on multi-front warfare.
  • Thousands of American lives lost
  • Untold numbers of soldiers wounded or suffering from mental health issues and TBI
  • Civilian death estimates ranging from the tens to hundreds of thousands
  • The United States engaging in state sanctioned torture
  • Suspension of Habeas Corpus
  • Domestic Surveillance
  • Progressively more dehumanizing, yet largely ineffectual security theater in public transportation
  • A wave of anti-Muslim sentiment that has included attempts to ban them from building sacred space, verbal and physical assault, sometimes on women and children, politicians calling for Islam to be reclassified not as a religion in order to disallow 1st Amendment protections for Muslims, boycotts of companies that make food that fits Muslim dietary restrictions (while many companies produce food that fit other religions’ proscriptions on foodstuffs)

Looking over the above list, one could be forgiven for thinking that I am anti-war. The truth is that I am not. Spiritually and morally I value violence and warfare as a path to resolution of conflict and righting of evil. I pray regularly for other paths to take precedence, but sometimes war is the path that the Fates choose. Nor, while the death tolls are terrible, do I feel that they are particularly central to my lack of celebration in Osama Bin Laden’s death. I study WWII as a hobby, a war where a single battle could easily cost more lives than all those listed above.

The truth is that it is today’s celebrations that crystalize my fears about the path Osama bin Laden has set my country on. On 9/11/01 our people were unified in sorrow, but today we are unified in bloodlust. Nearly a decade ago, the world mourned with us, today we triumph alone.

As I sit on my bed typing this essay, I can turn my head and see my Kimber Ultra Carry II 45ACP sitting in my open nightstand drawer. Next to it is my ex-husband’s Glock 19, the first gun I ever bought. My gun is rarely far from my side, and I have lived this way since my family was attacked nearly six years ago by a homophobe with a stolen Beretta.

The parallels to the changes in our country are inescapable. Which is perhaps why I am so concerned. People, good people, ask me all the time if I could use my sidearm. If the need arose, could I really pull the trigger and end a life. When I answer with an unqualified affirmative, the responses ranges from relief to disgust. I have looked deep into my soul and found the certain knowlege that I could kill. Many of my fellow citizens find that aspect of my being incredibly alien to their experience and identity, and I can respect that.

Yet caught in the tide of retribution, those same people revel in the glory of having sent Bin Laden into Death. Today their souls are washed in another man’s blood and they embrace it in the name of justice.

We American’s have watched as our nation has been twisted into a parody of itself in the pursuit of what the Bush administration branded “The Global War on Terror.” On 9/11/01 we were attacked by people directed by someone who wished to destroy our way of life and strike at the very soul of what it meant to be an American.

As our people glorify in bloodshed and death I can’t help but imagine that somewhere beyond the last grey river, in whatever awaits one such as himself in the underworld, Osama Bin Laden is celebrating a victory of his own.

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8 thoughts on “Pyrrhic

  1. I disagree about the bloodlust here. What you saw last night, the celebration at Bin Laden’s death was a collective exhalation of relief at almost 10 years of overdue closure. This was the spontaneous celebration at the end of Return of The Jedi when the rebels took out the Empire and the Emperor was killed. This is when Buffy kills the Big Bad at the end of a season.

    This is not taking glory in the bloodshed of innocents. This is a halleluja that “ding dong the witch is dead.” This is the we made it to the end of the horror movie and the creature is killed.

    Of course, the creature comes back in the end. Dorothy went back to Kansas. There’s always another Big Bad. And there is a galactic government in shambles that needs to be put back together.

    But right now? This is tantamount to Batman putting an end to the Joker and freeing Gotham from his evil clutches once and for all… So until the next super villain rises up to take his place there is celebration. Release of 10 years of fear. Many of those dancing in the streets were kids who were in elementary school growing up with Bin Laden as boogeyman, or who were IN NYC or at or around the Pentagon on 9/11.

    There is release. Catharsis. Given the day it happened, are you truly surprised?

  2. Really?

    What has this death accomplished for the families of those who had a loved one die in relation to the World Trade Center tragedy? Their family member is still dead.

    I think it’s a massive stretch of logic to think that the death of one man makes everything better. Given that the United States has perpetrated larger body-count crimes than than the crime he was involved in, I would think we would be a little more humble than to wave a flag over the death of ONE man because he’s not the Wicked Witch…given that ties to ‘terrorism’ have been made with Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, who are none too happy with us.

    This IS bloodlust, innocent or not, because people are forgetting that he was not the only person involved and that they, as individuals, did not kill him. I have no claim on that victory. There have been more innocents killed in the aftermath of the disaster than were killed in it.

    As for supervillians, it seems that we are blind the terrorists in our own country.

  3. I can’t edit, so I’ll add on.

    Separatist insurgents have celebrated the deaths of American and allied troops. The responses to this death are disturbingly similar to the coverage of such. How does this make ‘us’ any different from ‘them’? We are not innocent in all of us.

  4. ::deep breath::

    Ok, so. Yes, everything you say is correct, AB, in that we have not done everything right. Much of that was done by a Commander in Chief who knew Bin Laden was in Pakistan yet decided to go after Saddam instead. And we bought his propaganda on the reasons why to do it.

    What I am addressing specifically was the inital reaction to the news of Bin Laden’s death. There is a vast difference between celebrating the death of one man who was the master-mind the killing of thousands of people, and dancing in the streets when the towers fell killing civilians.

    If you don’t understand the difference, I am not sure I can explain it to you.

    No, this won’t bring family members back. It won’t make everything better. I don’t know you so I don’t know if you lost anyone that day. I have people directly affected by that day. Some who are rather sick because of working clean up. This is a relief for them.

    If you have never gone a long time without any sense of closure on an issue, I can’t express this sense of relief either. I used a lot of metaphor above because that’s how I communicate. It is a vast relief. One, I am betting, because we have come to live with an acceptance that this man would never come to justice, that came as a surprise when it was released. It’s a catharsis. Some might *finally* be able to let it go now that otherwise couldn’t.

    Now, there is the “What comes next?”

    Will there be a retaliatory attack? Will Al Qada crumble? Will something else take its place? What about China? How do we make up for the last guy that was in office that made such a mess of it all in the first place?

    And some won’t be able to let go.

    But until we start seeing what comes next – I am reserving judgment on that display from last night. Because THAT was a spontaneous release of pressure.

    If celebration continues… then I’d agree – we’ve got problems.

  5. I woke up today, and with Bin Laden dead, nothing changes. The towers are still down, people died, our freedoms are slowly ebbing away, hatred is propagated as fact, and people who have no claim to this killing cheer and glory in it.

    But we’re not Romans, dragging our captives through the streets before feeding them to lions for a cheering crowd, we’re more civilized than that, or I’d like to think we are. Glorying in death and violence they way we have is barbaric and uncalled for. I’m glad he’s dead, but I mourn for what we have lost, and what we are losing, as a nation.

    I don’t even really disagree with this as an act of vengeance – I can’t say it wasn’t called for. But while satisfying, relieving and cathartic, it doesn’t solve anything. And taking a life sucks, no matter how much they deserve it, no matter how right it is to do so. Dancing in the streets, celebrating, particularly in light of the way those who attacked us reacted and gloried, in the way we have reacted to our own atrocities, just seems disturbing and wrong, and it makes me uncomfortable on levels I can’t even begin to explain yet.

  6. My first response–I’d been away from the news–was “It doesn’t count until you bring me his head.” OTOH, I’m a LARPer, so, I’m used to the big bad that keeps coming back. OT3H, he seems to have read _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_, and al Qeda isn’t gone, not by a long shot. OT4H, his plan set my country down a very bad path, I do not mourn his death, and I raise a glass to the SEAL team and other folks who did the op.

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