Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama is dead

I dithered for longer than I usually do about the title of this entry.  I don't often like to start writing an entry without a title.  It's not because I have any particular muse which feeds from the fountain, but a compulsive need to organize.  In the absence of a proper title field, Blogger will save the entry's URL as the first line of the body text, which is often not what I want to say -- imagine my shame if this entry was  Eternal shame!

There is a practical side to it, too.  Having a fixed title tends to corral my natural tendency to wordily wander of my path and become lost in the thickets of my own musings.  This title is obviously a reference to the events of yesterday, May 1 2011: the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden.

I am no political science enthusiast.  While I try to stay informed about the events of state, I find myself eventually disgusted with the rancor and have to put away my ears for a while.  Last night's presidential announcement -- the watching of it -- was a bit of a stretch for me personally.  I've never been particularly interested in watching presidents give speeches.  I usually just read the after action reports.

When Obama was inaugurated in 2009, I had it on but kept the volume low enough to where I could not understand it.  Part of me wanted to see it, but another part of me was desperately afraid he'd be assassinated as I watched. I have no rational reason to expect that outcome -- I think it's just years of seeing quasi-samizdat footage of such events in movies.  People always get shot when making speeches for TV.

Last night's address was no different.  Watching the president look me in the eye through my HDTV, close to life size, sent shivers down my spine even as he said his opening words.  The reality of watching historic moments happen in real-time just overwhelms me.

And so Osama is dead.

I do not celebrate his death.  The cries of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" make me shake my head.  This moment of national blood lust is the defining attitude of the country?  People from coast to coast cheering and shouting obscenities, climbing lampposts, pouring alcohol on each other... reveling in the carnival of death.  How distasteful.

I do not regret his death.  He ultimately failed in his quest to establish the caliphate.  He succeeded in orchestrating the death of Muslims.  He lived out his life in relative isolation, watching the Arab Spring bring change to the world in ways he probably despised: through democratic surges and the desire for freedom and pluralism.

This editorial on Al Jazeera's site has the pertinent summary, I feel.

He might appear to have died with a bang. But he had long since died with a whimper.

In violent death, he may gain some prestige.  But his world is over.

In the end, this photo (larger versions at the link) from the White House of government officials watching the raid speaks for me.  Look at Obama's face.  No joy, no exultation -- only the tense jaw of a man who's shouldered the decision to end the life of someone he's never met, ten thousand miles away. 

And look at Hillary Clinton.  Her face.

"It is well that war is so terrible, lest we would grow too fond of it."  -- General Robert E. Lee, surveying the battle at Fredricksburg in 1862.

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