We’re well aware with a title like that we’re going to upset some of our readers. We’re willing to bet that some people might stop checking this blog after they’re done reading this post (if they even bother to read it). Many people will label us as un-American, call us terrorist lovers and other such names. Really, we’re none of those things. Political Progressives is all about America, the greatest nation on Earth – but not because of our military might and our ability to topple nations, but because of what we stand for, what we’re based on. Our writer has said that the Constitution of the United States of America might be one of the most important documents put together, 2nd only to the Holy Bible itself. We don’t support terrorist or those that would do harm to anyone, regardless of nationality, race, sex or creed.
But we also don’t support the response of most Americans after the death of Osama bin Laden was announced by President Barack Obama last night.
We were actually a fan of Obama’s speech, except for the fact that it finally came an hour after it was supposed to start. If you want to check out a video of the speech, you can find it here, or a transcript is available here. We felt it was a perfect blend of telling America what happened, reminding everyone of the reason why it had to happen (discussing the loss felt on 9/11), and telling people what to expect in the future. It was good of Obama to remind us that we are not at war with Islam, something many in our country too often forget. It was also good of him to remind people that our missions throughout the world are far from over. It’s not like because Osama was killed insurgents in Iraq will stop laying IED’s in the road. And bin Laden’s death won’t cause all the corruption within the Karzai government in Afghanistan to vanish, and those people won’t just stop growing and dealing drugs (nor will Americans, either). If anything, Osama’s death puts our troops even further in danger, because even without a leader, you can be sure that al Qaeda will retaliate. But on the whole, we were happy with Obama’s statement.
It’s after the statement was made where things took a strange turn.
We understand that Osama’s death stirred up a lot of confusing feelings in many people, especially those who were personally affected by 9/11. And we thought it was touching when we heard the report that people were gathering where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood, singing God Bless America. That response was appropriate, understandable and even a little heartwarming.
But things didn’t stop there. People were also gathering at the White House, but their chants were a little different. People there sang “Na-na-na-na, hey hey hey, goodbye” and cheered “Yes you can”, an homage to Obama’s “Yes we can” campaign slogan. Some drove down streets, honking horns and waving flags. Throngs of people were cheering bin Laden’s death announcement, proclaiming it a victory for America. Pundits from all ends of the political spectrum talked about how justice was served, and an era had ended. And people continued to celebrate, gathering in groups, cheerful that Osama had been shot in the head.
And that’s where we went wrong.
Don’t get us wrong, we don’t support or condone the evil that bin Laden unleashed on his enemies. Killing innocent civilians for political (or worse – religious) gain is reprehensible. And we also agree that justice needed to be carried out on bin Laden. But was what happened last night really justice? We submit to you that it was not. It was retribution, pure and simple. Did he have that bullet coming? And then some. But as always, there’s a right and a wrong way to do things. We understand the situation was different, but we’ve already shown the world the right way to handle a situation like this – remember what we did with Saddam? He was tried, found guilty, and executed. And even then, there were no parades through the US streets. We recognized it happened, proclaimed it good, and moved on. That’s what should have happened here. And yes, we are well aware that Osama was firing back at the US troops sent in and Saddam didn’t. One of Osama’s cowards went as far as using a woman as a human shield, forcing both to be killed. Still, if we’re going to claim that the strike was called to bring Osama to justice, then he should have been brought to a house of justice (a courtroom) instead of a mechanism for retribution (the end of a barrel of a gun).
But even beyond that, we have serious concerns celebrating a man’s death – even one as evil as bin Laden was. Something didn’t feel right about it to us. Is the world a better place without him? Undoubtedly. But something still didn’t jibe with us, and we’re embarrassed to say it took us the better part of the day to figure this out: that it’s fundamentally wrong to kill, and even more fundamentally wrong to celebrate a killing. We wholeheartedly agree with everything in this commentary piece provided by Salon.com, but we’re especially fond of this quote: “Our reaction to the news last night should be the kind often exhibited by victims’ families at a perpetrator’s lethal injection — a reaction typically marked by both muted relief but also by sadness over the fact that the perpetrators’ innocent victims are gone forever, the fact that the perpetrator’s death cannot change the past, and the fact that our world continues to produce such monstrous perpetrators in the first place. When we lose the sadness part — when all we do is happily scream “USA! USA! USA!” at news of yet more killing in a now unending back-and-forth war — it’s a sign we may be inadvertently letting the monsters win.”
And make no mistake about it, that’s exactly the message we’re sending. Even in his death, Osama achieved what he set out to do (at least in part): he has fundamentally (helped to) change our country’s culture and beliefs in a single decade. Remember when we talked about the things that made America great? One of those things is our belief that all men are created with an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We’re not saying that were he captured, Osama shouldn’t have been executed in accordance with the law. What we are saying is that life is the most treasured right we have as humans, and that if we ever do need to take away that right, it should not be celebrated. This interesting commentary from The Agitator points out all the polices and attitudes that bin Laden was able to change in America before he died, and the article concludes with this excellent quote: “That we managed to kill him a decade after the September 11 attacks is symbolically important, but hardly seems worth the celebrations we saw across the country last night. There was something unsettling about watching giddy crowds bounce around beach balls and climb telephone polls last night, as if they were in the lawn seats at a rock festival. Solemn and somber appreciation that an evil man is gone seemed like the more appropriate reaction. Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.”
Osama bin Laden was an unquestionably evil man who deserved to die for the suffering, hardship and death he unleashed on the world. But the celebration of his death is morally unacceptable and isn’t progressive. We’d like to conclude with this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
As always, comments and criticisms are welcome, but please be respectful of viewpoints different than your own.