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Monday, May 02, 2011

A Letter to America

Dear Uncle Sam,

so you have killed Osama Bin Laden, taken him out in an impressive - most likely - unilateral covert operation. Navy Seals flying into Pakistan, just a few miles outside of Islamabad, storming into a heavily secure compound and leaving dead behind Bin Laden's son, two of his couriers and an unspecified woman. The 'bad-asses who killed Bin Laden' as BusinessInsider calls them, really seem like the personification of hyperreality, James Bond or Matt Damon in the Bourne Identities.

Now, what I don't understand are three aspects of this hit and its reception:

Firstly, why do people turn out and celebrate it the way they would a victory of their baseball team?
Fans called it out at a Mets-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia: “U-S-A! U-S-A!” In Columbus, Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch reported that more than 1,000 people came out on the Ohio State University campus to share that same call. “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

More than two hours after President Obama’s address, a boisterous crowd of at least 1,000 people had gathered in front of the White House echoed that chorus (“U-S-A! U-S-A!”), while climbing trees, smoking cigars, and cheering loudly.
Why would you celebrate the death of someone? Irrespective of what Bin Laden has done, why should his death be the cause of celebration? Satisfaction maybe, content, closure, but celebration?

Secondly, according to President Obama 'just has been done' with the killing of Bin Laden. I don't know about you Uncle Sam, but for me justice is something involving lawyers, courts, judges, fundamental judicial rights and all that. It is not sending in a commando with the order to kill. If this is justice, it is a biblical variety (an eye for an eye...) that I would have thought the enlightenment had gotten rid for us.

Which brings me to my third and last point. Why did you send a team with such a narrowly defined order? Why did you not try to capture him? Put him on trial to show the world who and what he is: A mass murderer who has not dared to fight (and die) himself since at least Afghanistan in the 1980s (and even for that period his myth as a warrior most likely overshadows the boring reality of a moneymaker). You could have exposed him as fake, as just another hypocrite, as just a - cruel, but still - human being worthy of punishment. The world would have seen you as the better man, as the one who chooses the path of the right over the righteous one. Even from a realpolitik point of view Bin Laden's exposure would have contributed to your image in a way that a covert operation and a body dropped in the sea never will.

Bin Laden is dead thus and while the strategic importance of this event seems to negligible, it serves as a reminder of what mystifies me about you sometimes. 'Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country.' Obama said yesterday. Really? The killing of a run-down, hiding, aged terrorist? Aren't there thousands of other exponents that make the US great? The great American writers - Faulkner, Hemingway, Poe, Twain. The musicians - Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and countless others. Take the excitement of an NBA playoff field if you want a low-brow example, Chris Paul in a losing effort, Memphis' team game, Kevin Durant, even Kobe in his indomitable, ever-burning desire.

This whole thing confuses me. And don't take me wrong - even though I know some of you will - I'm not really judging, I just don't understand.


Benjamin Thomas Sutpen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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