People flooded into the streets to celebrate the death of this villain who claimed to be the mastermind of the horrific events on September 11, 2001, a crime forever marking the people of the United States and beyond. Confronted with a death of such magnitude, I suspect many weren’t sure how to respond.
Joy is not what I experienced; maybe relief. I took comfort in what I heard a woman’s whose husband was lost in the inferno at the World Trade Center say: “I don’t experience joy at the death of anyone. My husband is still dead.” She didn’t say she wished that bin Laden was still alive, only that as someone who lived with death daily she didn’t feel “joy” at this news.
In the still outpouring of details about the assassination, which I confess to have read as they have emerged, and the speculation about what this death means in the “War on Terror”, which I have assiduously avoided, I found my attention turning to the past. In the case of bin Laden it wasn’t to sum up his contributions to the world but rather a reflection on the damage he did.
Apart from the death and destruction wrought that morning ten years ago, there have been other things that might be included in the obituary of Osama bin Laden. In its obituary, the New York Times reported that bin Laden hoped that if he were killed in an attack, the Muslim world would rise up and defeat the country responsible. But I discovered that Comley Beattie put into words some other things I felt should also be included:
Truth is we were defeated with a weapon of mass destruction called the Patriot Act—you know, after 9-11, when Congress passed it and G. Bush signed into law the sacrifice of our rights.I had another item for inclusion in the obituary. Osama bin Laden had a victory when his action provided justification for the Bush administration to approve torture as an official instrument of policy.
More than 6,000 US troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we've killed over a million Iraqi and Afghan civilians under the pretense of multiple pretenses. Trillions of dollars have been spent.
The assassination of bin Laden doesn't bring peace of mind or troops home. Nor does it end the suffering of those in war-ravaged countries.
The euphemism of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, or Verschärfte Vernehmung, was a term coined in Germany in 1937 to describe torture that would leave no marks. It was designed to save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. It was torture that in 1948 Nuremburg specifically denounced and convicted Nazis as war criminals for using.
There has been a rush by some to claim that this torture produced intelligence that resulted in the location of bin Laden. That’s not what I heard former director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, say on NBC News following the assassination of bin Laden. He said
We had a multiple source -- a multiple series of sources -- that provided information with regards to the situation. Clearly some of it came from detainees and the interrogation of detainees but we also had information from other sources as well.Even if such information was critical in locating bin Laden, does that mean the United States is justified in using the very “enhanced interrogation techniques” we condemned at Nuremburg?
As heinous as the attacks on 9/11 were and the unimaginable suffering they caused, Osama bin Laden may have himself rejoiced at the crimes he prompted us to commit in the “War on Terror.” He provoked us to act more like he always imagined us to be.
I do not mean this as a rebuke to our President. He is trying to clean up a mess not of his making. Unlike some friends on both the left and the right, there is no one I trust more to sort all of this out.
Al-Qaeda is doubtless still a threat; but if we think that many of the policies enacted to fight Al-Qaeda are not equally threats to us as well, we deceive only ourselves. Like the attack on 9/11, these are also crimes to remember, and until these policies have been rescinded, justice has not been done.
Coming Soon: "Economic Crimes to Remember"