Monday, May 02, 2011

On Osama bin Laden's Death

I heard about it last night in the president's speech and then watched people celebrating (USA! USA!) on television. The three vibrant young people I knew, one very well, who died in the World Trade Towers and were never found are still dead. The mother of one of them who died because of her son's death is still dead, too.

And so are all those Afghanis and all those Iraqis and all those members of American military forces who have died in the last ten years since 911. Many among them were not combatants. Justice was not done to them, though perhaps it was done to bin Laden, as Obama stated in television last night.

Was revenge done? And was it a revenge for the USA as those celebrants seem to argue or for the actual victims of 911? I understand revenge, I do. Had you offered me the chance to kill the creator of the 911 carnage a week or so later, after all those phone calls, all that searching and all that suffering I watched so closely...

But even then what I wanted was an international police operation, a court and proper sentencing. Criminals should not be made into warriors, crime should not be turned into war. That way come the martyrs for a cause and the chance to grow it. But we all know what actually took place.

What does the death of bin Laden mean? It has mythical meanings and those are different for the American people in general, for those who lost someone either in the 911 massacre or the wars following it, and those are also different for people in Pakistan or for members of Al Qaeda. Which myths will matter the most in the future shaping of events remains to be seen.

Bin Laden's death also has practical meanings. What those will be depends partly on the battle of the myths, but they also depend on who it is who in fact runs Al Qaeda if anyone does. Then there is the practical meaning of the fact that bin Laden lived in the suburbs of the capital of Pakistan a city halfway between Islamabad and Peshawar* and not in some tribal area in the hinterlands as we were told.

I'm not sure that justice was done. For that crime must be swiftly followed by proper court proceedings and the appropriate punishment. What we got instead was a religious fanatic playing cat and mouse against the most powerful military on earth. With ten years of success.
*Thanks for this correction go to N. in the comments.