Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Thoughts on Bin Laden's Death

Sunday night, I was at my friends’ house watching a movie when I hopped on Twitter for a moment and saw the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. As I kept reading, I kept seeing responses from people to this historic news.

Frankly, part of me was still trying to figure out how I felt about it. And now almost two days later, I’m still in that boat. Part of me is glad. This is a man who was the leader that people were following on 9/11 and on previous attacks against America. Yet he is now residing in Hell for all eternity. He deserves to be punished for his crimes. He must face justice. But the idea of anyone residing in Hell for all eternity makes me sad. There is a finality to death that makes any unbeliever’s death sad. After all, I deserve hell just as much as Bin Laden.

Having said that, I can understand those who were celebrating. We’ve been after him for 15 years. This has been a long goal of our country. Seeing a goal completed is a reason to celebrate. However, even some of that went too far for my tastes. Rioting or near riots? Burning him in effigy? The guy is already dead, and that’s the way that the Muslim world celebrated 9/11. We should be better than that.

Now, I am not a supporter of President Obama at all, but I will give the man credit for the hard decisions he made in how this operation was conducted. He made a good call that could have also been a complete disaster. It turned out well. As one commentator said, no matter what else happens during his Presidency, he can always rightly claim that he was the man who gave the order to kill Bin Laden.

But there is so much more credit to go around. How about the men who actually went on the mission. They risked their lives. And I am going to say it – what about President Bush? Just because Bin Laden wasn’t capture on his watch doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying. It is sounding like the strike this weekend was the results of years of intelligence that started under his watch. I’ll go back even further. As I said, we’ve been hunting this man for 15 years. That would be back under President Clinton. I’ve heard the rumor that there was a chance to capture him back in the 90’s that Clinton turned down. I’ve never seen proof of that, so I am going to say that this weekend was the result of a policy that started under Clinton. I’m willing to give that policy some credit, too.

There is lots of time to sit back and analyze this and figure out what went right and what we could have done different earlier to catch him sooner. I hope as that comes in we will not use it to entrench our side and point fingers at the other. Yes, everyone got something right and something wrong. Is it too much to ask that we accept blame and praise in equal measures and try to learn something from all this?

Sadly, I fear the answer is yes. Sunday night I was already seeing responses from people who wanted to rub it in that President Bush hadn’t caught Bin Laden. The body wasn’t even cold, and we were already using it for political points? Still others could only react, “I wonder how the Tea Party will spin this in their favor.” In that kind of political environment, can we really expect anyone to admit they made a mistake or give their “opponent” some credit. Sadly, I fear that won’t be the case.

I also saw people saying that now we can bring our troops home. Remember, we are fighting terrorists and Al Queda, not just Bin Laden. He was the leader, but I’m sure there are others ready to take his place. This is a big milestone in the war, but it is not the climax. Until there aren’t people out there training to kill us, we need to be hunting down terrorists.

Ironically, this all happened on the day before Rudy’s birthday. Rudy is my friend who was killed in Afghanistan. And maybe that’s why this didn’t leave me rejoicing as much. I have seen the cost of this fight.

So yes, a very evil man is dead. The world is a better place because of it. Less evil is a reason to rejoice, but the fact that a man is dead should sadden us some. This is a time for sober rejoicing and not wild abandon or speculation.


Brian said...

Great post Mark. Apparently, the operation also resulted in the recovery of tons of information about the terrorist network and planned attacks. Computers, records, and other data that the CIA and the other intel services will have to scour (and hopefully be able to get some helpful info out of).

I think you put it in the right context on giving Obama credit. He did have to give the order and if you know anything about history when it comes to these types of operations -- it's not something that any leader takes lightly. We didn't walk into his hideout on American soil, but in a foreign country. International law typically forbids such actions, but Obama did not cower. He could have, especially given there was at least one human shield.

Good point on giving Bush some credit. At the very least, he got the ball rolling. Again, he never cowered. I still believe he had a legitimate reason to go into Iraq and I still believe that the Iraqi government either destroyed (or more likely hid) the WMD. My belief is that these will turn up someday in Syria or someplace like that.

My understanding with Clinton is that there was somewhat of a similar operation, where they had him in their sights, but there were too many human shields or something. In a pre-9/11 era, I can understand this. Post 9/11, I don't think Clinton would have called off the operation.

The SEALs no doubt deserve huge amounts of credit. To go into hostile territory and complete an operation like that is amazing.

Credit really should go all around from the service members, to our intel services, to our leadership in Washington. This was 15 (closer to 18) years of work, that came to a finish in just under 40 minutes.

I get the celebration. You bring up a good point about the lost though. I think the celebration of the victory is warranted. We have had many victory celebrations during and after war over our nation's history.

Good post.

Mark said...

As I was discussing with my family, there is a difference between celebrating the end of a war and the death of a man. If this were truly the end of a war, I'd be out there celebrating with everyone else.

I don't remember for sure what the deal is/was with the Clinton attempt to get him. I just remember thinking every time it's brought up that I could see his side. After all, as you pointed out, it was pre-9/11.

My theory on the WMD? Iraq didn't have them, but Saddam thought he did because he was being lied to by his officers. We were getting the exact same faulty information, so we thought he had them, too. Either way, it certainly wasn't a lie on Bush or anyone else's part here in the states. But maybe that's going too far into conspiracy theory territory.