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Guest Thinkers

Reconciling Our American Ideals with the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

The death of Osama Bin Laden caught the country by surprise. There was no warning, no preamble, no crescendo of media build up, just a simple announcement that crackled through the air waves while America was going to bed on Sunday, May 1st. By Monday morning, the entire operation was over, from the “go” command to the death to the burial at sea.

Now, in the aftermath, with cable news shows that have too much time to fill, some members of the nation’s punditocracy want to call Pakistan on the carpet for what they see as the unforgiveable transgression of harboring our nation’s most wanted enemy. These professional political prognosticators are in many ways more slippery than Al Qaeda. Many of them have written columns and made comments on cable news shows this week that do not fully convey the fractured nature of the inside knowledge they often possess about the type of delicate diplomatic dance that likely took place behind the scenes between Pakistan and the U.S. prior to last weekend’s raid.

Many people are unsettled by the idea that Osama Bin Laden was killed instead of being captured and put on trial. I am at a loss to understand people like this and an obsessive need to promote the image of American ideological purity that is so strong it has caused them to temporarily forget that the United States didn’t mind Bin Laden back when he was killing people we didn’t like.    

“We’re Americans.  Americans don’t kill anyone in cold blood.  People like Osama kill other people in cold blood.  And we gunned down Osama in cold blood.  He had no weapon.  There was no big firefight, just one guy with a gun.  Shit, the guy was living in a upstairs dungeon for six years.  

We’re no better than they are.  Say it.  We did what Osama wanted, which was to be gunned down in cold blood, because we’re stupid and without honor.  Now he’s a martyr.  Just another dumb move, one among many.”

Comment from liberal progressive website member at Daily Kos

On Fox News, where the entire slate of news and entertainment commentators have been toiling day after day for the death of the Obama presidency, Osama Bin Laden’s death wasn’t even a bump in the road for their oratorical hit squad. They have refashioned their illogical, highly imaginative narratives virtually on the fly, which now all seem to include an obligatory moment of congratulations to the president for ordering the killing of Osama Bin Laden before they begin spewing their latest version of how much Obama hates America.

To top all of this off, it has been my buddy from Alabama, an African American who is an avid gun owner, NRA member, and Obama 2012 supporter, who surprised me the most last week with his own pronouncement. “They murdered Bin Laden.”

Who was this on the phone? Was this the same guy who is ready to shoot anyone who breaks into his home or threatens to harm his family?

I can appreciate the agony of conscience that the more thoughtful among us are going through as they try to reconcile American ideals with the reality of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but I think they’ve all got it backwards.

Instead of trying to shoehorn the reality of Osama Bin Laden’s death into the idealized vision of American justice, these folks need to consider revising the ideals we claim to stand for as a nation to better fit the truth of the harsh, violent, and unyielding reality we have meted out for decades, both domestically and abroad. 


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