Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. A few points:
It’s too easy to think, as a politically active Conservative, that this is bad for the Republican Party because this is a victory for our current President. I’d rather not fall into the trap of zero-sum virtue; besides, while Liberal commentators would never acknowledge Bush’s role in laying the foundation for this, Obama’s choices and actions will have vindicated his predecessor’s policies. Let’s not forget that we can congratulate our President and not want him for re-election in 2012 anyway.
On the matter of the apparent vulgarity of the celebrations last night, perhaps the best response is from Aaron Brazell (emphasis mine):
We all mourned in our own ways on September 11, 2001 and that was expected. We all now have an opportunity for closure and that process cannot be dictated. People are wounded and scarred. This news is a reminder of that day 10 years ago and, like me, many are now re-living it. However one gets the necessary closure at this time, let it be done and get out of peoples way.
— Aaron Brazell: Osama, Closure
It may seem tasteless to remind everyone that 9/11 is not the only act of warfare Bin Laden has committed against us; in fact his ties to 9/11 aren’t as solid compared to Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s. Bin Laden may never have stood a chance at a fair trial in this country, especially since he’s issued plenty of broadcasts taking responsibility for his actions.
This is the dirty part of warfare: 9/11 has basically changed the rules. Stateless agents acting as terrorists can no longer be merely considered criminals, but as—I hate the term—”enemy combatants.” A nation can now declare war on groups of individuals, especially since a group has declared war against an entire nation. So assassinating Bin Laden on sovereign Pakistani territory is a little bit of a state action against a stateless individual. It’s messy, but it’s what we’ve got.
In a perfect world, private mercenaries acting as stateless agents could’ve committed this assassination on Pakistani soil. Following the same rules of warfare 9/11 has written for us, the Pakistani government really could only declare war on them. But the world isn’t perfect, and Bin Laden has confessed to his guilt so many times for other crimes that have cost lives that is it really so bad for someone to say that his life is forfeit?
And what of Pakistan? Bin Laden’s conspicuously low-tech compound couldn’t have existed without State assistance. Innuendo is not evidence , so if there is one thing Pakistan should be held accountable for is their reaction to our presence there. Their planes tried to find our helicopters. This is a foreign relations challenge, one that needs to be dealt with by reminding Pakistan that we know they are not exactly our friends. Their government can claim they’ve killed more Al-Qaeda operatives than any of our allies, but this is not impossible math. They can kill as many AQ operatives who are considered useless, but they can pal around with the biggest names in terrorism. This is duplicity and hypocrisy, plain and simple, and the Pakistani government will have to answer for this.
Lastly: let us use this event to reflect on the moral depths Bin Laden has brought our nation to. I have been a civil libertarian for over a decade; even in my most left-wing days I believed in the importance of civil rights. I have defended Bush and Obama’s policies in the name of national defense, but not without a heavy heart. Radley Balko has a list of sins done in our name and these are matters of fact. Yes, the initial intelligence was a product of enhanced interrogation and rendition. But let us never forget that we will have to roll back some of these things, not to regain the innocence that Bin Laden and friends have taken from us, but to make sure that future generations will never forget that these measures were necessary but nonetheless extreme, that this is not the “new normal,” and that such actions in the name of our safety should never be embraced in a cavalier fashion.