Monday, May 2, 2011

Happy Codpiece Day

Others have noted the irony of Bin Laden's killing on the eighth anniversary of dubya's carrier-deck strut and Mission Accomplished bravado.
(All Hat, No Cattle) Golly, whoda thunk that gathering intelligence- and paying attention to it- responding with a focused plan, and carefully targeting your objective might have a more positive outcome than initiating unplanned hostilities against a poorly armed, fractious nation whose leader threatened your daddy and your masculinity?

Here's the thing: I don't want to underplay the importance of killing Bin Laden. I honestly don't know how important he is/was at this point; if reports are accurate, he has been thoroughly out of the loop. I think kudos and more are in order for those involved in this operation: well done! I wish it was as easy for me to assure you of proper health care and the benefits you deserve when you return to civilian life. Lord knows our country and citizens owe you at least that much, but we both know you're going to have to fight tooth and nail to even get attention, let alone the support you're due.

But what really disturbed me last night as I realized what had happened was the mood of celebration. I was watching Twelve Monkeys- an appropriately surreal, grim and depressing film, when I started hearing fireworks, cheering, and chants of "USA! USA!" I didn't pay much attention. Danged Greek kids will use anything as an excuse to make noise and get drunk... one gets inured to it after a while. Then I took a break and checked the web. Oh my. Celebrations in New York and DC. Obama interrupting Celebrity Apprentice Dance Survivors (or some such) for an officious statement. Boo-yah. A guy is dead. Go USA!

Really, people? Yeah, he was an awful person, a prick, a monster, even. Yeah, he planned an event that killed 3000 American Citizens within our national boundaries (I think it's that latter detail that gets everyone's panties in a knot- we sure as shit don't give a fuck when American citizens are killed overseas by ambushes and IED's.) But I had been under the impression that our country was built based on the principle of the basic dignity and assured rights of each and every human being. It's one thing to see a few self-selected yahoos celebrating the execution of a criminal in Texas (after, I might point out, the application of due process of law, however flawed that might be); it's another to see a huge portion of my country celebrating what amounts to a military execution as if it was a game-winning three point play in the closing seconds of a playoff game.

Listen, assholes: this is not a game. These are not the closing seconds- we have been warned that GWOT will likely go on for decades. Bin Laden was a human being, not a basketball. Celebrating the death a human being, however awful he was, cheapens ALL human life, including your own.

I'm reminded of Tommy Sand's song, There Were Roses:
Isaac was my friend! he cried, he begged them with his tears
But centuries of hatred have ears that do not hear
An eye for an eye, it was all that filled their minds
And another eye for another eye till everyone is blind

And the tears of the people ran together.

Again, let me be clear: I am in no way saying Bin Laden's death is a bad thing. I would have preferred his live capture and trial, but as best as I can tell, actually following our own law is distasteful and unworkable for our current legislative and executive branches. It's much more pragmatic to throw suspects into a box in Guantanamo, with assurances we'll sort them all out with military tribunals in some nebulous future. Given that fact, and the potential for his martyrdom or becoming an even more powerful symbol, I really don't feel that execution by Special Ops force is a bad alternative.

No, what disgusts me is the idea that we can treat the end of a human life- any human life- as a source of cheap entertainment, nationalism, and a reason to celebrate.


Michael said...

I mostly agree with you. The last comment that you made about cheap
entertainment is also one of my concerns. Countless sci-fi movies have been scripted around similar plot lines, end of times type of tripe but the premise is a concern.
I am puzzled by the previous sentence though. Execution by special forces creates a martyr. I'd like to believe that president Obama confirmed the burial at sea and that adherence to Islamic custom being carried out. In this day an age we need diplomacy more than ever. It is most certainly NOT like the old days where a bitter hatred would last an eternity but ultimately not THAT many died in the conflicts. Many countries now have WMDs. Need I say more?

Lockwood said...

Michael- I do recognize the contradiction, but the point that I was trying to get at was that a live OBL alive and in prison- but away from any real, verifiable reports by outside observers, such as is the case at Guantanamo- seems to me to be a much more explosive situation than a dead OBL who has been treated in accordance with Islamic rules. Many reports so far have stated that his body was treated by our forces as dictated by those rules, and I have seen hints that photographs will be released to confirm this. Whatever photos are worth these days.

So my point is, there's terminal martyrdom, and there's symbolic, suspended martyrdom. In my opinion, in this case, the former seems preferable. Still, I see your point and concede its importance.

Anonymous said...

No, what disgusts me is the idea that we can treat the end of a human life- any human life- as a source of cheap entertainment, nationalism, and a reason to celebrate."