Wednesday, May 04, 2011

What we have become

The death of Osama bin Laden is being used by some to proclaim the greatness of the current US president who may be struggling for political legitimacy; and by others as the greatness of a former US president who may be struggling for a legacy. Bin Laden's demise is also being heralded as some great moral victory with cheers and dances and chants. I suppose if these crowds had been allowed, they would have tied bin Laden's body to the bumper of a truck and dragged him through town rather than bury him at sea. How Mogadishu-ish.

Our president is considering releasing photos of bin Laden's corpse. Why? As for "antagonizing" terrorists, they are already hell-bent on the destruction of innocent human lives as their preferred target. How can we care about antagonizing them further? They cannot be appeased; they will not be appeased, so withholding the photos out of consideration for these mad dogs and what they may do is a wash either way. But how would releasing such macabre photos distinguish us from the many around the world who have taken perverse joy in desecrating the body of an enemy as a sign of "victory"? What will we teach our children who do not understand what is happening now but will internalize our words and deeds and save the lessons for another day?

Not to take anything away from the planning and the execution of what was obviously a successful military operation, but do we honestly believe we are somehow better than those in other countries who desecrated the body of a US service member in Somalia or those in the streets of so many Middle Eastern countries after the 9/11 attacks when these animals celebrated the extraordinary loss of life? Somehow I thought we really were better than these who chant "Death to America" and who seem to take some strange delight in the slaughter of other human beings. Exactly how are we "better" than these?

Bin Laden is owed nothing. In Islamist circles he is already considered a martyr by those who believe he really was killed by US forces. Would not displaying his dead body, even digitally, not galvanize these who are already committed to his war? Bin Laden is just another dead criminal. Putting his image on display would grant to him much more status than he is entitled to, and would do nothing to enhance America's image. It would only liken us to our enemies. Is this what we really want as a nation? Is this really who we have become?


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that displaying the graphic images of his demise would only add "fuel to the fire" that already exists.

Michael said...

The good news is that the president has decided not to release the photos. "We don't need to spike the football", he was quoted as saying. Good for him.