Monday, May 2, 2011
bin angry-- a rant
Aside from the generally repellent idea of dancing in the street because a man-- any man-- was found and killed, there remain all of the concerns that Radley Balko outlines in a post this morning grimly titled "He won." America has not become better toward its own citizens or the citizens of the world post 9/11. We have sacrificed liberty for security in spectacular and unnecessary ways. We have displayed the full colors of our fear and willingness to clamp down on the freedom of expression and religion when prompted with an outside threat. In seeking revenge for the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans we have offered up the lives of almost 6,000 soldiers and $1 trillion dollars in order to occupy two countries which did not threaten us, not to mention who knows how many lives of the residents of those countries. None of these revelations about America's character gets to be wiped from the slate now that bin Laden has been located living in a mansion in Pakistan, shot in the eye and buried at sea somewhere. Congratulations to the soldiers who accomplished it, and it's good that it happened-- though it would have been better to take him alive, so that he could have received a trial and been held accountable for the full extent of his actions. Being handed the kind of death that so many better human beings from so many countries have unjustly received (and which I might guess some currently languishing in Guantanamo would prefer to receive) seems like rather a cop-out. Though I suppose it's fitting considering that like most residents of Guantanamo, he didn't get to face his accuser and be confronted with the evidence against him.
So I propose this: let's be glad bin Laden is dead, but not pretend that his death satisfies some kind of karmic debt to 9/11 survivors. That presumes that bin Laden bears the full responsibility for the deaths of their loved ones and that the suffering they have been experienced can only be assuaged by his own death. It portrays them as simple revenge-seekers. And let's also not pretend that all or even most of what America has done in response to 9/11 has been about locating the guilty parties and punishing them. New justifications have been invented and accepted until the War on Terror became an everlasting battle between Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia, with everyone's freedoms scattered by the wayside. You can't treat bin Laden as an essential kingpin, an Arabic Wicked Witch of the West, and then turn around and say "Killing him was great, but nothing will change."
Bring the troops home-- all of them. Restrict any intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq to humanitarian efforts to repair all of the damage caused. Make it possible for people to migrate to (heck, even visit) the country without being suspected of being 9/11 terrorists Part 2. Own up to the fact that the U.S. government has approved torture and extradition, and hold responsible parties responsible. Acknowledge for each Guantanamo prisoner the right of habeas corpus, or send them home. And stop using the "we're at war" excuse to daily invent new ways to deprive American citizens of their dignity and privacy. Make America into the place our popular imagination still celebrates without irony, a land of the free and home of the brave. Do this, and then maybe you'll catch me waving a flag. I don't currently own one, but am pretty sure there's plenty of time to head to the shop.