Tuesday, May 03, 2011

What are we celebrating?

What are we celebrating?

The assassination of Osama bin Laden is a big deal, mainly because the world is convinced that it is a big deal. So I will play along and assess this big event that has just happened. But first, a couple of disclaimers so that critics won’t make this rant something it is not:

1. Bin Laden was a rabid animal and should not have been allowed to roam the streets where decent people live. I am glad that he is gone. And I am not shocked or alarmed by the fashion in which his life ended. He lived by the sword, and he died by the sword. So none of this is about me giving one rat’s ass about bin Laden.

2. There are still rabid animals out there pretending to be human beings, and we would be idiots to ignore that. I am not suggesting that we ignore terrorists in the world.

With those two points out of the way, let me say that my first reaction to hearing that bin Laden was dead was, “well that took a long time”. And my first reaction to seeing people cheering and dancing in the streets was the same as it was after 9-11 when the news showed Palestinians dancing and celebrating American deaths, I felt sick to my stomach.

Killing Osama bin Laden was a distasteful necessity, not a reason to celebrate. We don’t dance in the streets when sick animals are euthanized. We should not have been celebrating the death of even a shit head like bin Laden. It was a job that needed to be done. I understand some sense of relief. But jubilation? Singing, We are the Champions, like we just won the World Cup? I don’t get that. I am confused by that.

I have not liked the way the world has changed since 9-11. Bin Laden has not made these changes, we have made these changes. Changes that have been bad for America and bad for the world.

Remember how we used to wear our shoes at the airport?

Remember how we used to meet our parents at the gate?

Remember when you could take enough shampoo for the whole trip?

Remember how we used to expect the government to get a warrant before reading our mail and listening in on our phone calls?

Remember when we spent half as much on the Pentagon as we do now?

Remember when we didn’t have a Department of Homeland Security?

Remember when suggesting that we should have a Department of Homeland Security would have made you sound like a Soviet Era Communist talking about the defense of the homeland, or the motherland, or some other equally creepy shit?

Remember when the national debt was one-third of what it is now?

Remember what it was like before we created 2.5 million new combat veterans in our 2.5 new wars?

Remember what it was like before you knew what PTSD meant?

Remember what it was like before we lost twice as many U.S. soldiers as we lost Americans in the 9-11 attacks?

Remember hearing that it is not the Pentagon’s job to count dead Iraqis and dead Afghans?

Remember when we used to arrest, try and imprison terrorists?

Remember when America used to chase down people and countries that tortured people?

Remember when wars used to get paid for with shared sacrifice and taxes?

I’m not sure a lot of people remember what it was like before 9-11, before we started chasing Osama bin Laden, before we started these unending occupations of Middle Eastern countries, before we bankrupted our government and decided to fix it by cutting taxes on the richest Americans and by ending Medicare as we know it. But we did a lot of these things in the name of chasing bin Laden. Congress authorized war in Afghanistan in the name of chasing bin Laden. The Patriot Act was passed in the name of chasing bin Laden. The war in Iraq was chained to bin Laden. The size of the federal government and the Pentagon was greatly increased in the name of chasing bin Laden. The focus of law enforcement was shifted to counter terrorism in the name of chasing bin Laden.

So now, that bin Laden is dead. Now, maybe we should stop and take a look at what we have done over the last 10 years and decide if we like the changes, decide if we want to continue on this course. And maybe we should declare victory and bring the troops home. It would be a hollow symbolic victory, because killing bin Laden does not really change things in those countries, but it was a hollow symbolic cause that we were chasing when we started these wars. Let’s declare victory and bring our soldiers home. Let’s declare victory and stop making everyone take off their shoes at the airport. Let’s declare victory and let people take more than 2 ounces of hair gel onto an airplane. Let’s declare victory and restore our civil rights and get back to the job of actually governing ourselves, of providing for the general welfare and the common defense.

And while we are doing those things, let’s remember that the information that allowed us to finally find Osama bin Laden came from old fashioned conversational interrogation methods and investigative work. Police work and intelligence work found bin Laden, police work not torture and not military occupation. And when the command structure was sure Osama bin Laden was in that compound, the SWAT Team went in and took care of the crisis situation. All the big terrorists we have caught in the last 10 years have been caught because concerned family members and citizens have reported them, or because of good police work. And in other countries, they even take terrorists to court and give them trials. So let’s keep the police work going, because there are still some bad people out there. But let’s quit hurting ourselves worse than a million Osama bin Laden’s could ever hurt us. Let’s quit hurting ourselves in the name of terrorists that can’t really hurt us.

So what are we going to do? Proclaim bin Laden dead and instantly proclaim, “long live bin Laden” like he is some divine king we can’t imagine living without? Or are we going to proclaim bin Laden dead and gone, and decide to start living our lives again? If we roll back some of the scared and stupid things we have done during the bin Laden decade, now that would be something I would go out into the street and cheer for: “USA, USA, USA!!!” Anyone ready to join me? Or should we strap in for another 10 years of bin Laden mania?

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