Here we go. The announcement this week that Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy Seals has drawn a flurry of predictable responses in a nation always on the lookout for a good conspiracy. Americans all want the truth, as no doubt do the residents of other countries. Whether any of us get it or not is something we can never be sure of. No one likes being lied to, either by their kids, the person they’re sleeping with, or the leaders they’ve elected. The important difference between us and some other countries is the United States affords its citizens endless outlets and opportunities to express their suspicions. On the other hand, there’s the old sixties saying: Just because you feel paranoid doesn’t mean you’re not being followed.
If you want the government’s account of the raid and killing to smell like day old fish, it can do that. If you need to see enough holes in the evidence presented to turn Muenster into Swiss, it can do that too. But then what? It feels terrible to rejoice in death. A moment later it seems a shame there wasn’t a worse fate. In many ways, it will never be behind us. I for one am glad I won’t face the prospect of opening my email one day to find a bullet-ridden bin Laden sent by way of Good Morning! It’s impossible enough to eradicate the terrorist images of beheaded soldiers and journalists. I wholeheartedly support President Obama’s decision that no death photos be released. Hopefully he won’t waffle under pressure. Less really can be more. I am a big Obama fan, even though sometimes he reminds me of the father who can’t decide if he wants to lay down rules or be your friend.
News reports say the release of information to the media was handled poorly. The wrong son of bin Laden was reported as killed; a wife was not used as a human shield as first claimed; the number of Navy Seals involved varied. Conspiracy theorists can barely contain themselves. DNA results confirming the terrorist leader’s death were available almost immediately. Crime show devotees know such testing takes time. Was he killed earlier and the announcement made now for political reasons? The burial at sea in accordance with Muslim law may be hooey. Islamic law seems to allow such burials only if death occurred on a ship. Who knows what the truth is, and more importantly, how it will be perceived and interpreted by those who want to burn our asses. And that includes our fellow Americans.
My most sincere hope is that the thousands of people who lost loved ones feel some measure of satisfaction from bin Laden’s death. Closure may be beyond reach for those who face their loss every day, but the eradication of this toxic evil being from the planet was long overdue. Our country’s leaders now need to step up and provide support for those first responders to the 9/11 attacks who continue to suffer with illnesses resulting from their heroic efforts. We know from experience that words and promises make great sound bites, but a nation’s soul lay in its actions. As for bin Laden, we may all be glad he is dead, but how much better to wish he’d never lived.
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