First, we have spent years launching attacks on his supposed hideouts. How many times have we read reports over the past decade of some bombing run on a well-concealed cave or remote village where he was supposedly hiding, only to learn later that he had moved on or the intelligence was wrong and he was never there?
Meanwhile, there was always untold “collateral damage” to go around — bodies we don’t even bother to count anymore, with a press too muzzled to show us the horrors we wreck on our victims.
We didn’t get up in arms, most of us, at these earlier attacks, did we? Why the heartburn now? Because the rule of law wasn’t respected?
Exactly what rules have we been following in launching attacks throughout the Middle East and elsewhere for the past decade — and, really, long before that?
Second, this wasn’t an episode of “Southland” or “The Closer,” where the actors could get it right in a second take. The SEALs had already crashed one helicopter. They could reasonably expect that bin Laden’s large compound could be jampacked with hardened armed last-gaspers eager to die defending their messiah. They were, no doubt, keyed up a mile high with years of anticipation for just this moment.
As a government-issue foot soldier from the Vietnam War, I say you’re asking a lot of any soldier — even these highly trained, battle-hardened special forces — to hold their fire when at least someone is firing at them. (And we’ve seen that it’s a losing game for the Left to criticize any part of the military directly.)
This isn’t to say that I’m happy with any part of bin Laden’s killing. But, shit, I’ve been sad for a long time — at least in this part of my life. Starting when we sent an aircraft carrier and the Marines, for chrissakes, to Grenada to go after four islanders with shotguns. And the rejoicing you see from Washington and around the country — official and unofficial — over a killing of one individual turns your stomach, doesn’t it?
I am saying that the issue is much bigger than the killing — in your name and my name — of Osama bin Laden. The bigger issue is our endless warmaking, the callous assumption that the United States has the right to bomb or strafe or attack anyplace it pleases, killing civilians and combatants indiscriminately, bankrupting our education system to build an unimaginably costly war machine….okay, you’re the choir. You know what I mean.
At heart, beyond the ruffles and flourishes, I’m saying that the manner of our execution of Osama bin Laden is not a new departure, but is part and parcel of the arrogant and illegal warmaking policies our country has pursued — in our name — for a long time.
That doesn’t mean that we should let this moment slide, as we have so many others, but that we should put our protest in the context of what our country has become in raining down the endless terror campaign our Sunday morning news programs are no doubt justifying right this moment, with scant regard for its faceless and disposable victims and with equally scant regard for the almost equally faceless and disposable American service personnel (and their families) who carry it out.
Rather than focus on bin Laden, I say we use his long-anticipated demise as a tool to give ourselves and our too often too spineless legislators the will to end these wicked, misbegotten wars.
Editor, LA Progressive