Osama bin Laden has been killed by US military forces. I learned about this on Twitter.
I’m not going to wax political at any great length about what this means. There’s already a good deal of opinion out there, of an interestingly diverse range.
There’s the jubilant and perhaps justifiably smug:
And there’s the rather less thrilled:
Now that every good, patriotic liberal believes Barack Obama is personally responsible for the success or failure of every U.S. military action undertaken during his watch, can we call the dude a mass murderer yet?
I’m finding it hard to muster any particularly strong convictions about any of it myself. I’m certainly not going to miss the guy, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much worth celebrating here, except for those in the US political system for whom this was a massive PR coup.
The only thing I’m pretty sure I’m standing firm on is that I’m 100% against anything purely retributive. I don’t think I could ever support increasing the amount of misery in the world for the sake of “fairness”, under any circumstances. Not saying that’s what was done here. Just saying.
There was a quote being tossed back and forth on Twitter earlier, from a survivor of the 9/11 attacks, who refused to revel in bin Laden’s death. In trying to track that down again to mention it here, I actually found a few other reactions from 9/11 survivors and the families of those who were killed, and they seem to be pretty mixed. Some say that bin Laden’s death brings closure, others specifically report that it doesn’t. I’m not sure there are any grand conclusions to be drawn there.
I was about to leave it there when the latest work from the Digital Cuttlefish appeared in my RSS feed. I basically agree with the sentiment, but I think a lot of zir reasoning behind it is actually irrelevant. You don’t need to “understand” why bin Laden and other extremists might think the way they do, thanks to American foreign policy and whatnot, in order to be opposed to sadism. And it can’t be anything other than sadism, however much it might be dressed up as a desire for “justice”, which opposes bin Laden’s killing on the grounds that it gets him “off the hook”.
The harm he did has been done. We might have lost the chance to enact some more thorough, brutal, viscerally satisfying revenge – but unless his abrupt death snatched away the chance to do something good, we shouldn’t mourn that loss.