A death, any death, is never a cause for celebration. As a 9/11 family member I am relieved and grateful for the closure. But I’m not celebrating.
I simply hope that for once, the result of killing can be that the world can move toward being a more peaceful place.
Last night’s news of Osama bin Laden’s death must surely have evoked a myriad of feelings for everyone. But celebration was not one of them for me. It was more like just plain old genuine relief.
I also found it striking that bin Laden was brought to final justice just days after the first US president in history was forced to release his long form birth certificate in order to prove his legitimacy. Could there ever be any doubt of Obama’s fitness to hold office now?
Last night I remembered my brother’s description of his White House visit just days after 9/11/01. For years afterward Jack expressed frustration with a president who took his hand, looked him in the eye and promised to find his wife’s murderer. I was sure that Jack was welcoming a promise finally fulfilled.
I noted, too, the way in which bin Laden's final apprehension was carried out, and the way in which it was communicated. President Obama's announcement contained not one trace of glee; he was very serious and never, ever, displayed even a touch of a smile. Our president was solemn and respectful of 9/11 families, and the American forces who carried out the historic mission.
Obama had accomplished what two presidents before him could not do, but he did not display grandiose pride, or the chest-puffery we have come to associate with other seekers of bin Laden. He was grim, somber and matter-of-fact. He related momentous news. But he was not celebratory.
Moreover, Obama did what needed to be done WITHOUT the fanfare of a massive bombing or large-scale operation that would have resulted in yet more civilian deaths and more grieving civilian families. He sent in an elite team and just got it done, nothing else. Relatively few of bin Laden’s associates were killed; no Americans were even hurt.
Finally, Obama dealt with an international mass murderer in the most humane way possible. Despite certain pressures to retain the infamous corpse, he affected a simple, elegant and fitting solution: a Muslim man's body was disposed of in a way that was respectful of his Muslim faith. Period.
This is admirable and indicative of the excellent and noble leadership we now have in combating terrorism.
Last night I also felt tremendously encouraged by Obama's reminder that "We are not at war with the Muslim world". He also pointed out that “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.” These are important reminders at this emotional time.
I am awed and humbled by President Obama's humanity and dignity at a very sobering historic moment.
All of these actions are hallmarks of a great leader who rises above politics and emotion on a momentous occasion. I am terribly grateful for all of that, as it marks for the entire world a sharp difference in our approach to the war on terror than the one waged by the previous administration.
Obama continues to appear before the press to discuss these events without so much as a smile, much less a smirk or swagger. He reminds us that we are not the nation that we once were under a previous administration, a country that condoned and even applauded such demeanor. And he even gave me hope that we may not ever again be such a people.
Many people are saying, “But it doesn’t bring back those who died on 9/11 or in any of the subsequent military battles.” No it does not. They are also saying, “This isn’t the end; there will be more terror.” That also is true.
But let us just process this bit of important news all by itself, before we go on to all the reasons why it isn’t enough, shall we? It happened, and it was long overdue in coming. It was something Rabbi Arthur Waskow called a “sad necessity”. It is not a cause to celebrate, but it is not a cause to hand-wring either. It showed extraordinary fortitude by our CIA and our commander-in-chief. And we should be well satisfied with that much, because it is well worth being satisfied about.
Bin Laden’s death is a serious and welcome event for 9/11 families, for all Americans, and indeed, for the world. But we don't celebrate death, we celebrate life. Let's hope that for once, this particular piece of violence will result in more peaceful tomorrows.