Moral Low Ground


“The Admiral”: Final Thoughts on the Demise of Osama bin Laden

by “The Admiral”

After hearing the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I went to my friend’s house and watched the television coverage of Americans reveling in the streets. While I felt some sense of relief and closure regarding his death, I also had other feelings welling up as I watched the TV. Some part of me was disgusted and ashamed. The scenes in the streets seemed frat-boyish, naive and far too celebratory. My thoughts turned to the families of the victims on Sept. 11th. And I wondered how they might be feeling if they were watching their televisions. I also wondered if this event would mark the beginning of the end of the “war on terror”, but I did (and still do) doubt it.

The following day, while checking the chatter on Facebook, I noticed a post from a friend of mine. It was a quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and it read:

“I mourn the loss of thousands, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” ~Dr. MLK Jr.

After being reminded of Dr. King’s words, I felt that the quote summed up some of my mixed feelings on the killing of Bin Laden… but I also felt there was something wrong with the quote. I checked on the internet and discovered that the first part of the quote wasn’t Dr. King. The first part is attributed to Jessica Dovey (who added those words to Dr. King’s quote in a Twitter post). I don’t say this to belittle the modified quote. It is quite beautiful. Rather I’m writing this for clarifications sake. And to celebrate the fact that there are many people that shared my view of this “dark victory”.

Dr. King’s quote is from his book Strength to Love. Here is the exact quote, in greater context:

“Are we seeking power for power’s sake? Or are we seeking to make the world and our nation better places to live. If we seek the latter, violence can never provide the answer. The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dr. King was one of the most brilliant minds of my generation and remains one of my personal heroes. But nonetheless, I am still conflicted about my feelings regarding the killing of Bin Laden. And there lies the complexity of my (our) human nature. Osama Bin Laden was a despicable person who committed atrocities beyond measure. He deserved punishment for his acts… perhaps death. And while I am against the death penalty, I also understand that we sometimes don’t have the ability to make the same decisions during battle that we can make in a court of law or military tribunal.

And there are many aspects of the military/CIA operation that I found smart and appropriate. I feel better about the fact that the Navy SEAL team went into his compound and shot him, face to face, rather than dropping a bomb from a plane or firing a missile from a ship at sea. There seems to be a better sense of justice in the fact that Osama’s last moments were filled with the knowledge that the Americans had found him and personally killed him. A bomb or missile seems too… cowardly… impersonal.

Also, the disposal of his body at sea seems like the smartest decision. No grave. No shrine. Less martyrdom. Simple finality. To those who wanted to parade his body through the streets, have his head on a pike, body hung from the Brooklyn bridge… I refer you to Dr. King’s (and Jessica Dovey’s) quote. The publication of the gruesome photos of his corpse seems equally barbaric and maliciously provocative.

So rather than continuing to celebrate the death of this horrible man, use this as an opportunity. Use the democratic process we cherish and celebrate. Write to your Senators, your Representative, and the President. Let them know that you don’t want to continue this “war on terror”. Let’s get our soldiers out of the Middle East. We will always be at-the-ready to help those who seek peace and democracy there, but we can never WIN a “war on terror”. The problems of that region need to be solved by the citizens of those nations, hopefully by continued peaceful protest and resistance. A new generation is coming to power… and the USA should lead by example.

As a final side-note, I want to share this with you. My mother and Step-father live in NYC. The day after the announcement of Bin Laden’s death, they went out and bought an extremely good bottle of champagne. They then walked over to their local firehouse (the members of which had lost many heroic compatriots during the Sept. 11th attack) and they gave the bottle to the brave, surviving men of that station.

“The Admiral” is an open-minded activist for common sense change in matters of government, social ethics and economics.

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