In an astonishing and unexpected development, Osama bin Laden, face of international terrorism and the man principally responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks, was killed by United States special forces in Pakistan.
President Obama addressed the nation a few minutes ago regarding bin Laden’s death, heralding it as a crucial development in the fight against terrorism, and the squaring of a terrible crime against the American people.
Celebrations of bin Laden’s death have been erupting across the United States, and many of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks have felt a sense of catharsis after hearing the news. I received many celebratory texts and messages from friends, and patriotism is swelling.
To most Americans, this man’s death is justice served. Indeed, when I heard the news of it from my sister last night, I was incredulous. To me, bin Laden had become a decade-old specter, a mass murderer who had somehow vanished without a trace after ordering the most grievous attack on American soil my country has ever endured. I had figured that the next substantive thing I would ever hear about bin Laden was the discovery of his body in a cave 30 years down the road. So when I heard the news of his death, I was stunned and, I must admit, exhilarated.
But is a death something that can be celebrated? Can I rightfully click the ‘like’ button on a Facebook status celebrating another person’s demise? It’s true that bin Laden has an incredible amount of blood on his hands. The man has been responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans, and has indirectly killed hundreds or thousands more through his actions as an al Qaeda high-up. Besides that, the attacks for which he is responsible have devastated families across the nation and around the world, and arguably dragged the US into one, if not two, Middle Eastern conflicts.
Osama bin Laden was a monster; there’s no debate over that point. His abhorrent actions were not only an offense to other human beings, but to Muslims around the world whose religion he hijacked for the sake of his own twisted justice, and to the God he claimed gave the impetus for the mass murder he carried out.
But the American peoples’ response to this should not be a knee-jerk celebration full of fireworks and waving flags. Bin Laden’s death should not become an impromptu American holiday, but should instead be seen as an event that offers closure to those who have suffered on his account. This is a moment for reflection and consideration on what the results of bin Laden’s death will be on America’s efforts in Afghanistan and on our own national defense.
I believe there is room for celebration after the events leading to bin Laden’s killing; this is unquestionably a good day for America. But it must not be one which glorifies American supremacy or exalts bin Laden’s death in and of itself. Instead, ours should be a sober display of joy not at the death itself, but at the changes it may bring about. Families who have felt suffering for nearly a decade, though still hurting, may now feel that justice has been served to the man at the head of the terrorist group that carried out the attacks on September 11, 2001. Beyond that, bin Laden’s death is likely to bring a huge morale boost to American troops and may damage al Qaeda’s already crumbling leadership network further. And though bin Laden’s involvement in recent Qaeda activity is unclear, his death has forestalled any further evils he hoped to carry out.
Our excitement should not be born from bin Laden’s death, but from the knowledge that justice has been carried out, and that future bloodshed has been stopped by this man’s demise. Sunday night’s announcement declared an end to bin Laden’s chapter of violence and terror, and the American people must treat something of such gravity with the somber reflection it deserves.