Friday, May 6, 2011

On the Unseemliness of Holding a Pep Rally for a Military Killing: New York and Washington Festivities on the Announcement of the Death of Osama bin Laden

People celebrate in Times Square in New York City after the death of Osama bin Laden was announced by U.S. President Barack Obama May 2. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

I have had a number of reactions to the announced death of Osama bin Laden. None of them involved cheering. Fortunately, I discover I am not alone in finding the festivities at Ground Zero and the White House gates immediately following the announcement disturbing.

Some Americans have suggested that this isn't "the American way", while others insist that it is. Some have said it is derogatory to the grieving of the 9/11 victims by their families. Others think it is normal to wear face paint, wear and wave flags, and shout "USA! USA!" as if the high school football team had just scored the winning touchdown. They are more likely to believe that they as New Yorkers, or Americans were personally attacked by the 9/11 bombings. At the very least, they believe Team USA lost on a cheap goal, and now it is time to celebrate payback. They like to shout that "justice has been served".

Servicemen hang off a lamp post cheering in celebration as thousands of people celebrate in the streets at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center, waving American flags and honking horns to celebrate the death of Al Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden on May 1, in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Again, I am not alone in thinking that justice would have been better served differently. Justice is usually served in American values and legal ideals by bringing a criminal to trial, with a proper defense, a weighing of evidence, and meting out the appropriate judgment and sentence. I immediately thought of the Afghani offer to hand over Bin Laden IF he were given a fair trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague.

That was after they refused to give him over, and after the Bush administration threatened to "bomb them back to the Stone Age", but right before Bush declared war on Afghanistan as one of his wars on terror. Aside from all the other motives for declaring war on Afghanistan, some more noble and less oil-filled than others (Afghanistan sits on a strategic oil pipe route), in general the US doesn't like the International Criminal Court (ICC) much. While it has signed the treaty for its creation, it hasn't ratified the treaty, and does not participate.

Originally, it seemed that US reluctance about the ICC--aside from a general reluctance to participate in international organizations that they don't control--derived from the threat that Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State to Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, would be indicted for all those CIA take outs of democratically elected leaders around the world, effecting regime-change Mafia style, and backing/ fomenting wars that put military dictators in power for decades. However, given the mandate of the ICC to prosecute only crimes committed after its legal enforcement on July 1, 2002, that would seem unlikely. Nevertheless, President George W Bush must stay close to home, or at least within the US, lest he be held for indictment for the offenses of his Presidency.

International Criminal Court membership as of March 2011, Green Signed and Ratified, Orange Signed but Not Ratified

The confusing roll out/outing of information about the attack and killing of Bin Laden doesn't help of course. The initial story of the decisive, gutsy President Obama, who had the courage to order the attack, resulting in the firefight that US forces won against a protected and armed Bin Laden hiding behind a woman forced to act as a human shield has changed considerably.

I immediately thought of the story of the rescue of the brave Private Jessica Lynch, the young American who fought single handedly, wounded, holding off Iraqi attackers who had ambushed her peaceful supply convoy. Except that after all the propaganda video of the hospital rescue with the night vision goggles, and the Hollywood production values (literally), the welcoming home, and the rehabilitation, it turns out Private Lynch's rifle had jambed right away. As she said, "I went down on my knees praying". Jessica Lynch's greatest courage and biggest contribution to the war effort came from her setting the story straight. It seems they grow them good in Palestine, West Virginia.

One might say the same of US Ranger "Pat" Tillman, the NFL football star who gave up mega-bucks to fight in Afghanistan. After all the medals were awarded, the public funeral held for the hero who had charged solo up a hill urging his men on to fight a losing battle to the death--again after his convoy was ambushed--his family's persistence revealed a death by friendly fire of a man within his platoon ranks, and a high level cover-up for propaganda purposes.

At most recent recounting that I have heard, Osama bin Laden was killed on the third floor of his home, after a courier who was armed was killed, another unarmed courier, his unarmed son, and an unarmed as yet unidentified woman was killed in cross fire. His wife was shot in the leg after trying to rush the armed Navy SEALs to defend him. He was shot after he moved, presumably reaching for arms piled at the door.

This version has evolved partly to explain, or explain away, other versions that had inconvenient narrative turns. After the initial reports that Bin Laden was shot while unarmed and standing unprotected, the maybe he would be wearing a suicide vest explanation was tried until there was speculation that, if unarmed and not attempting to defend himself or show a clear sign of surrender, he may have been shot sleeping in his bed. Not such good propaganda value that.

Also, I guess others were wondering, as was I, about the wounded wife who was left behind when the SEALs left with Bin Laden's body. Shot in the leg? How badly? Where? Femoral artery? Bled to death? Bled to death with her children crying beside her? It seems that the extraordinarily clueless up to then Pakistani Army had the knowledge and wherewithal to find and capture her, the children, maybe 2 more wives, and another injured man. She is talking about the raid, as is a 12 year old daughter who witnessed her father's death--at least to Pakistanis, because the last I heard or read the US was still trying to gain access to interrogate further.

Such a nasty word, "interrogate", a far cry from "interview". And what with all the George W Bush cronies coming out of the woodwork to claim partial credit for this Special Ops "victory", one is reminded of "enhanced interrogation techniques", now euphemistically called "aggressive interrogation". Indeed, let us hope that the Obama administration, which signed extensions to so many of Bush's "war measures", doesn't go back on it's rejection of torture. Would there be a pep rally for information resulting from the waterboarding of the Mrs, or Bint Osama Bin Laden?

People gathered around the gazebo on Boston Common after President Barack Obama announced that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden and taken custody of his body May 2. (Cecille Avila for The Boston Globe)

When I began this post, I was still looking for a better term than "pep rally", since such rallies are usually held before the big game. Just now I thought of "victory celebration". I am sticking with pep rally though, because in fact, "the big game" is still being played. The War on Terror goes on, though renamed a variety of wars or actions. There are still combat troops in Afghanistan. Iraq has been a "don't let this happen to you" for MENA countries seeking democracy the more natural away. Guantanamo is still open for incarceration and "military trials". So, pep rally it is.

Revelers wrap themselves in U.S. flags near the White House after President Barack Obama announced that U.S. authorities have recovered the dead body of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in the early morning hours in Washington, May 2. (Jonathan Ernst/AP)

A large, jubilant crowd reacts to the news of Osama bin Laden's death at the corner of Church and Vesey Streets, adjacent to ground zero, during the early morning hours of May 2, in New York City. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Related Posts:
A Post-Modernist Reading of the Obama-Osama Entwinement in History
Osama Bin Laden, Code-Named "Geronimo", Killed in a Pakistani Military Town/Former Hill Station of the British Raj: The "Ironies" Mount Upcoming

See Also:
Rejoice in the Death of the Boogeyman?
Mommy, why are people celebrating Osama bin Laden's death?
Michael Moore To Piers Morgan On Bin Laden: 'We've Lost Something Of Our Soul' (VIDEO)

To his credit, President Obama had the right tone of solemnitude, in laying a wreath at Ground Zero to mark one form of closure to 9/11 in the killing of Osama bin Laden. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)


Wendy said...

I think the whole thing yesterday was unnecessary, morbid, childish in a way and showed yet again the egotistical nature of our neighbours to the south. Yes 911 was awful but in the scheme of 'awfulness' around the world was it the worst???? And celebrating the event every year is also something that I think should disappear. It is certainly an insurance that some American peoples will never get over their fears or hatred of others.

coolred38 said...

We create our "bed men"...complain (and subsequently grieve) when they do bad things...then cheer like fiends when "we" take them out. The fact he is dead in no way lessens what is going on in the world right now..and the part the US plays in that. What the hell are we cheering about...there are men on this planet alive today who have wreaked more havoc..then Bin Laden...and they are not hiding out in (plain sight) Pakistan...they are right out in the open ...ruling countries. Nobodies starting wars looking for them.

coolred38 said...

oops..and that should say "bad men" not bed men...though politics can be summed up as who your in bed with...but not quite the point I was making just

Susanne said...

I read a rather thoughtful column yesterday from my local paper that helped me understand the celebrants' point of view. I'll try to find the link and post it for you. It helped me understand the mindset of the young people cheering on college campuses better.

countrygirl said...

I'm very happy that Osama is death so what you would have prefered an alive Laden in prison? by having an alive Bin Laden the terrorist could have said "all right we have a dirty bomb planted in NY/London/Rome/ if you don't free him we will detonate" .

There's a huge difference between 9/11 crowds and the crowds who celebrate Osama death...the former were celebrating a massive murder who killed thousand of INNOCENT people the latter were celebrating the death of a terrorist a far cry for being innocent. I'm well aware that Osama death won't change a bit, that terrorist will continue their bloody work but THE simbol of islamic terrorism is finally food for fish :-P

Susanne said...

Here is the article I mentioned earlier. It's just a local columnist's take on things.

oby said...

I do not regret that Bin Laden is dead. It would have been nice if he had surrendered but he would rather die than be taken alive. So be it. I do think Country Girl has a point in that he could be used for blackmail purposes...yes he could have gotten a trial in the international court but would anyone have done anything other than convict him for life? Big waste of taxpayer money.

Bin Laden's death is a symbolic victory as terrorism will continue on. I am sure there is no shortage of men willing to fill his shoes. I will admit on one hand I was uncomfortable with the felt a bit cheap to me and I would hope people might rise above that. On the other hand, I can understand people who might not be more than early twenties cheering. Many naively think that his death will end terrorism I am sure, and many have lived the bulk of their lives with this always out there...Bin Laden was the symbol of terrorism. And to be honest, in the recesses of my heart I feel like why should there be any mercy or compassion for this man? Forget 9/11...he had no compunction on ordering the deaths of many innocent people around the world. Not just non Muslims but Muslims too. He had no mercy or caring for them or their lives or families. Thousands upon thousands of people. I heard a figure on the radio that said he was directly or indirectly responsible for 15,000 deaths, more than half of them Muslims.

I also agree with country girl on the difference between cheering for 9/11 and cheering for a terrorist. The people killed in 9/11, though they were living in a country that much of the MENA has an issue with they were innocent of any wrongdoing. They did not kill anyone and most would not wish harm on anyone I am sure. It is equivalent to Americans cheering if innocent Muslims in a city were killed in the MENA by American forces. Bin Laden wanted to kill and maim and destroy innocent people and cheering for an evil entity that has been destroyed is somewhat understandable. I think most people took the high road but I doubt very much if there were many who were sad.

How about the complicity of Pakistan harboring Bin Laden? In my opinion they are guilty in the deaths of many people who would not have died had Osama been caught 6 years earlier. How long would they have protected him and how many other people would have died and he not been finally found? They have as much blood on their hands as anyone else in this game IMO.

oby said...

As for celebrating 9/11...I don't think that is the right word for it. I have never heard people here refer to it as a celebration. That would be morbid...they refer to it as a day of remembrance, not only of 9/11 but to all people who die needlessly at the hands of terrorists. Might feel a little creepy to Canadians but I have never seen a celebration of it ever. Somberness might be more appropriate a word. There definitely is not a sense of jubilation and certainly nothing official in terms of cards, days off, or any other way one might celebrate a holiday. Just a day of remembrance.

But in the end I do agree with you. I would have no issues if it quietly went away.

Majed said...

Very nice post,it shows how Americans are treated as naive spectators,who buy all that rubbish produced and directed by their government,and all those false stories of American courage,way of life,democracy and heroism etc ,how for God sake they can expect epics from men who take milk,biscuits and choco bars to war as their ration and cry oh, Mom I don't want to die at a bullet scratch,dont you wonder why they took hundreds of thousands of soldiers and spent 2 trillion dollars to hunt a man for ten years,and they dare deny and blasfeme the bravery and valor of their enemies,enemies who are known to hug death with passion and infatuation and say an Arab taking sheltering behind a woman isn't that absolute nonsense,let them celebrate,they shall celebrate at least in this way without knowing it can they show gratitude and admiration for a good fight without projecting their defects onto others,I hope Americans will demand now their forces get out of Afghanistan unless they actually wanted Afghanistan as advance post to keep a close watch on china that is outgrowing their grip and also that pipeline thing.

Nice to see you changing, always be yourself it feels great that way, you are doing great but I feel as if you are still curbing your inner self a little,I mean the change in general not in this particular post only.

oby said...


I am not sure if that is a compliment or not...Not sure what you mean about changing. In my mind I have never changed in my heart about issues with Muslims. Radicalism and hurting people and justifying through the Quran/hadith and preaching hate via wahabbism=bad. Peaceful and law abiding Muslims following the laws of the countries they are in=good. Though I am in less of an "exploring" phase than I was and have taken a stance at this point. OK, that was a simplification but hopefully you get what I mean.


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