Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Ladin and Justice

Many of you come to this Slog to read contrarian opinions. So here's my viewpoint on the Bin Laden killing.

This guy was never much of a mastermind (and, it's said, lately not at all). He was a symbolic spiritual leader and a financier. His symbolic value has only been increased by what will surely be seen as his martyrdom, and he certainly didn't take his money with him. So we didn't help ourselves, tactically, with this.

There will, obviously, be retribution attacks. And while there may be targets of such enormous tactical value that the risk might be worth it, he wasn't such a target.

So why did we kill him? The word "justice" is being used a lot, even by members of our government, which makes me squirmingly uncomfortable. We are a modern, civilized country with a well-developed legal system. Assasination may or may not be justifiable, but it's never justice. And the day it's widely seen as such would be a dark day indeed.

The real reason for this was blood lust. America needed "closure", which is the sanitized modern term for an ancient, messy impulse.

Do I mourn Bin Laden, or wish he were still alive? No way. I lost friends in 9/11. And I'd have shot Hitler if given a chance (though I'd never have called it justice, and would have deemed myself a murderer). But was I dancing in the streets last night? No. I don't celebrate death. I don't fire my kalashnikov skyward in jubilation when blood's spilled in the other tribe. Instead, I dug around my psyche for some feeling of satisfaction. And I pondered the horrendous return on investment*. And then I went on with my life, feeling a little less safe.

* - Neil deGrasse Tyson noted last night on Twitter:
"Two American goals that took a decade, and more than $100 billion to achieve: 1) Walk on the Moon 2) Find Bin Laden"

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