But beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden's head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we've started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the alter of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?
Those are rhetorical questions. None of those things will happen. If anything, I can much more easily envision the reverse. Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden -- and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders -- can easily rejuvenate that war love. One can already detect the stench of that in how Pakistan is being talked about: did they harbor bin Laden as it seems and, if so, what price should they pay? We're feeling good and strong about ourselves again -- and righteous -- and that's often the fertile ground for more, not less, aggression.
Meanwhile David Sirota writes a post whose intentions I can sympathize with were it not constructed upon such pretty little lies.
But in the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys. Indeed, an America that once carefully refrained from flaunting gruesome pictures of our victims for fear of engaging in ugly death euphoria now ogles pictures of Uday and Qusay’s corpses, rejoices over images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging and throws a party at news that bin Laden was shot in the head.
This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory -- he has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history -- the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.
Um.. no. Sorry but Americans have been celebrating the bloodshed of perceived "Bad Guys" for as long as I can remember. Greenwald references one such moment.
I got on an airplane last night before the news of bin Laden's killing was known and had actually intended to make this point with regard to our killing of Gadaffi's son in Libya -- a mere 25 years after President Reagan bombed Libya and killed Gadaffi's infant daughter. That is something the U.S. has always done well and is one of the few things it still does well. This is how President Obama put it in last night's announcement:
The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Does hunting down Osama bin Laden and putting bullets in his skull really "remind us that we can do whatever we set our mind to"? Is that really "the story of our history"? That seems to set the bar rather low in terms of national achievement and character.
Last night, I also noticed the disturbing dissonance of "we can do whatever we set our mind to" coupled with state sponsored assassination. Sirota seems to think Americans are better than that. I rather doubt it, and apparently so does the President.