Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
I’m going through the airport. My shoes are off. My liquids are in an approved ziplock bag. They’re all less than two ounces. Much of the divide in the politics that we deal with today accelerated when a handful of airplanes were used as weapons on a day in September whose number was picked so that we would never forget it. Osama Bin Laden, who picked that number and fashioned that plot, is dead. The permanent damage that he inflicted upon the this nation and the world will live on for decades after him.
What did we win? Where is the justice? Is this really “Mission Accomplished?”
Everyone seems giddy that the “mastermind” of 9/11 is no more. People poured into the streets around the World Trade Center and in front of the White House into the wee hours of May 2nd. They waived flags. They shouted for the TV cameras.
Team America put two bullets into Bin Laden! Yea!!! America baby. We came. We saw. We kicked his ass!
The Obama Administration was quick to remind the world that the “fight is not over.” It was a statement like the warning label on your coffee: “WARNING: THIS DRINK IS HOT AND MAY BURN YOU.”
My version of that. WARNING: KILLING ONE BOGEYMAN DOES NOT MAKE EVERYTHING THAT GOES BUMP IN THE NIGHT GO AWAY. YOU MAY EXPERIENCE MOMENTS OF CONTINUED FEAR, TERROR, OR RECURRING PARANOIA.
The talking heads sound like Dragnet’s Jack Webb: “Justice was served.” The story you have just heard is true. The names were changed to protect the innocent. Theme music. Viagra commercial.
Putting Bin Laden on trial is justice. Putting two bullets into him is revenge. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with revenge. Just call it for what it is. Revenge is why we have a death penalty. Revenge is why Republicans like Congressman Ryan are still drafting bills to try to defeat Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
As really bad guys go, Bin Laden was something of an over-achiever. Ronald Reagan’s CIA armed him and trained him to conduct guerilla attacks on the Soviet occupying forces in Afghanistan.
He learned how to make a little do a lot. Those jihadis, the ones which we sponsored, used that US-backed training to bring down one of the mighty military machines of the 20th century. The Soviets were flat-out not ready for small bands of irregulars striking and fading into the hills, into the alleys and mosques. It was the USSR’s rock-strewn, barren Vietnam.
TV heads rattle on about how Bush should be getting some credit for this. He started the hunt for Bin Laden after 9/11 after all. Americans have the collective memory of Dory, the clueless little blue fish from the Disney movie “Finding Nemo.” Republicans forget to throw in Bill Clinton. The earlier attempt on the Towers, and the USS Cole, the little boat that rammed our naval ship in Yemen, both had Bin Laden’s thumbprint on them.
Dim bulbs like Fox News canned candidate Mike Huckabee called Bin Laden a “madman.” Again, wrong. Gadhafi, now that’s a madman.
Bin Laden? Hardly.
The leader of Al Qaeda has been methodical. He has been patient. He demonstrated a clear understanding of the kabuki chess moves and theatricality of global power in a media-driven world. He has conducted a magnum opus of global terror. The creeping build up in the early 90s. The failed car bomb at the twin towers. The USS Cole. The CNN-crescendo with the World Trade Center bombing.
There were the follow-ups on occasion, and the periodic saber-rattling messages that reminded the world that he was out there, without having to do anything quite so involved again. Toss a bomb-clad true believer on to a bus here, an airplane there. Success or failure was not terribly important. Stoking global fear was key. Be afraid, world. He is out there. He can strike anywhere, any time.
Fear is hard-wired into our DNA, and Bin Laden was a master at exploiting it.
How much we respond to our fears defines our lives. How much we knuckle under to them is really the crux of our freedom. Humans will sacrifice a lot for safety, even if it only is the appearance of safety. A security guard rattles a stick in your bag at Disneyworld for two seconds. You have to pack your shampoo in a tiny bag. An airport machine knows more about you than your husband and your doctor with a wave of the anti-terror magic wand.
It’s slow. It’s inconvenient. It’s a con job.
We weren’t “safe” before Bin Laden. We won’t be “safe” after him either, no matter how many billions we spend on this gadget or that public relations program.
The only thing that does work is intelligence, and early interdiction. If we get something actionable then those invisible forces charged with our protection need to act to shut down credible threats to public safety. It’s the closest thing to the Amazing Creskin we have in the mind-reading department.
The Bin Ladens, the Timothy McVeighs, the Clebold & Harris baddies are always out there, along with the serial killers and the Hitlers and Pol Pots, and other evil people who go bump in the night. Our government will catch many. We will also miss a few.
There is no V for Victory in the death of Osama Bin Laden. Real victory is when we can tear down the body scanners and end the pat-downs. Freedom is when oppressed peoples rise up against their oppresive leaders and do not look for equally oppressive zealots like Bin Laden to shackle them to a new master.
Bin Laden has been dead for years. He is not the answer for the multitudes that he hoped to control. The only people he did control were sitting glued to the television, worried about what he would do next.
Real freedom may be a six-shooter with two bullets each reserved for your TV, your computer, and your radio. I don’t expect anyone in those media to stop pumping your head full of fear any time soon.
My shiny two.