Just as there was a short moment of national unity after 9/11 when partisan politics were put on hold while we grieved and took a collective sobering look at our changed reality, President Obama’s announcement this week that Osama Bin Laden was found and killed provided a time out for most of the world to breathe a sigh of relief. As the details unfolded there was some questioning about whether he was given a chance to surrender but most people understood that that was never part of the game plan and most believed, as I did, that killing him was not only morally justifiable but was a much more practical closure to this tragic story.
But I was a bit surprised over how quickly that unanimity passed, the last chorus of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead faded, and the bickering began over the inane question of whether to release the gory photos of his remains. Those photos were seen by quite a few government officials and besides, there’s the DNA evidence to serve as the modern-day equivalent of Bin Laden’s ruby red slippers, removing any doubt as to the identity of the corpse. Only the craziest of conspiracy theorists and perhaps the blindest of Islamic fundamentalist Bin Laden followers would question the reality of his death. [Before going to press Al Quadi acknowledged his death]. President Obama made a series of extremely difficult strategic decisions in handling the raid – both before and after its successful conclusion. Quick disposal of Bin Laden’s body at sea and his refusal to spike the ball and do a touchdown dance denied an opportunity to elevate Bin Laden’s status to martyrdom.
Ironically the question did not split neatly along partisan lines as Republican Richard Lugar defended the president’s actions and Jon Stuart ranted childishly about wanting to see the color photos and 3D Imax film of his demise. Speaking of which, while once a big fan of the Daily Show, I now find that although I still watch, Stuart’s holier than thou, above the fray attitude is really grating on me. It started with his march on Washington, his testy interview on the Rachel Maddow show and his position that pundits on the left (e.g., Keith Oberman) are equally as preposterous as the Tea Baggers and beyond on the right (Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh)… but I digress.
We can’t be so naive as to think that Bin Laden’s death will end the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and we will live with the consequences of his actions for many years to come. But his demise should cause us to stop and take stock of our current policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and hopefully provide the incentive to wind those efforts down as quickly as possible. Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead. Good riddance.