Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'll Dance at Your Wedding Instead

• "I've never wished a man dead, but I've read some obituaries with great pleasure.” -Mark Twain


Actually, I did wish Osama bin Laden dead. I told myself that I could pull the trigger if given the chance. I believe I could have. Blonde middle-class me. I killed him many times in my dreams and daydreams. And each time in my fantasies, on completing the task, I hanged my head and turned away.

Now that the day of his death has come, and though I am glad he’s gone, I cannot celebrate. On hearing the news of our successful mission, I only wanted to bathe, drink hot tea with honey, sleep a long sleep, and wake up to a world free of him. Breathe fresh air. Look forward.

I’ve never been a fan of courtroom celebrations, even when a filthy perpetrator of a heinous crime is found guilty and given a sentence that will make him suffer as he should. What’s to celebrate? Another life in ruin.

I’ll pass on the after party following a midnight execution.

It proved difficult to watch the chanting, flag-draped citizens of New York City jumping rhythmically at Ground Zero, looking so much like our enemies who celebrated the fall of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Or maybe like fans of the winning soccer team on any given Sunday in say, Brazil.

Of course New Yorkers have a special circumstance. Maybe if we stood there, we’d dance with them.

Put me in the category with those folks who find bin Laden’s death necessary and just. But it draws no feeling of joy and only the smallest satisfaction. It does not resolve the pain he inflicted; it only permits a release and strengthens a resolve.

Remember the scene in “Braveheart” where British King Longshanks’ emissary ties William Wallace’s bride to a stake and slits her throat? When Wallace returns to find her there, he single-mindedly seeks out the man who killed her, ties him to the same stake, and without ceremony, pulls his own blade across the villain’s throat. Justice? Yes. Joy? Hardly.

Perhaps you have seen the photo of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, and members of the national security team in the Situation Room of the White House, their eyes riveted on the real-time images from helmet-mounted cameras worn by the operatives of the mission to kill or capture bin Laden. Even when they received the coded confirmation that bin Laden was dead, “Geronimo-E KIA,” news they no doubt sought out and awaited with anxious anticipation, they didn’t slap hands and dance around the table. The occasion of bin Laden’s death is a solemn one.

Dancing at justice served mischaracterizes it, pushes past that justice into the realms of revenge, retribution, and retaliation, with their ugly agendas and scant rewards.

Better to think of our intelligence operatives, of their methodical and meticulous years of labor on our behalf. Picture their determination, hunched over computers, sleeves rolled up, huddled with partners, bouncing facts and ideas, testing theories.

Or maybe they stood at walls covered with flow charts linking pictures and players, movements and events; thinking and rethinking, they fitted each new molecule of information into a gene and the gene into a pattern, followed that pattern to the DNA of our enemy, and at last, pinpointed that cancerous cell in the global puzzle.

We marvel at the courage and precision of Navy SEALs Team Six, carrying out this mission on the dry ground of a dusty compound so far away, changing the world. Thank you. Thank you so very much.

Thanks to the Bush administration for setting a clear agenda, and to President Obama for the courage and wisdom to follow it to its conclusion.

We’ve already seen the headline: “Who Will the Next Target Be?” accompanied by photos of other Al Qaeda leaders. Of course we must press on, repeating the process, culling every hell-bent radical whose feverish purpose denies its own impotence.

This is the invaluable work of dedicated unrelenting organizations and individuals, striving on our behalf, without fanfare.

They do it not for the celebration, but so we can read another obituary, and another. We may not throw a party, but our appreciation at the reading runs deep.