The bin Laden victory lapWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
I hope Osama bin Laden’s last few minutes of life were dominated by terror and a clear understanding that the United States military troops surrounding him were not there on a “Capture” mission. I hope the last thoughts his baneful mind sent hurtling though his nerves were babbling wails of fear that caused him to evacuate his bowels and empty his bladder as the bullets screamed toward him.
I hope the U.S. Navy SEALs who risked their lives on this mission live happy and healthy well into their 100s. (I do wish our military could figure out where to buy a decent helicopter. From the lives and helicopters lost during the failed April 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Tehran to the 1993 shot-from-the-sky “Black Hawk Down” choppers in Mogadishu to the 2003 Black Hawk crash in Mosul, Iraq that killed 18 soldiers and scores of other incidents leading up to the helicopter lost and destroyed during the bin Laden mission, it doesn’t seem like we have a firm handle on helicopter technology.) Those soldiers should know they did their country and their planet a great service by exterminating one of the most wicked men of our time.
But we should take the time to examine some of our country’s reaction to bin Laden’s death, and not excuse behavior that lowers us to the dirt-level standards of our enemies.
I have a friend who was in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Her comments upon hearing about bin Laden’s death are understandable: “I am so glad he didn’t die of diabetes or a heart attack in some cave,” she said. “I am so glad we took him out.” Amen, sister.
For the people who were directly affected by the 9/11 attacks, there must have been some catharsis in knowing bin Laden met a violent demise. But catharsis is not the same thing as closure; bin Laden’s worm-infested brain was splintered by a Navy bullet, but that does not bring lost loved ones back from the dead. That does not heal those whose legs or arms or lungs or minds were forever damaged in the attacks. It’s not a movie in which the bad guy wizard dies and everything is magically returned to normal. Those four airplanes will never fly again. The Twin Towers will never stand again. The people who were trapped in them will never breathe and walk and eat and love again.
It’s one thing for a sailor to grab a nurse in Times Square and plant a kiss on her lips when V-J Day ended World War II. But some of the immediate post-news reaction to bin Laden’s death did not bring our country great distinction.
The 10 years since 9/11 have passed with efficient, alarming speed, but the clarity of events from that day live in my — and I believe our collective — memory.
As much as I remember specific details as the day unfolded, I remember the horror and outrage being multiplied by some of the scenes we were shown from countries where people celebrated and danced in the streets. The World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93 dripped with blood and smoke and shattered lives; watching people take joy in that was disturbing, disheartening and a great motivator of hatred for many.
There is zero comparison between the 9/11 victims and their murderer bin Laden, but I did not feel proud watching Americans hold impromptu pep rallies outside the White House and as close as The Ohio State University campus. We all find different ways to express ourselves in the wake of extreme events. I do not wish to judge those who took to the streets to fist pump and boogie on bin Laden’s watery grave; I just do not understand that reaction and do not think of it as an American response.
We’re the Good Guys. When we score a touchdown, we hand the ball to the referee and get back to work. We act like we’ve been there before. I suppose the street dancing made those folks feel better, but I suspect those images will be used to convince a new wave of terrorists that we talk the morality talk but don’t always walk the morality walk.
I lived in South Florida at the time of the attacks, and had access to all the international newspapers and magazines. I remember being shocked by how many European and Latin American periodicals ran graphic images of people falling from the World Trade Center towers, people crushed on Liberty and Church streets, people burned and bleeding in the rubble.
One can argue about the historical value of such photographs, or the educational value of such photographs, or the propaganda value of such photographs, but I argue there is no news value in such images, not by the standards of decency and respect the American media has maintained in modern times.
President Obama is acting wisely by refusing to release the images of bin Laden’s head-shot corpse. In the age of PhotoShop, such images mean nothing as a means of proof and serve only to further inflame those who already think of Americans as evil. No newspaper under my command — daily, weekly or any print format — would publish the photos of bin Laden’s corpse. Not out of deference or respect for him. Out of deference and respect for us.
Yes, the bad guys have thrown parties to celebrate our misfortunes. Yes, the bad guys have shown images of murdered Americans and have dragged the dead bodies of United States soldiers through their streets.
But we don’t do what the bad guys do. And if we start down the road of letting the bad guys set the standards for our behavior, our future will be filled with grief, remorse and the blood of thousands of 9/11 attacks.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.