I Must Be A Bad American

The title of this post comes from something my son said, after a few hours on Facebook with everyone in that forum dancing on Osama's grave.  He said he just couldn't work up the excitement felt, by, say folks on the local news last night chanting "USA, USA."

I know how he feels.  Certainly Osama is a mass murderer and deserves to die.  And I suppose it is important from a foreign policy standpoint that if we say we are going to do something, we do it, even if it takes ten years or so.  And Kudos to the military team that got him.

But I heard commentators say that this was another Kennedy moment when we would always remember where we would be when Osama was killed -- that seems a gross exaggeration.   I don't think I was in need of or received a nationalist ego boost last night.  The reaction almost reminded me of the US Olympic hockey victory in 1980, when people frustrated with internal and external problems found release in the victory on the ice over the Russians.   But cheering about killing a guy, even a bad buy, in the same way as one might for a sports team victory just leaves me a bit queasy.

Besides, isn't Bin Laden largely irrelevant now?  If he is the spider at the center of the global web of terrorism, I have certainly missed the evidence.  Frankly, this whole thing feels like grabbing the Kaiser out of the Netherlands in 1938 and hanging him.  Not only a  bit late, but  a diversion of attention from the source of current problems.

Update: How Bin Laden Changed America.  Example:  without Bin Laden, we probably would not have  a progressive Democratic President who claims the right to assassinate American citizens.

Update #2: It has been made increasingly evident to me that I am out of step with America on this.  Fine, not the first time.  Let me just say, then, that the precedent of sending US troops into a sovereign nation without that nation's permission or knowledge and kidnapping/assassinating a foreign national based on the President's say-so based on intelligence gathered in part from torture of people detained indefinitely without due process in secret CIA prisons is, well, a precedent we may some day rue.  From time to time Presidents may need to make such calls, but I am not going to be celebrating in the street.  If a Pakistani team did the same, even to, say, raid a California prison and kill Charles Manson, I still think we might be pissed off about it.

Update #3: After a few days introspection, I don't know why I am brooding so much about this.  I must admit it was a good move to go in and knock him off, and while I hate precedents for expansion of executive power, this particular move was entirely justified.   I am not sure why the initial response to this rubbed me the wrong way -- perhaps because the celebration seemed to be excessive vs. the strategic value.    I suppose I am not big on symbolic victories.  Had I been alive in 1942 I probably would have reacted negatively to the Doolittle raid.


  1. DHL:

    This is a minor military and foreign policy success. But in the absence of any other successes, the administration is creating the illusion of a major, world-changing event.

    As you point out, Bin Laden is merely a figurehead. The jihadist structure is in place across the world, and they will soon find other symbols.

  2. mahtso:

    That we killed Bin Laden makes him relevant because it demonstrates our resolve in war that may last for decades.

    Whether he was relevant aside from the method of his death depends on the degree of control he has had of late, and on how important he was to our enemies: even if he exerted no operational control, his death may be a symbolic blow to those who oppose us, which also makes him relevant.

  3. Dan:

    The crowds that gathered outside the White House immediately after the announcement looked decidedly fratboyish to me. I don't think they're representative of America (left or right), and I don't think the crowds would have swollen if the news cameras had had anything else to report all night.

  4. Scot:

    I usually like to see spontaneous public gatherings but last night was a little too jingoistic. "Act like you've been here before" when having success or a victory, as my old hockey coach used to say.

  5. Andrew:

    Gas prices are still high, there's still 10% unemployment, we're still in Afghanistan and Pakistan, our rights continue to be violated. I hope the families of the victims of 9/11 feel a measure of closure, but I suspect not. The chanting and stuff reminded me a little too much of similar demonstrations in the Arab world reacting to our dead. That was too unsettling to me.

  6. Joel:

    This is pretty much how I feel too, but I've been struggling to put it into words without sounding like I'm being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, so thanks.

  7. mahtso:

    As to the cheering, something I read elsewhere: do you consider cheering when 3000 are murdered to be the same as cheering when the architect of those murders is killed?

  8. Benjamin Cole:

    I think the assassination of bin Laden is a positive, as it will inject some needed confidence back into our government and people. We were a confident nation back in 2000, before the Bushies came in. Since then, we got embroiled in endless wars, a complete financial collapse, our worst recession since the WWII, GM bankrupt, a DJIA lower than in 1999 etc etc etc. America is the Detroit Lions.

    My fear is that this bin Laden killing will embolden the feds to do more--and the feds need to less of everything, from national defense to Commerce, to the USDA to the Education Department. Voucherize the VA.

    Still, it was a nice shot of confidence building. We are not totally a nation of dunderheads. Our future is not Donald Trump. I think.

  9. DrTorch:

    Glad there are a few others who share this perspective. This was a token gesture, and even then had badly handled PR.

  10. Hunt Johnsen:

    This is all bullshit. He should have been killed immediately after 9/11. That it took this long is a sad commentary on the state of our intelligence resources and the perfidy of muslim leaders in the Mideast. Obama will use this as an excuse to kick the Islamic problem down the road until the next atrocity.

  11. me:

    I share those sentiments - the man was a pure useless figurehead, and the cost both in terms of dollars as well as civil liberties was so unbelievably not worth it.

  12. Dan:

    Gee, this is a cheerful thread. Can't all of you naysayers stop being cynical for a single day? Or just keep it to yourselves?

    Sure, Osama may have just been a figurehead, but to revenge the murder of 3,000 Americans was long overdue, and as someone here said, it's a crucial shot in the arm for the country. To talk about it as if it was a publicity stunt to re-elect Obama is just plain unpatriotic.

    If this were 1945, some of you folks would probably be saying Japan's surrender is immaterial, and just a cynical move by Truman to get re-elected in '48.

  13. Dan:

    Looking back at the prior comments, I realize I spoke in error. None of you referenced Obama's re-election bid. Sorry. I guess I was reacting to some of the stuff I saw on other sites today. But really, this is a positive event. Benjamin Cole, who posted above, put it in a much better way than I did.

  14. Gary:

    Well, I guess I am a bad American also. As I told some friends this morning, I feel satisfaction and relief more than happiness. Obama and Bush were right to pursue OBL and I have no problem with how that policy played out.

    I have some deep concerns about where OBL's was found and what that means for our relationship with Pakistan.

    This is an important milestone but hardly the denouement of the struggle with radical Islam, secular despots, or authoritarian theocracies.

  15. blokeinfrance:

    Yes, good news, but it's not the end of a war or anything.
    But (and I haven't yet seen anything pointing out this angle) the result for Libya might be good. Gaddafi folded when Bush went after Saddam. Now he's got another wake up call. Time to flip through those very long holiday brochures, Muammar! I'm told Congo-Brazzaville is lovely this time of year.

  16. Don Lloyd:

    "...I don’t think I was in need of or received a nationalist ego boost last night. The reaction almost reminded me of the US Olympic hockey victory in 1980, when people frustrated with internal and external problems found release in the victory on the ice over the Russians. ..."

    An interesting comparison. Although I've never reviewed the tapes, my live reaction to the hockey game was disgust at the just plain dirty play by the Americans, and surprise at the lack of retaliation by the Russians. Of course my interest in hockey began and ended with Bobby Orr in Boston, so my judgment isn't worth much.

    Regards, Don

  17. Barbara S. Meyer:

    I am not rejoicing, I am afraid. I believe the pot has moved from the back burner to the front by the radicals, and it's just a matter of time before it boils over again. I think the "war on terror" will be ratcheted up to a new level. I also believe that Obama will use this coup in his campaign for a second term.

  18. Ignoramus:

    White House: "His body was handled in accordance with Islamic practice."

    Double wrapped in bacon?, before being dumped at sea.


    Obama will get a solid month of May from "making his bones" yesterday.

    His success in executing a hit on Osama has also killed off certain potential campaign memes forever, e.g., that Obama isn't tough, that he won't defend us, etc. Today, all the Republican wannabees hold their manhoods cheap, even Sarah.

    In the near term, this will complicate the efforts of some Republicans to get tough on not raising the debt ceiling. Eagle Scout Paul Ryan will once again be ignored. But the problems in our economy are inexorable -- and they're still likely to decide the election.

    I'm going into "Just Because I'm Paranoid Doesn't Mean I'm Wrong" mode: the hit on Osama was ordered early Friday, but the execution thereof was delayed from Saturday until Sunday because of bad weather. So the original plan would have had it happen before the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night. Talk about Shock and Awe! This isn't totally crazy, as the CIA has marked the compound since last August and Obama has held five or six high-level meetings starting in early March, before he finally gave the order on Friday morning.

    The Donald is reserving comment until he sees the long-form death certificate. ba-dum ching!

    Anyone know what gun got used? Helluva a marketing opportunity. Talk about product placement.

  19. astonerii:

    Yeah, sounds like what I think about the whole affair.

    on top of that, I have the following thought:

    Osama was a mellowing out leader of a fanatic group, he already proved himself and was sitting back relaxing and trying his best to not be killed. Who ever takes his place will have to prove their value as leader, this will likely result in a large increase of small attack or a few huge attacks. Considering how close he was to the Paki military and ISI, they may in fact have nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons Osama was not willing to use.

  20. Don:

    My take is that this thing has been bigger than OBL for a very long time. I'm glad we got him, and I think the guys who carried out the mission deserve LOTS of attaboys, but with things like the Patriot Act and Grope-and-Porn airport screenings still in full effect (and no end in sight as far as I can tell), OBL is far less important to our country than the shredding of the Constitution.

    The thing that makes me ill the most is all the people saying how "brave" Obama was to "give the order." I'm sorry, was he on one of those helicopters? Was he in AWACS orbiting above? No, he was safe and sound in Washington so I fail to see how people can call him "brave." I don't believe that politicians, no matter WHAT color or stripe, should be call "brave" when he had no real hand in the doing. I'm sick of politicians taking credit for what military personnel risk their lives for.

    I guess that makes me a bad American too.

  21. Dr. T:

    This killing of Osama bin Laden raises many questions.

    1. Was it really Osama bin Laden? The feds claim a DNA match, but first cousins (especially if there have been intermarriages as with the Saudi royals) will have very similar DNA. The rapid disposal of the body in a way that precludes recovery makes me wonder.

    2. If this really was Osama bin Laden, why hasn't he done anything during the past nine years? I had assumed he was killed when we blew up some cave hideaways in Afghanistan in 2002. Perhaps he was brain-damaged from our attacks. That could explain why all the post-2002 bin Laden audio tape "messages" were splices from previous recordings.

    3. If our agents discovered Osama bin Laden's location last September, why didn't we capture him and his lieutenants, question them, roll-up their entire terrorist network, and grab the billions of dollars stashed in various banks? That's how a well-run intelligence mission would be handled. If all we wanted was vengeance, why didn't we just smart-bomb his safe house last September and scoop up the remains for DNA testing?

    If this really was Osama bin Laden, we didn't accomplish much by assassinating him. He seemed to be mostly irrelevant regarding current terrorism, so his death won't affect operations. We did, however, create a major martyr for the USA-hating Muslim fanatics.

  22. IgotBupkis:

    I still strongly believe that Bin Laden was killed in Tora Bora in 2003 or 2004. The speeches, etc., which have been "put out by him" since then have all been largely easily faked, some of them sounded like they were written by Michael Moore more than the guy who was sure he would dance on American graves, and he has been slowly but surely becoming an insignificant figure in the current situation.

    So, there was a conspiracy? Not exactly. I think there is rational argument to the notion that he could have become a martyr and a rallying cause for Islam in earlier years. Now, he's "just another dead guy", even to most Americans (see above). And thus there was a tacit agreement on both sides not to make it openly known. They got to continue using him as a figurehead, we didn't call them on it on the chance he would become a martyr.

    But now, now he's become insignificant on the World Stage, and it was ok to "kill" him. And Obama wanted some brownie points. Now HE gets to say "I got Bin Laden. Bush didn't." So any doubts or questions about the wisdom of doing so at this point (probably meek and quiet ones anyway) got thrown under the '0 Bus'.

    And that's why OBL just got kilt.

    Maybe I'm wrong. But I won't be surprised if, 50 years from now, it comes out that I'm right, either. Well, I likely won't be alive then, but that's a different issue.

  23. IgotBupkis:


    The difference is that The Big 0 is in charge now, not G-dub.

  24. Doug:

    Many of you are overlooking the obvious: the reason Obama was "mellow" and "irrelevant" was because he had been hunted into obscurity. Had the US not made him America's Most Wanted, OBL would no doubt still be issuing his taped rants and plotting more attacks. He couldn't connect to the internet and had to burn his garbage. Hell, the guy couldn't go to the toilet without looking over his shoulder. This was not irrelevance, it was fear for one's own life. And for good reason, as yesterday proved.

  25. eCurmudgeon:

    @Dr. T: "If our agents discovered Osama bin Laden’s location last September, why didn’t we capture him and his lieutenants, question them, roll-up their entire terrorist network, and grab the billions of dollars stashed in various banks? That’s how a well-run intelligence mission would be handled. If all we wanted was vengeance, why didn’t we just smart-bomb his safe house last September and scoop up the remains for DNA testing?"

    Or, if we really wanted to do it right, announce that Osama bin Laden was killed in the raid when in reality he was captured alive and immediately handed off to the Israelis for some quality interrogation time.

  26. IgotBupkis:

    From a yahoo news blurb:

    His body was quickly taken away for burial at sea, but not before a DNA match was done to prove his identity. A U.S. official said there also were photos showing bin Laden with the fatal wound above his left eye, a gunshot that tore away part of his skull. The photos were not immediately released.

    A burial at sea?

    WtF? The guy's an admiral?

    And a headshot. How convenient. Much harder to actually do any visual ID.

    And, while DNA tests are certainly significant, who is doing them, and under what circumstances? Is the DNA, and full videos of the testing process and the data that came out of it being recorded so that it can't be falsified or signed off on? Is the DNA sample being submitted to multiple independent labs for confirmation?

    I'm not claiming I'm right in that assertion of his death at Tora Bora. I'm just saying that it would not be hard to fake all this, given all the convenient details surrounding the body, its handling, and the statements about things being made.

  27. IgotBupkis:

    Doug, you don't hunt someone like that into mellowness. He might be unable to communicate, but when he does, it should and would contain the same defiance and attitude, esp. back in 2004 when the hunt was still "fresh". The fact that he's still around is, for him, a point to crow about, not a reason to be downright submissive. I mean, really, the "tape" released in 2004 just prior to the election -- it sounded like it was written by Michael Moore's scriptwriter, even mentioning the hoary "My Pet Goat" meme, and has an almost conciliatory tone, "If you just weren't so mean to us, we'd be better people!" I'm sorry, up to that point, it's "The American Infidels MUST DIE! I call on ALL good Muslims to KILL and KILL and KILL the devil infidels!!!"

    THEN in 2004 he goes into this mode where he sounds more like a whiny 22yo pissed because his roommate trashed his bedroom? Really?

  28. Hans:

    The owner of this website does not like the words American Nationalism!

  29. Grant:

    "That we killed Bin Laden makes him relevant because it demonstrates our resolve in war that may last for decades."

    I don't know why we need to demonstrate our resolve for something we seem completely unable to accomplish, that is not necessary to accomplish, and that doesn't have any clear cut goals anyway.

    I guess that attitude is what happens when you watch the news and don't apply any historical context.

  30. mahtso:

    Are you saying you have no understanding of the historical context but you watch the news, which is why you don’t understand why we need to prove our resolve?

    The context (as I understand it) is that the people who first attacked the World Trade Center in 1993 (almost 2 decades ago) are opposed to the U.S. for a variety of reasons. That attack and many others, including those of 9/11 and the attacks in London, Madrid and Bali, were acts of war. Unless these people unilaterally end their war against us, we can either capitulate or defend ourselves. (As I recall, one of the reasons attackers gave for the attack in Madrid related to offenses that occurred close to a thousand years ago.)

    Goal setting in this context is tough for many reasons including the fact that the enemy uses terrorism as a primary weapon. But, unlike you, many people, including me, believe we can and will prevail.

    If I am wrong, give me the appropriate context.

  31. mahtso:

    Back to whether or not Bin Laden was relevant:

    Fareed Zakaria has several pieces on CNN today, one includes this:

    “But the truth is this is a huge, devastating blow to al Qaeda, which had already been crippled by the Arab Spring. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the end of al Qaeda in any meaningful sense of the word.”

  32. Grant:


    You can sit there and say "There's no substitute for victory!" or "They started it!" or whatever you like until you turn blue, but the fact of the matter is that for a long, long time now quitting and going home has been the order of the day for the US in conflict after conflict. It won't be different this time. The West has been fighting in the East for centuries, it always ends the same way. That's called "historical context" and you can get it out of the box you're staring at now.

    Who, specifically, declared war? Who are you trying to kill? Do you even know? And who, along the way, are you harming? A Venn diagram of "Who is responsible for 9/11" and "Who is being hurt by US bombs" would have a lot less overlap than you seem to think.

    All I know for sure is that a lot of bombs get dropped, a lot of people get killed, and it's a lot more likely that it's got more to do with giving the Pentagon a reason to continue spending a trillion dollars a year than defending freedom or democracy or resolve or whatever you may enjoy prattling on about.

    The appropriate context is that in the USA's attempt to eradicate an almost nonexistent group of people, a lot of men, women, and children have been killed. By US bombs, paid for with Chinese money and devaluing the dollar, no less. Brilliant.

    This creates a whole other group of terrorists: The ones who have a perfectly good reason to despise America. What would you do if you came home from work one day and an Apache had shot up your wife and kids? Chalk it up to collateral damage and go on about your business? Or maybe you'd go ask someone from Syria how to make an IED, so you can kill some people dressed like the ones who blew your wife to bits with a chaingun.

    That's how this works. That's what a military does. It breaks things. And if you are trying to go toe to toe with people who refuse to play your game, and who aren't stupid, then refusing to adapt and insisting on playing Go Fish when they are playing Texas Hold 'Em is idiotic. Unless, of course, you are Raytheon and charge a million dollars for a Tomahawk missile. Then it's brilliant.

    Wars have consequences, and they are more far reaching than "showing resolve". People get killed. And not just the "bad guys". You can preach all you want about how you think some people need to go kill and be killed by some other people you don't like, but it's nonsense and foolishness.

    Your desire to show "resolve" is bankrupting this nation and getting a lot of innocent people killed. Invading and occupying countries abroad and sacrificing liberty at home is not my idea of good policy.

  33. A Friend:

    He killed my friends. He tried to kill me. If he had the ability, he would have killed you. I am very, very happy he's dead. And beyond the emotional gratification, killing the leader, or a lot of supporters with much collateral damage, has led to the defeat of most armed movements, not them being strengthened. After defeat we can become friends. Remember, USA soldiers have killed Canadians/Brits, Mexicans, Germans, Italians, and Japanese, among others. Not to mention CSA. None of them are attacking us now, and we're all pals. So, time for unashamed gratitude: GO NAVY!

  34. A Friend:

    Coyote wrote: "sending US troops into a sovereign nation without that nation’s permission or knowledge and kidnapping/assassinating a foreign national based on the President’s say-so based on intelligence gathered in part from torture of people detained indefinitely without due process in secret CIA prisons is, well, a precedent we may some day rue." Isn't that just what happens in every war?

  35. Rathtyen:

    I have no problem with “getting bin Laden” in the manner in which it was done, and in fact I think it was a very well done operation.

    I don’t feel any need to celebrate however – that moment passed quite a few years ago. Its just some positive news, and kudos to President Obama for making the call and (hehe), pity for him its about 18 months too early! He must have been tempted to see it delayed, but he didn’t. Good call.

    I do see the irony in Obama being the one to make the call. I think it was a good thing, but I pretty much agreed with what Bush was doing in the “war on terror”. My view is consistent, but Obama’s is not. He strenuously opposes say water boarding, but gives kill orders? And all the hysterical voices who screamed at Bush/Cheney? Silent now.

    There is a difference between rational and/or heartfelt disagreement, and cynical partisan hack work. Your comments in this article are consistent over the longer term – you range between disagreement and discomfort in these sorts of actions. I don’t, but I can understand why other people do. What I can’t understand, or more accurately, can’t stand, is people who oppose it under one leader, say one called Bush, but are silent or support it under another leader, say one called Obama.

  36. Griffin3:

    Wouldn't it have been more like "If a Pakistani team did the same, even to, say, raid a California prison and kill Charles Manson, his grown son who was visiting him, two cellmates, and a possibly sympathetic guard" ?

    But who counts all the extras in these movies, anyway ...

  37. Smock Puppet:

    >> If a Pakistani team did the same, even to, say, raid a California prison and kill Charles Manson, I still think we might be pissed off about it.

    I think we'd mind it a lot less if they did it to Roman Polanski, though.


  38. Gary Mount:

    This reminds me of the capture of Adolf Eichmann, a similar event that took place more than 15 years after his crimes.

  39. Prosenjit:

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  40. dearieme:

    Why did they embellish the story with so many lies?

  41. jakie:

    I agree 100% with you. Osamma is now less relevant than he has ever been. It's likely that we knew where he was all along. He was probably near death so the USA decided to take him out. The defense industry has made trillions off the man.

    I despise the way Obama is gloating over his death. It's a nothing event.

    Osama is the patron saint of defense contractors. He will be missed.

  42. richard:

    > I don’t know why I am brooding so much about this

    The celebration of the death of OBL was mainly in the US. No such celebrations were done in Europe, while Europe also had its share of attacks.

    Most people just took note and continued their lives. The man was already history years ago.

  43. mahtso:

    I see in today’s news (5/12) that in Germany John Demjanjuk has been convicted of crimes related to his role in the Nazi death camps. Some may recall that the U.S. spent years working to kick him out of the country (arguably because he lied on entry, rather than for the death camp issues per se.)

    Why do I post this here? It is in response to the assertion that Bin Laden was now irrelevant. Some acts are so far beyond the pale that the actors should be brought to justice (or, justice brought to the actor) regardless of how long or how irrelevant the actor has become. (And to be clear, I don’t think it has been proven that Bin Laden was irrelevant.)