By Joanna Cattanach
As celebrations continue across the country, I have to wonder (and I’m scared to even ask for fear of being called un-patriotic) why are Americans so happy Osama Bin Laden is dead? In some ways it feels as if people are declaring victory but for whom? For the victims of 9/11, for our troops? And if so, how does his death make the tragedy of 9/11 any less painful for Americans?
People were chanting USA! USA! last night and singing songs but does anyone really believe that with his death things will improve. That al-Qaeda will just fold up and head back home to the hills of wherever they came from. If anything, Bin Laden has served (in my opinion) as a figure head: for the U.S., the face of an enemy to hate. For dissidents, the man whom them admire. But as the son of a Saudi billionaire, he tapped into a sentiment of deep religious perversion (twisting the Quran to justify murder, promising virgins etc.) and desperation that faces so many in the Arab world today. What he thought and proclaimed was not and is not unique to Osama. His ideas are widespread. It’s what made recruiting efforts in Afghanistan so easy for Al Qaeda. It’s how other Arab-Muslim led organizations have continued to recruit in places like the West Bank and the Gaza strip: the promise of martyrdom is enticing for some especially for those with no real economic hopes, high unemployment, food shortages and those raised with an idea of hatred and taught in mosques to exact violence on their enemies. Look how many wannabe al-Qaeda groups have formed since 9/11.
Or are we happy because it finally makes all these years of fighting in Iraq (where Osama was NOT, where none of the 9/11 attackers were from) and Afghanistan finally worth it. As people have come to question the need to keep troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, this token, this victory (if we can call it that), proves that the sacrifice of so many soldiers was not in vain. Perhaps it also a way to justify interrogation camps in Guantanamo Bay. The torture of detainees abroad. Drone attacks across the world. The countless civilian casualties who have died as a direct result of U.S. military action abroad. The bogus search for weapons of mass destruction. The Patriot Act measures that intruded on Americans’ rights to privacy. The profiling or Arab-American citizens in the United States. The deportation of Arab college students etc.
The president called the death “justice” and I believe it was. But justice for whom? For the victims of 9/11, the soldiers who died or we mamed by bombs, or for all of us? Justice delayed is justice denied and for 10 years we’ve been delayed the satisfaction of seeing a man who hid in hills, in mansions, who popped up on videos and spearheaded and funded endeavors that tormented citizens around the world (the U.S. was not the only target of Al-Qaeda) with a cruelty that enraged us all. He didn’t fight like normal enemies. He changed the face of warfare as we know it. Now soldiers fight hidden bombs. Human shields are common place. Cowards with cell phone detonators stand miles away and watch destruction. Others simply strap C-4 to their bodies and blow themselves up then get immortalized back home and called heroes and martyrs. Targets are now children and women and Christians and Muslims and Jews and buses and mosques and markets and the enemy is faceless (except for Bin Laden) and frustrating.
Perhaps that’s why Bin Laden’s death is such sweet victory. He is the one face we did know. He became the face of the enemy we hate, we fight. But while I’m glad to see he is gone, I’m not naive enough to believe his message and his followers will simply disappear. It is a milestone for sure. But this Arab Spring (the protest and upheaval around Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria) has also changed the Arab world more so than Osama bin Laden’s death will. And even as we hoist our American flags in victory and raise our voice and prayers in thanks, we should also be cautious and remember that 10 years of searching has inflicted pain and instilled hatred in a new generation of Muslims and Arabs in places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq and even here in the U.S.. And while we have finally killed Osama Bin Laden, we must stay vigilant because in our quest for justice we may have spawned new Osamas, equally willing to die, equally evasive.
Chick Talk Dallas is the hatchling of Joanna Cattanach, a former Dallas Morning Newsstaff writer/news assistant. A graduate of Baylor University, she currently works as a freelance writer and writing instructor in the Dallas area where she and her husband call home.