Death of Osama bin Laden

This isn’t the normal subject matter for this blog. 

Normally, I don’t talk about current events or politics because it’s not good for Sailor’s career.  So, this isn’t going to be political.  These are my thoughts, from the viewpoint of a veteran and a military wife about current events.  Please forgive my navel-gazing.

Osama Bin Laden is dead.  He was killed in a fire fight by Navy Seals in the city Abbottabad, Pakistan, a military town about 50 miles from Islamabad. 

Frankly, I have mixed emotions about this.  The Deputy Headmistress has posted about Bin Laden’s death on her site, and she quoted the bible to begin.  The verse she linked a quote to is Proverbs 24:17

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.”

People are cheering in the streets.  I’m watching them in front of the White House and in Times Square right now.  I’ve read several blog posts where the bloggers are metaphorically pumping their fists.  Frankly, it kind of makes me sick. 

Please, don’t misunderstand me.  I truly believe the world is a better place without bin Laden.  He is the pure evil who organized both the attack on the USS Cole (DDG 67) on October 12, 2000, and the attack on America on September 11, 2001.  Here’s the thing, though:  He’s a person.  No matter how despicable he was, it feels plain wrong to celebrate the death of another human being with abandon.  I feel like we shouldn’t lower ourselves to the same level as terrorists.  He would have rejoiced over our deaths, but we don’t need to debase ourselves by indulging in that kind of smarminess.

When I joined the Navy, my head was in the clouds, and I didn’t really have a clue about what went on in the wider world.  I can still remember the day that the USS Cole (DDG 67) was bombed.  I was in boot camp.  The RDC (Recruit Division Commander—same as a Drill Sargent, only Navy) has us take a knee and explained to us that the USS Cole had been attacked, and that what we had signed up for was very real.  The RDC was really as gentle as he could be (for a guy who had spent the last two months beating us into submission) as he explained to us that 17 of our shipmates were going to go home to their families in a pine box.  He told us that we could count on the world being a very different place, and the Navy being a very different beast from the one that he joined.  That was the moment when I realized that I had signed on to something bigger than me.  That was the moment that I realized the enemy was very real, and that America was vulnerable.  Osama bin Laden orchestrated the attack on the USS Cole (DDG 67).

The September 11, 2001 attacks on America were a watershed event in my life.  This must be a common refrain from a lot of people in my generation.  After all, 9/11 was my generation’s Pearl Harbor.  It was when I knew that my old RDC was right.  I stood in the galley during a Dead in the Water drill and wondered what was next as I watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center.  It happened almost 10 years ago, and I remember being VERY angry.  I felt violated that my country, which I was sworn to protect, had been attacked.  It was a very personal thing, and Osama bin Laden choreographed it. 

This has been a little over 500 words of naval gazing, emotional diarrhea, call it what you will.  The point is this:  I’m glad the guy is dead. Because of him, countless lives were changed.  There are empty spots at dinner tables around America.  There are wounded warriors and their gold star families whose lives will never be the same.  All of these things happened because Osama bin Laden lived and made the decisions that he made.

God, please forgive me, but I’m glad that he’s dead.  I feel more than a little guilty writing that, though.   Bin Laden was the guy who masterminded some of the worst attacks on American soil. He was the guy who permanently changed my generation, and not in a good way.  He was also a human being with a mother and children.  Someone loved him as a person and will genuinely mourn his passing.  Celebration is not a good thing.  This is absolutely not a good time to rejoice.  We shouldn’t celebrate another man’s passing from this world.  At most, this warrants a cautious sense of completion.  It’s good to feel pride for the SEALs and the intelligence community who completed their missions flawlessly (I have to insert a little fraternal love here—go Navy).  It is okay to mark the fact that the last decade has been book-ended, but it’s too soon to bask in a job well done.  The job’s not done yet.

2 Comments

  1. DHM says:

    Good post. LIke you, I’m not really comfortable celebrating the death of a human being, either.
    OTOH, I think a lot of people celebrating are actually just expressing relief- it’s been ten years of knowing this man, so capable at plotting death and destruction, had his eye on us and was looking for ways to repeat his previous performances. I’m not relieved, because I am also a military wife, and like you, I know the job isn’t over yet and many of our friends will die in the completion of that job.

    And, while I am can’t personally celebrate the death of a human, there is such a thing as the celebration of justice, which may be what others are really cheering.

    I find it hard to reconcile my own sensibilities with the imprecatory Psalms celebrating, relishing, even, the though of dashing the brains of the enemie’s children against the rocks, or breaking the teeth of the enemy, and so forth.

  2. Megan says:

    A blogger that asked to quote me put things into a perspective that really spoke to me. She said she was not rejoicing in a man’s death she rejoiced in the lives that will be saved because of it. He can never plan what he planned again and only God knows how many thousands that will allow to continue on.

    I struggled with the same things as you – because I am so very happy that he is no more. I cried, I shook, I was so very relieved that he was dead.

    And as horrible as it is to say it, I rejoiced. I thanked God the very moment they said we got him.

    I agree very much with the previous comments by DHM.

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