Conflicting Thoughts on Osama Bin Laden’s Death



I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. ~ Mark Twain

Today’s news cycle is a hell of a thing. My ‘stop the presses’ moment came late last night when I planned to publish an article about the killer tornadoes in the South when news began to break of  Something Big blowing in from Washington.

At 10:15PM EDT, during a commercial break Iron Man, I glanced at my Facebook news stream. Someone wrote: “President to make important announcement at 10:30. No one knows about what. What is going on?!”

The FB post was confirmed when I switched from my fun movie to CNN. Suddenly my flight-fight response kicked in. Such a tightly controlled late-night announcement “about national security” from the White House was unprecedented. I had to tell myself to keep breathing and remember that television networks thrived on panic. Even with all my tools to keep anxiety at bay, I was braced for very bad news.

Once it became clear that the President intended to inform the nation about Osama Bin Laden’s death by special operations, I had my brain back. This was good news, right?

There was an explosion of activity on my Twitter feed, from the congratulatory, to the hilarious. While I laughed at the absurdity of one tweet, “Terrorism is OVER! Security alert: Rainbow!!!”,  I shuddered at the ugliness of others dispatching Bin Laden to hell.

I am a life long advocate of life over the death penalty. My personal ethics are that no human being has the moral perfection to stand in judgement of another when it comes to the ultimate punishment. Does that mean I do not feel pride in what the US forces accomplished? Of course not. I am proud. Does it mean that I should wish such an evil man mercy? As hard as this is to admit, I don’t know.

After the Second World War the Allied Forces had a choice when it came to how to deal with some of the Third Reich’s worse villains. A decision was made to hold trials in Nuremberg, with legal representation for those accused of the most heinous crimes imaginable. It was a highly controversial move. Many did not understand why such evil was not simple lined up against a wall and shot. The philosophic ideal behind the trials was to demonstrate by action the moral high ground of the victorious powers. Whether the Nuremberg trials were successful in that regard is not within my ability to say. But the spirit was there.

Could such a trial have happened today for Osama Bin Laden? Sadly, that is doubtful. He was evil, a self-professed killer of thousands determined to kill more. He had to be stopped. But did he have to be killed? Even though his death is more symbol than anything, the symbolism is important. And Bin Laden in captivity could spark endless turmoil without good resolution. I get that. It just doesn’t rest easy for me.

Which is why by midnight last night when the mood began to change from awestruck amazement and patriotism to ‘Let’s party!’ it was time for me to go to bed. I understand and can feel the gratitude of the nation for what our Navy Seals did yesterday, but I find it hard to watch a guy hanging from a lamp post, spraying the crowd at Ground Zero with champagne. Somehow, that doesn’t feel right.

3 comments


  • Maureen

    This has been very difficult for me. I am glad US killed Bin Laden. Bin Laden had ordered his bodyguards to kill him if he was at risk of capture. Then he would have been a beloved martyr and a stronger symbol of Al Queada. This event has sparked great and heated debate on Facebook, even with some of my closest friends. This saddens me. I don’t like dissension. I feel that we should all stand in unity about this monumental event.

    2011/05/02
    • Dear Maureen,

      Feelings are running very high right now. Obama said “…let us think back to the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11…” It is sad when that doesn’t seem possible. We need to remember to protect ourselves by turning off the TV, stepping away from Facebook for a while and focusing on healing, nurturing energy.

      2011/05/02
  • Natalie

    I’m feeling conflicted myself… more so that I don’t feel that strong sense of wrong in celebrating his death a little. Granted, I don’t like the image of spraying champagne as you mentioned (I didn’t see that), but I almost feel I can roll my eyes at that and say, “Well, that’s how that person chooses to process this.” Many of my Facebook friends have brought up that bin Laden was a son/brother/husband and no human death should be celebrated in the way some are celebrating. While I agree with that sentiment, I just can’t cling to that with regards to bin Laden. And that’s where my conflict is kicking in. Does that make me horrible that I don’t feel compassion that he was killed?

    I don’t always agree with the death penalty, but in situations like this, where I feel that the person in question has such evil in his soul, with no remorse for what he’s done and no sign of remorse ever happening, I don’t cringe when I hear this person was killed. I know there are others following him, so I’m not naive enough to believe this ends terrorism. But it does end his specific way of it.

    The conflict I’m reading is bothering me. What I thought would be a unifying event is turning into another polarizing one… celebrate his death or mourn the loss of a life. Why can’t we do both?

    2011/05/02

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