Writing the Wrong
We All Killed the Song
Osama bin Laden
The other day I discovered, like buried treasure, in my own house, Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth, tucked away dustily in between 50 Hikes in CT and After Henry by Joan Didion. I watched one episode on sacrifice and bliss and sat back and wondered how I had managed to get this far in my education without having seen it. Then I marvelled at how much I had yet to learn. Well, that will be a never ending quest, I suppose, learning stuff. I don't know whose DVD set this is but I am not giving it back anytime soon as I need to watch it several times before I fully feel the impact of it--just a heads up to the person reading this, who just went, hey! That's mine! Remember I lent it to you after you had that existential crisis in the Ikea parking lot in New Haven?
In this episode Campell discusses the various traditions concerning death, sacrifice and ultimate bliss. He asserts, based on all ancient teachings, that the three are inextricably intertwined. He tells of a pygmy or was it Polynesian myth where a young boy finds the most beautiful song bird in the forest and brings it to his father, who then kills it (as humans are wont to do to the rarest, most imperative things like true love, or the inhabitants of the Gulf of Mexico, or their child's spirit.) The father dies as a result of this because, as Campell explains, in killing the bird, he killed the bird's song, in killing the song, he effectively killed himself. I think, we as a people, have killed so many songs, I am starting to wonder, where do we go from here?
Last Sunday, a very self possessed President informed the world the scourge of all that was decent and holy had been killed with a bullet to the head. In between producing birth certificates and consoling the devasted residents of Tuscaloosa, who had lost everything to tornadoes and storms, Obama was anxiously following a mission in Pakistan to assasinate Osama Bin Laden. All this is old news by this point, and there is really nothing for me to add. I can only talk about what Osama's death means to me as a Muslim American.
I do not think cutting off the head of this particular serpent, rather cutting off this particular head, is going to make it easier to get through airport security. Many folks seem to think that the problem is solved. This is naive in the extreme. Further, American students and “patriots” beating their chests and revelling at the death of another human being, whoever that being was, made us no better than those who were dancing in the streets of their cities as the towers came down. Indeed, as a result of this death, I think our travails with the Muslim world are entering a new phase, and one that might be even more dangerous. My personal travails as a Muslim American might have also been compounded. I am also worried now about my Pakistani friends.
Was there another option? Well, there are ALWAYS options, but this might have just been the only viable one. How we, as a nation, choose to react to it is actually more important in the long run. Just as our reaction in the immediate wake of 9/11 was. And look what we did there.
In October of 2001, Bin Laden was deep in a cave (allegedly) in Afghanistan. Bush started bombing everyone and everything in the region. The Taliban, in terror (yes, even terrorists get terrified) at watching their children get blown to bits on a daily basis, offered to give Bin Laden up (The Independent, Oct, 2001). Bush refused and continued to bomb, thus, inciting a rage and need for revenge that keeps amassing size.
US President Barack Obama.
It follows that had the US accepted this offer, countless lives, both American and otherwise, would have been spared. Indeed, by several accounts, including Bin Laden's wife, he was terrified of the Taliban, knowing they would have easily surrendered him. Hence his departure to Pakistan, a more hospitable environment as it were.
Did Pakistani intelligence know where Bin Laden was holed up for almost a decade? Does a bear defecate in a wooded area? I think we all know the answer to that. I have seen grizzly droppings in Yellowstone. That opens up yet more issues. What people need to remember always is that all Muslims cannot be lumped together in one pulsating mass of extremism. Pakistan did not give him up, the Afghan Taliban wanted to serve him up on platter with an apple in his mouth. The Saudis have cooperated (at least more so than the Pakistanis), and Ahmedinajad would do anything to stick it to the US. Had Bin Laden taken refuge there, we also would not have had access to him. Mubarak is our patsy and would have provided the parsley for the Taliban platter, Ghaddafi I think would have provided Bin Laden with a retinue of comely Ukrainian nurses. And a tent. He so loves tents.
Laws were broken, yes, when Navy Seals landed in someone else's country to take him out, but the fact is Pakistan did not play fair and so, there was no reason we needed to, or, in fact, could even if we wanted to. Pakistan seems to be exhibiting a blatant disregard for its own well being. What it has done, by harbouring this man, might have effectively sealed its fate as a rogue state. Calls for cutting off aid to its much suffering people are reverberating through out the world. Are we looking at another Iraqi sanction situation where so many children died as a result of our stance to punish Saddam Hussein?
The material difference in this operation in Pakistan was that it was a surgical hit. Had Bush been in charge, the whole compound, including environs and maybe even parts of Islamabad, would have been blown to smithereens just because we are an imperial force and we can do that. And we need to show off all our toys. Obama is not, thank God, cut from this inane cloth. But, and there is always a but, initial reports of Bin Laden being armed and using his wife as a shield, have proven utterly false. The fact is we executed an unarmed man, killed his unarmed son, shot his unarmed wife in the leg, all in front of his twelve year old daughter. The fact is this unarmed man deserved to be brought to justice, and maybe this was the only way Obama saw fit to do it. But...
Going back to the myth of the song bird, Bin Laden and Bush killed that bird many times over, we, when we revel in the death of a twelve year old girl's father in a way that shows how bloodthirsty we too are, we are also killing that bird's song. We are destroying our own souls. We are no better than those who want to see us dead, and trust me when I say, that group is growing by the minute. And now, the Pakistani government might have just signed the death warrant of even more of its citizens. All for one man.