Monday, 2 May 2011

A Bad Man Died Today

Well there is only one topic i can write about today as a politics student and that is of course the death of Osama Bin laden.

After 10 years the man behind the decade defining terrorist attack of 9/11 was finally tracked down and during a firefight killed by American soldiers.

Now any suggestion that al-Qaida will just give up now he's dead, or that it's likely to make any noticeable difference to international politics or terrorism is more than a little short sighted and naive.

That doesn't take away from the importance of today or make the celebrations in America less justified. Now while i may not believe that flag waving, street parties and patriotic chanting are the best way to deal with the news of a death, even the death of a person like Bin Laden; i hesitate to use the word evil, because i don't believe people are either good or evil, our actions may be but people aren't inherently one or the other. However when it comes to Bin Laden i'm tempted to make an exception.

Anyway, as i was saying, it might not be the most productive way to move on from his death in my opinion, but the scenes in Washington, New York and i'm sure all over the States are understandable.

As an outsider looking in, someone who pays a lot of attention to American politics and who also enjoys a lot of the US's cultural exports, the blow 9/11 inflicted on the nation's collective psyche was abundantly clear to see. For a country which prides itself on it's strength; political, economic, military and technological; the attacks on the Twin Towers and the costly, drawn out wars that followed, have appeared to shake their previous certainty. Since that September day, every day, week, month and year that passed with Bin Laden alive and free was a further blow; his continued defiance was an issue both for the US as a whole, but also more specifically to the families of the victims of 9/11 who had to live with the fact that the person responsible was still out there, still plotting ways to commit atrocious acts.

That's why so much of the coverage has focused on the idea of his death granting American's closure. The 'War on Terror' isn't over, though perhaps it will be possible for Obama to tone down the rhetoric and military involvement now. The families of victims will still have to live with their grief. The men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan's deaths haven't become any more or less necessary. But perhaps for a lot of Americans there will be a sense that Bin Laden has been brought to justice for his crimes, perhaps for some it will be the less pretty, but just as understandable, desire for vengeance which will be satisfied. Either way it could just be a small step towards some kind of collective healing for a nation that still seems in some ways to be in shock from the attacks a decade ago.

So it may not be my way of dealing with the news, but if it helps people then who am i to judge, especially considering that as an Englishman i can't truly understand what many Americans or more specifically New Yorkers felt and still feel every day when they think about Osama Bin Laden. Who am i to begrudge them their moment of celebration, however short lived it may be, why should i act with disdain towards people from a nation exorcising some personal and national demons in a public way.

Whether it leads to a noticeable change in the levels of violence around the world, whether there's successful revenge attacks or not, it doesn't change the fact that an unequivocally bad human being died today, so surely the world can't really be worse off for that?

I think an appropriate quote to put as the penultimate element of this blog post is one attributed to Mark Twain that i have seen several times today on Twitter.

"I have never wished a man dead, but i have read some obituaries with great pleasure."

Now picking a song to finish today's blog is hard, finding an appropriate or relevant song, but i've eventually settled on this. It's a song written by a very politicised American band, telling the story of an Iraq War veteran. The war in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent Iraq are the legacy of Osama Bin Laden, 9/11 and the American response to the new feelings of vulnerability.

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