Around ten on Sunday night, I’d finished watching part of the HBO miniseries The Pacific (spoiler alert: the hero dies). As I waited for the DVD to rewind, I checked Twitter, which was exploding with messages about the imminent announcement by the president that Osama bin Laden was dead. I immediately switched over to NBC, where – after a few minutes of the emptiest talking-head chatter I’ve seen this side of the Super Bowl – the president came on and delivered what I thought were level, careful, and grave remarks about bin Laden and about the American military operation that resulted in his killing in Pakistan. I was shocked and pleased – shocked that “we got him,” as the previous president might have said, and pleased that the killer had been killed.
Predictably, I spend good parts of Monday digesting material on the assassination, some of which was thought-provoking, some of which was informative, and some of which was celebratory. All this webstuff had two main effects:
- Draining some of the U-S-A!-ness from my reaction to the news, and replacing it with a sense of grim satisfaction in seeing the killer killed.
- A deepening interest in the details of how bin Laden was sheltered within Pakistan (presumably by elements of that country’s government) and how bin Laden was finally tracked down and killed.
Below is some of the more interesting webstuff I’ve seen so far. Other links are welcome.
Barack Obama, announcing bin Laden’s death
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
Susan Piver, “Osama bin Laden is dead. One Buddhist’s response.”
Osama bin Laden is dead. We killed him. There really was no choice. We were clearly in an “us or them” situation and if we didn’t kill him, he was going to continue to do everything in his power to kill us.
As Buddhists, we are supposed to abhor all killing, but what do you do when someone is trying to kill you? Obviously great theologians have pondered this question for millennia and I’m not going to try to pile on with my point of view, which would be totally useless.
Instead, I’ll pose this question: How do you kill your enemy in a way that puts a stop to violence rather than escalates it?
Steve Coll, “Notes on the Death of Osama bin Laden” (newyorker.com)
After President Obama took office, he and the new Central Intelligence Agency director, Leon Panetta, reorganized the team of analysts devoted to finding Osama bin Laden. The team worked out of ground-floor offices at the Langley headquarters. There were at least two-dozen of them. Some were older analysts who had been part of the C.I.A.’s various bin Laden-hunting efforts going back to the late nineteen-nineties. Others were newer recruits, too young to have been professionally active when bin Laden was first indicted as a fugitive from American justice.
As they reset their work, the analysts studied other long-term international fugitive hunts that had ended successfully, such as the operations that led to the death of the Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar, in 1993. The analysts asked, Where did the breakthroughs in these other hunts come from? What were the clues that made the difference and how were the clues discovered? They tried to identify “signatures” of Osama bin Laden’s life style that might lead to such a clue: prescription medications that he might purchase, hobbies or other habits of shopping or movement that might give him away.
Lynn Sweet, “How the U.S. found, killed Osama bin Laden” (Chicago Sun-Times)
A summary of the planning and execution of the operation in Pakistan, this reads like the pitch for a Hollywood thriller. (I know that’s already a cliché, but nobody’s published a book on the operation yet. Mark Bowden, get moving!)
The inevitable counterreaction (Frank Cerabino, “Bin Laden kill sure to produce ‘The Deathers'”; Palm Beach Post)
If you really do believe that bin Laden is dead, but you don’t want to credit Obama in any way for this, Rush Limbaugh has shown you the way.
The order to kill bin Laden was made only because Obama realized his chances for reelection were slipping, Limbaugh told his audience on Monday.
“If he was a shoo-in for reelection, Osama bin Laden would still be alive today,” Limbaugh said. “There would have been no need to undertake the mission.”
Pointed silliness, part I:
Pointed silliness, part II: Brendon Etter, What Osama Bin Laden Was Probably Doing Right Before He Was Killed
1 – Patiently waiting right in front of that one big window at exactly the agreed upon time for his new buddies to meet him for a couple beers.
2 – Trying one last time to fix that crappy beard trimmer…
5 – Feeding the poor…
8 – Slaughtering the recently fed poor…
11 – Wondering what that sound was.