Osama: The price we pay for revenge is a steep one

Americans celebrate in the streets as the news ofOsama bin Laden’s death is announced. (YouTube.com screen capture)

Shawn Heavlin-Martinez

Newscasters, state officials, and citizens were equally glee­ful this Sunday night, when it was announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. It was the mo­ment that was to justify our ac­tions in Afghanistan and Cen­tral Asia in the past decade; here was the butcher, a living symbol of our own impotence, delivered into our hands. Here at last was justice for the families of those murdered on 9/11. And yet in that time-span we have prov­en ourselves to be equally mon­strous. The death of bin Laden has been rendered meaningless by our own crimes.

It is during times of national unity that dissenters are most vil­ified, and I cannot imagine that this sentiment will be very popu­lar, but it needs to be said: in our quest to destroy a man who stood against American hegemony, we have murdered tens of thousands across the world, left hundreds of thousands homeless, and be­come a nation that holds detain­ees indefinitely and tentatively approved torture. In chasing after a murderer, America has twisted into a grotesque, a dark parody of our own ideals. We created a monster, were shocked when he acted monstrously, and then act­ed monstrously in response.

It should be impossible to feel any joy or satisfaction in bin Laden’s death. How can this be justice when the legacy of our re­sponse, the war in Afghanistan, has made us butchers far beyond anything he ever planned or exe­cuted? 3,000 Americans died on 9/11. But we have been direct­ly responsible for tens of thou­sands of deaths in Afghanistan, and have created refugees num­bering in the millions. Our spe­cial forces teams regularly raid the homes of unsuspecting vil­lagers and kill innocent wom­en and children. Our helicopters slaughter Afghan children col­lecting firewood, mistaking them for militants. Our bombs land in the midst of wedding parties.

There are hundreds of incidents like this on record, but these war crimes are not held to be as ter­rible as those of our enemies. Why? Are these actions justified by bin Laden’s actions? The an­swer, of course, is no. Anyone who claims to value human life must recognize that these crimes are as vile as anything al-Qae­da ever did, and condemn them in turn. That is why bin Laden’s death rings hollow. It has not brought justice. It has resulted in the death of thousands more in­nocents, and we have turned into the evil empire that bin Laden claimed we were.

The crowds that are chanting “USA! USA!” and singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” should not be encouraged or celebrated. To cheer on Osama bin Laden’s death is to cheer on the measures we undertook to kill him. It is to cheer on a massive military-in­dustrial complex, an Executive branch that has no regard for the law, for a culture that celebrates death and destruction as long as the dead are not “ours.”

If Amer­ica is to ever be a true beacon of liberty and justice, its citizens must acknowledge these facts, and demand accountability from or stop supporting a government that carries these actions out ev­ery day.

We have won a pyrrhic victo­ry in a war that has made all of its participants into war crimi­nals. We can only hope that we will never face justice for our own atrocities committed in the name of catching a murderer, be­cause it would force us as a na­tion to look at our bloody hands and wonder what we have done.

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