They landed at night in four helicopters, entered the terrorist’s stronghold and confronted him.
“The unifying figure of al Qaeda is lost,” said a CNN journalist.
“The elite Navy SEALS completed their mission ... with courage and capability,” President Obama stated.
I doubt that anyone questions the SEAL team’s bravery or their dedication to the president’s command. “Months in the making,” a former SEAL said of the mission, “and love of their country.”
In New York, people gathered at Ground Zero. “The spirits around us know justice,” someone commented. Another said “The families of the victims are still living with pain, sorrow, and grief. The devil’s blood ran through his veins.”
In all parts of the country people celebrated the al Qaeda leader’s death and praised the SEALS. Some people cried; some laughed. Some waved flags and sang patriotic songs.
We’ll probably never know the names of those who flawlessly accomplished their mission, but perhaps in a future time, when all the players have gone to rest, when al Qaeda’s name exists only in dusty history books, the individual names of those heroic SEALS will echo down the Halls of Honor.
“This story shall the good man teach his son.”
But there is another aspect to this story that weighs on me. I have to wonder if the killing of a human, no matter his brutality, should be a cause for celebration? Is this the message we want the country’s children to carry into adulthood? Those who lost loved ones in bin Laden’s operations still deal with the pain and I have to ask if there’s really such a thing as closure, or is it just a synonym for revenge?
I lost no one on 9/11 so it’s easy for me to be objective, and I’m glad that bin Laden was taken out. It may save some innocent lives. But I’ve seen films on Democracy Now of dead iraqi children, their small bodies bloodied, being loaded into the back of a pickup after an American bombing. I’ve seen the film of an American plane that killed a group of people on a Baghdad street because it was suspected that they might be al Qaeda. I’ve heard the figures: possibly a half million Iraqi people killed in the war. I watched, with empathy in my heart and my throat choked tight as an Iraqi father and husband held out one arm to protect his wife and children who hid behind him in the doorway of their home, and tried to calm a young, distraught American soldier, clearly buffeted by the brutality of war, who screamed at the man and waved his rifle. This incident ended when the soldier turned and left. But how many other such incidents ended differently?
So perhaps we should try to teach our children that killing is never to be celebrated, but done with a solemn understanding that it was necessary. The Indian philosopher Jiddu krishnamurti said “War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday life, is it not? the collective result of our individual activities.”
Perhaps in a future without borders to separate the Family of Man, we can claim to be better than we were when we take no pleasure in necessary killings.