What A Day!

Well, the son of a bitch is dead. And I’m extremely happy for it.

A lot of time is going to be spent on the psychology of this one. I don’t recall anywhere near this level of joy (in myself or in Americans generally) when Saddam was captured & executed. Nor even when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured, even though he had a direct role in 9/11. This one has a symbolism beyond anything I can remember in my life. And perhaps it’s an oddly American idea that I’m going to quote a cartoonist to explain it:

This is the first time that another person’s death has made me happy. When the Iraqis executed Sadam Hussein, it was simple justice. When drones kill lesser terrorist leaders, I’m pleased at the result, not the loss of life. Bin Laden was different. Like many of you, I was watching television on the morning of September 11th, 2001 when the second plane hit the second tower. This time it was personal. For me, Bin Laden’s death is deeply satisfying.

Scott Adams is right… This was personal. It’s hard to describe entirely why that is — especially for those of us who internalize individualism — but there’s something to be said to the 9/12 response “We are all New Yorkers”. Bin Laden wasn’t targeting “America” in the abstract, or direct military/diplomatic assets like the USS Cole or a embassy somewhere. He was targeting “Americans” — he was targeting us.

I try to avoid the term “us” very often politically, as it usually implies a bond that does not actually exist — but 9/11 was different. Bin Laden would have been as happy to have me, or you, or anyone else in the towers or on those planes as the unfortunate folks who happened to be there. When someone is targeting civilians rather than soldiers, it’s obvious that the reason that any of us are alive after 9/11 is that we didn’t happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, not that we weren’t included in that list of targets. Nothing about me in particular is either more or less “evil” than those who lost their lives that day. Individualist or not, he was targeting you and I.

I suspect that this was similar to the jubilations of Iraqi crowds pulling down the statue of Saddam after the invasion. For them, the oppression Saddam had foisted on their friends, neighbors, and family was personal. I’m sure there was the sense that “it can happen to anyone at any time” during his reign, and when that cap popped, aiming directly at the immediate representation of Saddam in statue form was deeply gratifying to those involved.

Politically, this doesn’t change my position on interventionism. It doesn’t mean that everything America’s done for the last decade in the middle east is worth it. We can have all those discussions, but not right now.

Today, that bastard is dead. And I’m going to enjoy it.