Monday, May 2, 2011


I was tired and upset when i wrote my bin Laden post, and I wanted to clarify something that I missed when I wrote it! Tyler (a cousin) wrote a comment in response to my post which merits reading. I don't agree with you per se, Tyler, but I like your informed response. It's pretty good to have your voice included since you have worked more closely to these issues than I.
Anyway, my clarification is with regards to the death penalty. I didn't mean that bin Laden died via the death penalty and that it was wrong. I am aware of the concept of rules of engagement and I actually agree with them ideologically. I have a hard time with war in general, and this war specifically, but I am not anti military nor 100% pacifist and I think that rules of engagement make ethical and logical sense, particularly in the face of violent imperialism, genocide, or defense of one's home country. [I do not consider war in Afghanistan defense of one's home country.]

What I meant, rather, was twofold. First, I meant that the rejoicing over bin Ladin's death is similar in spirit to endorsing the death penalty, because in both cases there is a belief that some sort of justice is served by a death. Second, that ultimate justice is not attainable in this life, by human beings. bin Laden killed so many people that his one death cannot atone for them. He cannot die thousands of times.

I hope this clarifies my mental leap from the death of bin Ladin to the death penalty, since I do not consider what happened to be anything more than what it was reported to be: an attempt to apprehend met with resistance, resulting in death. In no way is this equal to the death penalty.

Any death is unfortunate, a loss, and an example of the broken state of the world. It makes me sad. But it does make me furious that international relations with the middle east are so complex, yet misrepresented as straightforward and traceable to one man. And I never bought the story that we were sold that bin Ladin is unjustifiably angry at the West and at anything which symbolizes Christianity or a non Islamic state; I never bought the story that violence began with bin Ladin~if you don't agree with my version of events (funny how quickly you dismiss it as 'leftist' and quote evidence thereof), you have at least to acknowledge that Western efforts to combat communism were undergone in the middle east, and that there has been a history of unspeakable violence back and forth long before bin Ladin, which begat bin Laden and others like him. Violence begets violence begets violence, and ideology to perpetuate it. Celebrating at the death of a charismatic fundamentalist Islamic leader is naive, insulting, and ideologically violent in a way I consider ethically wrong. That was the point of my post, which kind of got muddled by my inadequately articulated mental leap regarding the death penalty!


Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

These have all been interesting posts, interesting discussion, Mel!

I lack the time and energy to weigh in, especially because all any of us average people (without specific first-hand knowledge) can do is speculate and repeat whatever we've heard in the media, so I just don't want to go there. But, I did want to respond to this statement:

"And I never bought the story that we were sold that bin Ladin is unjustifiably angry at the West and at anything which symbolizes Christianity or a non Islamic state..." We weren't really "sold" a story. He has actually been recording (probably dozens, if not hundreds of times over the past 20 years) saying that exact thing. Anyways. Great posts. It's cool to actually be discussing this stuff rather than just having knee-jerk reactions of glee over his death, which so many people seem to be doing.

nancy said...

The sad part in all this for me is the jubulation/celebration/wild party reaction on the part of some american citizens. Whether his capture/death was just or wise, time will tell. But ending a life is always a time for mourning - for acknowleging humanity's failures and how primative we still are by attempting or needing to solve problems through violence. It is a failure in diplomacy and as a civil society. I believe it is sometimes necessary, but ultimately a result of humanity's fallen sinful nature.

Anonymous X said...


Your clarification was quite good. I do not dispute your main point, in fact I am guilty myself of feeling jubilation when I found out he was killed. Time always allows for clearer thinking, and on that point you are correct. It is wrong to celebrate death, even though in many times those deaths come about through justified military (and Afghanistan is justified based on Al-Qa'ida's declaration of war on us in February 1998 and subsequent attacks on our embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, and of course 9/11) or police action. I guess my main contention was what you ended up clarifying, that his death was the death penalty.

Anyway, I suppose our perspectives on the history and legitimacy of some military actions will never coincide.


Tyler Vose

Tamie Fields Erdman said...

Well well, it's been a while since we had controversy on Mel's blog! I should write my own post on my somewhat surreal experience of finding out the news of bin Laden's death.

You know, it makes sense to me that people who are oppressed by a dictator or evil tyrant would erupt into celebration if that tyrant were killed. What feels so heavy and awful to me is Americans who haven't really suffered at all because of bin Laden erupted into celebration. (There are perhaps those Americans who have suffered directly because of bin Laden--I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the random masses who started celebrating in the streets across America.) That spontaneous willingness to celebrate death is very scary to me, and is itself a form of violence.