The Guardsman Staff
By now we’ve all seen the reports – Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan by CIA and special forces on May 1.
President Obama said to the nation that bin Laden was “responsible for the murder of thousands of American men, women and children,” and launched the war on terror itself.
The news of bin Laden’s demise was met with joyful celebration by Americans.
Revelers sang Queen’s “We are the Champions” outside the White House after the announcement, and video footage spread virally worldwide of Americans cheering in triumph like frat kids at a kegger.
Crowds “posed for pictures in front of the White House … waved flags and blew bubbles, and pounded beach balls above the growing crowd,” according to a Sunday report by the Washington Times.
There are many who would argue that the celebration was warranted, but death itself, and in this war especially, should never be celebrated joyously.
“These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded,” Obama said in his April 29 speech.
Obama was right to remind us of the true costs of armed conflict.
It was the Cold War with the Soviet Union that helped spawn bin Laden in the first place.
He was a U.S. ally armed and trained by the CIA to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan in the ‘80s. Using his personal fortune, CIA knowledge and American and Soviet weaponry, he built up the Afghan mujahedeen, which formed the basis of the terror network today.
Now the U.S. is celebrating bin Laden’s assassination as if the history of terrorism began in the ‘90s and we are victorious in the war on terror.
But even if it wasn’t bin Laden, someone else would have taken up arms against the United States, and there are certainly many others ready to replace him. This country’s foreign policy spawns the kind of potent hatred that drives extremists to murder thousands of civilians through both economic and literal imperialism.
For as long as we childishly assert the right to a far higher standard of living at home while enforcing poverty on other nations, backing that assertion with weapons like famine and indiscriminate bombings, there will be those willing to take up arms against us, and they may be just as willing as the U.S. to kill civilians.
So we faced an enemy of our own creation. One we trained and funded, who used our own knowledge against us, and led us into a war in which we sacrificed our principles and values one by one.
Abroad, faceless predator drones do our killing with missiles that target without human conscience or clarity, causing excessive civilian deaths that total in the thousands. A shortage of American troops means many repeated tours of duty for already war-torn soldiers, increasing the strain and severity of post traumatic stress disorder in those who already gave so much.
At home, the PATRIOT Act allows government tapping of our phones and Internet, sacrificing the civil liberties upon which this country was founded. Presidential powers were increased outside the rule of law as George W. Bush flagrantly cowboyed past the constitutional mandate that only Congress can declare war. Obama followed suit in Libya.
We tortured war prisoners in violation of our agreements with other countries and our own morals. This war has cost this country its body and soul.
Remember those who lost their lives in the name of our principles, in the name of our economy and in the name of our lives.
The government has spent well over $1 trillion on this decade-long quagmire, according to the March 2011 Congressional Research Service study. Every time a class is cut or a teacher or fire fighter is given a pink slip, remember that number, and remember it’s growing.
War is not a football game, war is not the same as the news of your child being born, nor is it appropriate for celebrations reserved for graduations and weddings. Those are celebrations of our essential goodness – celebrations of life.
Do not let this victory blind your eyes with patriotism and strong cheer over the spoils of war. There are none.
This country continues to try to make war a business, expanding its empire and abandoning its people’s morality.
We invade sovereign countries for motivations that are murky and ever changing. We should not treat this chapter in our bloody history the way we would celebrate the World Series.
Osama bin Laden’s death is a milestone of justice in the War on Terror, but do not forget to treat this event with the perspective and solemnity it deserves.
Joe Fitzgerald, Atticus Morris, Ramsey El-Qare, Don Clyde and Alex Emslie contributed to this article.