Sara Whitman

Bin Laden: Many More Lives Yet to be Lost

Filed By Sara Whitman | May 03, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: 9/11, Boston, celebrating death, lives lost, osama bin laden, President Obama

I'm disappointed and a little disgusted.

I find it incredibly hard to be happy or excited today about Bin Laden's death. Of course I am glad that chapter has been closed. Celebration near Ground ZeroBin Laden was a fugitive of justice. He was a criminal, and now he's dead.

Great. Excellent work by all those involved. Thank you for your efforts. I mean that sincerely.

However, when I scroll through the photos posted on the New York Times, I'm horrified to see some of the images. Flags waving, young men shouting, fists in the air. A widow holding the picture of her dead loved one. The appropriate reaction from American Arabs.

Tell me, how is this different from pictures we see of people in say... the Middle East?

Oh, wait, we're the "good guys," right? Those faces are familiar, therefore patriotic.

Excuse me if I don't want to walk through the streets with sparklers and a flag cheering. My friend who lost her brother in the September 11th attacks isn't doing that either. Death isn't really anything to celebrate.

It's a sad day. A sober reminder of all the lives lost. Civilians, soldiers... so many dead.

Obama declares the world safer. Is it? Why did I see cops on streets in Boston today, where they never usually are? Why was there an ominous report about Pakistan being the bad guy - we think. Maybe.

Bin Laden, once thought skulking around in dank caves, was actually in a house in a compound, next to a training camp. Maybe he was dead for a few days, maybe the other night, either way, he was buried at sea.

Um, on NCIS they put the body in the freezer and took the ice cream out. Would it have been that hard to keep it around? Because now we will add to the list of conspiracy theories; Bin Laden, aside from being given martyr status for his death, will be hanging out with JFK's real assassin, the space aliens at Roswell, and Jimmy Hoffa.

Of course, I'm a little afraid of how we in this country would have behaved with his dead body. But of course we're better than all those heathens who would put a head on a stick and parade it around with young men waving flags, fists in the air, and the widow with the picture of her dead loved one...

Or are we?

For me, today is a day of closure. Sadness. Mourning. And some relief.

I am aware this was only the end of a chapter in a long, long book with many more pages yet to be written.

And many more lives yet to be lost.

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I so agree with your disgust. I am relieved and grateful that he is gone, but I do NOT celebrate death. Any death.

As for the burial, it was explained to me that they were trying to work within Muslim traditions, and bury him within 24 hours. They couldn't follow all of them, though, because no country would take the body.

Guess no one wanted a memorial to him on their land.

James Savik | May 3, 2011 12:02 PM

I disagree with your take. Osama bin Laden was a symbol. As long as he lived, there could be no peace. He could emerge from hiding, do something horrible, kill thousands of people and disappear again. Our clandestine services had to scour the earth until they found him.

Now that he's dead, there is a chance for peace. We can wind down the wars and go home.

What people are cheering for is the possibility of peace after all of these long, bitter years of war.

oneredgem | May 3, 2011 12:27 PM

I've watched many post the alleged Martin Luther King quote about not rejoicing the death of Osama Bin Laden. And although I may not exactly rejoice nor am I having a block party about his death, I can't say that I am sad that he is dead. I'm glad he's dead. Do I feel safer now that he's dead? No, I do not. Osama Bin Laden is dead, yes, but his message is not. I didn't lose anyone in the 9-11 tragedy, and for that I am eternally grateful, but so many people did, so many people's lives were shattered because of the influence of this man, this man who had no regard for the destruction of so many human lives. Today I have watched many interviews of people who lost loved ones in the 9-11 tragedy and many of them are not exactly rejoicing either, instead they are stunned and flooded with emotions, sadness and grief and the plethora of feelings that I'm sure they've tried to bury and forget for the last 10 years. The people partying and rejoicing in the streets, maybe some of them are victims of 9-11, and maybe many are just Americans who want a reason to rejoice and feel happy, to feel some semblance of closure. Do I blame them? No. Is it politically correct to feel happy about another's demise? Probably not, but as human beings who have suffered a great tragedy, sacrifice and loss such as the events of September 11, 2001, the brief moment of rejoice will bring closure to many of those who have suffered a loss that most of us cannot even imagine.

The alleged, but incorrect, MLK quote is this:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy."

Unfortunately, it appears to have originated on the FB page for a woman named Jessica Dovey. What she actually posted on her page was this:

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
--- MLK Jr.

Unfortunately, someone lifted the entire paragraph, including the introductory sentence by Dovey, and attributed the whole thing to MLK. Then, someone lifted the first sentence only, and attributed it to MLK. A chain of sloppy cut-and-paste errors. Note that Dovey placed the beginning quotation mark correctly, but someone later either removed or ignored it.

Starting with the words "Returning hate for hate ..." and proceeding to the end, is an actual MLK quote. It appears in his 1963 book "Strength to Love" on page 53.

I will post some useful links in a separate comment.

The explanation of how the false quote originated is here:

... and a screen-snap of Jessica Dovey's original post on her FB page can be seen here:


I knew that's what happened! Man...Thanks for confirming it. :)

I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it.

-Mark Twain

I wondered why people were celebrating too, yesterday, so I made it a point of asking people. The responses I got from internet people (since the real-live people I know weren't celebrating) mostly came down to the fact that they blamed Osama bin Laden for all sorts of things (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American colonialism, the bad economy) and thought things would get back to normal. Several comments up someone makes that point.

It's an anti-shock doctrine, if you will. It was a horrific event used, quite cynically, by some Americans to manipulate the public. It's because of the horrific nature of that event that Americans were made to feel more afraid about everything - I even remember for months there were people in Tempe (where I was living) who said the next attack could happen there. In such a state, it was easy for certain Americans didn't care about the people who died on that day to change the way things work around here.

And now people think that, since Osama is dead, things will go back to how they were in the late 90's. Except that they won't. We aren't in Iraq nor Afghanistan because of Osama, we're there because we have a bloated private defense industry that profits off war and an insatiable need for oil. Our economy didn't crash because of Osama, it crashed because of a series of bad financial actions and mismanagements on Wall Street and in DC. And the fear that Osama will step out of a cave and attack people at any random moment (a great reason to keep on shoveling money to our private defense industry, naturally) will be replaced by the fear that someone else will do it as well.

Those are the people who I talked to, who are generally intelligent. I'm looking at most of the video and pictures and I'm seeing a lot of young people, mostly males, the sort of people who, if they were Arab or Muslim, Ann Coulter would be saying shouldn't be allowed to fly on airplanes.

As for the body, it was probably the best choice all things considered. They didn't want his grave to be a site for martyrdom, they didn't want Americans to go piss on his body so they feel like real men, and they didn't want images of it to get out and cause anger. It seems to be one of those situations with no decent solution.

Yes --- alternatively, the US might have cremated him and sent his ashes up into space on the next space shuttle flight, then dumped them on a carefully calculated trajectory that would bring them down shortly after sunset over southeastern New York.

That way, the residents of NYC could have enjoyed a final meteor shower that consisted of Osama Bin Laden himself -- and let the nations of the Middle East try to top that one.

I thought you couldn't comment because you just didn't have those feelings or understanding of vengeance fueled by hatred?

I don't know if you are chastising Alex or me ... but you have to admit that the idea of turning someone into a meteor shower is pretty cool.

Maybe they can do that to me when I die.


While we can never return to 9/10, I think it's time we start binding our wounds and reducing the national paranoia that the 9/11 attacks etched on the American collective consciousness, that broought us things like the USA PATRIOT Act, the REAL ID Act, the closing of what used to be longest unguarded international border in the world (ironically, the EU countries now have relaxed internal security among themselves), and all those ridiculous requirements for flying on commerical airliners, etc.

The "War on Terror" was built around a search for Osama bin Laden, and the other perpetrators of 9/11 affiliated with the Al Qaeda jihadist terrorist organization.

Now that OBL is dead, ostensibly resisting arrest (though there are conflicting reports on that), it really is time to wind down our involvement in Afghanistan. Ideally, the U.S., China, India, Britain and Russia should work together to assist the nations between Turkey and Pakistan, including some of the former Soviet Republics, to revive CENTO, with one focus to help maintain peace in the region, particularly to help Afghanistan *not* revert into a failed nation-state situation.

It's time for America to start to heed the warning that we got from President Eisenhower, about that military-industrial complex. We used to have Soviets hiding under our American beds, and then they were replaced by Islamic Jihadists (personified by OBL).

If we do not heed that warning now, the United States will be headed for bankruptcy in a relatively brief time.

It is long past time to end the post-WWII occupations of Germany and Japan. If the U.S. is to remain in South Korea (only because the North is still somewhat dangerous), it will have to be at South Korea's expense.

Ideally, the U.S. military budget can be slashed to about 10% of current costs. The elite sprecial forces (such as the Seals) should remain fully funded. The intelligence assets should remain in place.

But we can replace most of our active military with an expanded National Guard on a Swiss system (an opportunity to give real meaning to the Second Amendment - requiring organized militia service from ages 18-65 as a pre-requisite for weapon ownership, and only milspec weapons to be privately owned - I have a *lot* of thoughts in the area of linking liberties with responsibilities - the motto "freedom isn't free" comes to the back of my mind - but that's way beyond this note).

I understand the thinking that leads to the idea that 9/11 and OBL were not the reason for our various invasions - but I don;t agree with that thinking - we do not have a legitimate reason to be involved in those countries militarily except in response to 9/11 (and, of course, Iraq was an intentional mistake on the part of the Bush administration).

It's an interesting point about the remains, and how they were dealt with- I didn't know that at the time I wrote the piece.

Still... I do believe conspiracy theories will start to grow like mold on the bathroom ceiling.

Can't be helped.

By the next day, the images in the media shifted to more somber poses. That was a relief.

As for the comment that the other people celebrating in other countries the 9/11 attacks? My point was that when ANYTHING happens in the Middle East, there seems to be stock photos used.

Why is it different when they are white faces, was my question, which I answered. (because I'm a smarty pants that way)

Because they are familiar. But, if you look at the framing... well... it's not. It just feeds the hatred of Americans.

Sad, sad day indeed.

Just one small point : the faces celebrating this latest event, in the crowds in DC and NYC, that I saw, anyway, certainly weren't all "white."

the ones in the nytimes were all white.

all. I checked. I was a little surprised.

Which makes the Times only more suspect. That must have been a carefully chosen photo to avoid the Blacks, Asians, or Hispanics.

One difference... since you asked for it... is that when the people in some of those country were seen rejoicing over the attack of 9/11, they were celebrating the deaths of innocent people. Bin Laden was NOT innocent, and it does the rejoicing Americans a disservice comparing the two.

tinagrrl | May 3, 2011 3:02 PM

I knew folks who died in the Towers. The daughter of an old friend just happened to be making a business call in one of the towers that day. She's gone -- for no good reason.

I lived on Long Island at the time --- and a lot of folks never came home again, after that day.

We celebrated the news of Bin Laden's death. We celebrated the elimination of a (supposed) inviolate symbol of anti-American, anti-Western violence.

Were we supposed to celebrate his life? Were we to forgive this mass murderer? Is there some reason we cannot meet violence with violence?

Heck, that seems to be the way ALL of "the desert religions" deal with violence. That's what they all UNDERSTAND. In addition, it does serve as a warning to others. It's what nations do.

I think it a form of self defense. "You did it once (actually twice), don't do it again."

Renee Thomas | May 3, 2011 8:41 PM

No one is arguing that he was not a monstrously bad person. That he was given over to a hate which fueled the inspiration and planning of his terrible crime is beyond dispute. Nevertheless, we are not enhanced one fraction of an inch in our stature as a nation or a people that he has been eliminated from the the world's stage. There may well have been no choice but to kill him (only the joint Seal Team 6-CIA operators will know that answer for certain). Nevertheless, justice would have been better served upon Osama bin Laden, as is was upon Adolph Eichmann nearly fifty years ago, by standing trial for his crimes against humanity.

Rejoicing in his death makes you not very much better than the murderer himself. It will not bring back a single life that was lost. Clean your hands of it and move on, for to dwell in it leaves a stain upon your soul. The dead sleep . . . but revenge is for the living.

"Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one"

-Martin Heidegger

I'm not a fist-pumper in this case, though (as someone who went through NYC's 9-11 up close, but was fortunate enough not to lose anyone close to me) I was quietly pleased with the hope that Bin Laden's end might bring even the tiniest bit more closure to those who suffered worse than I. As for fist-pumping and cheering, I'd never see it as my place to criticize the way other, perhaps grieved, people react.

gregory brown | May 4, 2011 1:33 AM

I was disturbed by the jubilation of people here in Columbia MO, on campus. I don't know if most of the students and others actually knew what they were yelling about.
I asked a friend who is a church-going Christian if she was going to pray for Bin Laden's soul and, being a good and decent woman, she said "yes" and added "and for those who were his victims, every one of them, whatever their faith". I admit to being surprised that her concern was so inclusive. then I was comforted by the realization that some people are able to love others genuinely, even the evil and beastly Others, deploring their acts but sending them to judgement by whatever deity they believe in. that bit of humble humanity made up for all the cheap showiness.