The news is still breaking and we're still waiting for all the details of Osama bin Laden's apparent death in Pakistan, but as our Twitter feed is filling with comments of the "America, f*** yeah" variety, we thought we'd share our initial thoughts. We don't much feel like pissing on bin Laden's grave tonight. Few people in recent memory have been more deserving of harsh punishment, and now that he's met with a fate appropriate to his chosen path, we prefer to mark his death in the manner it deserves: by giving neither the man nor his murderous, incoherent motives another moment of thought. Our two thoughts tonight are about what happens now.
First, remembering that the government is still an enemy of freedom. President Obama is undoubtedly hoping that the death of bin Laden provides a coming-together moment similar to what happened after 9/11, when Democrats and Republicans set aside their differences to "do what's right". Remembering how short-lived that moment was back in 2001, and remembering that it gave us things like the PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Afghanistan, we're not so sure we want to see it again. Even if you're overjoyed at bin Laden's death tonight, ask yourself if it was worth the price the United States paid for it. Was it worth the billions of dollars we threw away in two wars, or the thousands of American, Afghani, and Iraqi lives those wars claimed? Was it worth the PATRIOT Act, the TSA, and warrantless wiretapping of American citizens? Was it worth the loss of the nation's credibility as a force for justice and freedom in the world? Was it worth it even if so many Americans, especially our leaders, forgot that ends can't justify means, thus losing their grasp on any sense of ethics or morality? Because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the PATRIOT Act, the Department of Homeland Security, the warrantless wiretaps, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Alberto Gonzales' "torture is not torture" Justice Department are all at the feet of our government. That's as true today as it was yesterday.
Second, what happens to the War on Terror now? The set of policies spawned by 9/11 would seem to be at a crossroads. On one hand, if America's foreign military interventions and domestic security policies continue unchanged, that would suggest that either (a) bin Laden's death isn't slowing al Qaeda down (in which case, why is anyone celebrating tonight?) or (b) we have no idea who we're fighting or why. In other words, continuing on with the same policies would reveal the War on Terror as either unimaginably incompetent, or morally bankrupt on a grand scale. Yet can you really imagine the US military declaring its victory and drawing down all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, repealing the PATRIOT Act, and dissolving the DHS? In other words, is it realistic to expect our government to relinquish the staggering powers it's been accumulating since 2001? Stay tuned.