"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we're not like them. We're Americans. We roll different." -- Michael Moore in an interview last week
Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Last week, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise and killed Osama bin Laden. Well he didn't actually do the killing himself. It was carried out by a very brave and excellent team of Navy SEALs. Not only does Mr. Obama have the overwhelming support of the country, I think there are millions who gladly wish it could have been their finger on the gun that took out bin Laden.
When I heard the news a week ago Sunday, I immediately felt great. I felt relief. I thought of those who lost a loved one on 9/11. And I was glad we finally had a President who got something done. This is what I had to say on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet in that first hour or two:
I want to point out that Barack Obama took two years to do what Bush couldn't do in over seven. That's the difference between STUPID in charge and SMART in charge. STUPID pursues two reckless wars, lets OBL escape from Tora Bora, keeps looking for him in caves and invades the wrong country. He bankrupts us to the tune of $1.2 trillion for the Iraq War (it will eventually actually be over $3 trillion), and worse, he cost us the lives of almost 5,000 of our troops, not to mention hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and, after all that, he STILL couldn't bring the perp to justice. In fact, in 2005, Bush closed down the CIA station that was devoted to looking for bin Laden! What does SMART do? He sends in a small elite strike force, no troops are killed, and the perpetrator is stopped for good.
I was thrilled that the Osama bin Laden era was over. There was now an end to the madness.
Being near Ground Zero that night, I decided to head over there and join with others who saw this event as a chance to have some closure. On 9/11, Bill Weems, a good and decent man I knew and worked with (we had just recently completed a shoot together in Boston), was on the plane that was flown into the Twin Towers. I dedicated 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' in part, to him.
But before leaving to go to the former World Trade Center site, I turned on the TV, and what I saw down at Ground Zero was not quiet relief and gratification that the culprit had been caught. Rather, I witnessed a frat boy-style party going on, complete with the shaking and spraying of champagne bottles over the crowd. I can completely understand people wanting to celebrate -- like I said, I, too, was happy -- but something didn't feel right. It's one thing to be happy that a criminal has been captured and dealt with. It's another thing to throw a kegger celebrating his death at the site where the remains of his victims are still occasionally found. Is that who we are? Is that what Jesus would do? Is that what Jefferson would do? I was reminded of the tale told to me as a kid, of God's angels singing with glee as the Red Sea came crashing back down on the Egyptians chasing the Israelites, drowning all of them. God rebuked them, saying, "The work of My hands is drowning in that sea -- and you want to friggin' sing?" (or something like that).
I remember my parents telling me
how, on the day it was announced that Hitler was dead, there was no
rejoicing in the streets, just private relief and satisfaction. The real
celebration came six days later at the announcement that the war in
Europe was over. THAT'S what the people wanted to hear -- not just the
demise of one evil madman, but the end to all the killing.
When the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, people didn't pour into the streets to whoop it up. Yes, people were happy that it might help end the war, but there was not a public display of "Yippee! A hundred thousand Japs have been fried!" If they had done that, well, who could have blamed them after so many tens of thousands of their sons and fathers had been lost in the war (including my uncle, a paratrooper, killed by a sniper near Manila). But the sailor kissing the girl in Times Square was on August 14th, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered and the war was officially over. That's when America went crazy with joy -- not over a killing, but over an announcement of peace.
We are a different people now, aren't we? Well, sorta. There was no bloodlust euphoria on the day Timothy McVeigh was executed. We were silent. The families of the Oklahoma City dead were silent, relieved. What is the difference between McVeigh and bin Laden, other than the number they slaughtered? I wonder. I think we know the answer.
Though bin Laden is dead, we are told that Orwell's Permanent War -- the "War on Terror" -- must continue! Not allowed to have our V-J day and run into Times Square with exhilaration! No, there could be terrorists there. So all we're left with is to cheer the death of one evil man, and that is supposed to make us feel powerful and good. There can be no celebration for the end of the Afghanistan War because the war isn't ending. The war must continue! Even though our own CIA tells us there are no more than a few dozen al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. We still have 100,000 troops there fighting a few dozen crazies? We say we're fighting the Taliban, too, but the Taliban are Afghan citizens, not an invading force, and, for better or worse, they seem to enjoy the support of many of the common people throughout Afghanistan. (If you don't believe that, ask any soldier who has served there and seen it. Every day is like 'Apocalypse Now.' Poppies, anyone?)
Meanwhile, we -- me, included -- get lost in the weeds of how this one madman was killed. The official story from the Pentagon changed four times in the first four days! It went from OBL firing on the troops with one hand and using his wife as a human shield with the other, to, by the fourth day, not single person in the main house, including bin Laden, being armed when killed. Instantly, this created a lot of suspicion about what really happened, which itself was a distraction.
Here's my take: I know a number of Navy SEALs. In fact (and this is something I don't like to talk about publicly, for all the obvious reasons), I hire only ex-SEALs and ex-Special Forces guys to handle my own security (I'll let you pause a moment to appreciate that irony). These SEALs are trained to follow orders. I don't know what their orders were that night in Abbottabad, but it certainly looks like a job (and this is backed up in a piece in the Atlantic) where they were told to not bring bin Laden back alive. The SEALs are pros at what they do and they instantly took out every adult male (every potential threat) within a few minutes -- but they also took care to not harm a single one of the nine children who were present. Pretty amazing. This wasn't some Rambo-style operation where they just went in guns blazing, spraying bullets. They acted swiftly and with expert precision. I'm telling you, these guys are so smart and so lethal, they could take you out with a piece of dental floss. (And in fact, one of my ex-SEAL guys showed me how to do that one night. Whoa.)