"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."~~ Dr. Martin Luther King
Late last Sunday night, with the weekend news cycle still squeezing the life out of the first royal kiss and "NATO's" targeted assassination attempt of Muammar Gaddafi, killing his youngest son Saif Al-Arab and three young grandchildren, provoking a mainstream media feeding frenzy not seen since Balloon Boy, we were informed that the President would soon announce -- within minutes, it was leaked -- to a grateful, fearful, xenophobic nation that Osama Bin Laden had been taken out, double-whacked, by an elite team of American assassins in Pakistan.
As a jubilant mob of flag wavers on Pennsylvania Avenue were gathering within earshot, a somber Obama took the mike and delivered the goods -- short on details, long on rhetoric.
"No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties."
AP reports disputed casualty counts at Bin Laden's compound from the start, but let's give Obama the benefit of the doubt. Let's say a Special Forces sniper or two surgically removed the devil incarnate from North Waziristan with a head shot, a pink mist burst clearly visible, without additional "bug splat," another one of the Pentagon's more compassionate references for civilian casualties, as if pink mist wasn't dehumanizing enough. Real Xbox Call of Duty: Black Ops stuff. A military recruiter's wet dream.
And when did Obama start worrying about civilian casualties or collateral damage estimates anyway? His Hellfire missiles have been raining down on al Qaeda operative suspects since the first Afghan or Pakistani wedding parties were taken out within weeks of his Inauguration.
"And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table."
The "empty seat at the dinner table"? With Drone kill-rate estimates of 10-14 to 1 -- innocent civilians to possible combatants -- there have been hundreds of empty seats at the table created by the CIA each week. And make no mistake, the whole world is watching. Of course, the US Air Force console ace in Nevada with the joystick could care less.
"Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child's embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts."
Iraq war casualty figures released by WikiLeaks in October 2010 revealed more than 285,000 killed and wounded, with dead locals guilty only of proximity, comprising 63 percent of the toll -- 90 percent of these women and children.
Afghanistan by contrast ... well there is no contrast actually. The civilian casualty counts continue to soar, with countless lost embraces, from the elders and the young, receding to wisps of recollection. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, casualties have increased by at least 15 percent each year through 2010, nearly 2,800 in 2010 and 8,832 killed since 2006.
"On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together" We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country."
Like the reveling going on in Benghazi earlier in the weekend, with news of the NATO near-miss on Muammar Gadhafi and the collateral damage done to the Colonel's immediate family, an orgy of spontaneous celebrations spread from the White House fence, an epicenter for peace movement arrests, through the Heartland to the Left Coast. This time a different sort of exuberant intransigence garnered hugs, with a cordon of police protection, replacing indifference and zip cuffs reserved for anti-war resisters.
"The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war."
One could argue this point, in spite of poll ratings of 70 percent or higher in 2003, but the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are currently being waged by choice. The senseless slaughter of civilians will no doubt continue, but the vast majority of Americans will never know wartime service, struggle, and sacrifice -- and the true costs of war is another issue. However, many will, if they don't already, suffer the consequences of a war economy long before they can spell Afghanistan or even point it out on a map.