As I got ready to climb into bed, my husband looked up at me with an urgent look on his face.
“Do you know that Osama Bin Laden was killed? It’s all over my Facebook.”
I told him to turn it to CNN and sure enough there it was. The screen showed happy people in front of the White House rejoicing, waving American flags. They were rejoicing in New York. The news was at a fever pitch.
At first I was happy. Not jump around happy, but I was very happy. It was an amalgamation of feelings. I felt that this would be beneficial to President Obama, and Democrats in general. I wanted to feel like this made wrongs right, but then reality set in again, and I became deeply saddened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that God is in control. I am happy that Osama Bin Laden has transitioned because there’s no justice we could ever dispense in this life that could ease, or sadly erase, the pain that man caused.
The sad fact is his death didn’t do anything to bring those lives back. I wish to God that it could. Wouldn’t that seem fair? Instead, he’s gone on and we’re all here, left with somber memorials and 9/11 observations to remember those who were murdered or killed because of his actions.
I didn’t know why, but this emotion came over me. This sadness. A profound sadness. One which found me trying to make sense of why I felt that way. Like most Americans, on 9/11, I woke up to news and phone calls about planes flying into the World Trade Center. I saw it with my own eyes. I saw planes disappear into those towers and felt like my entire world was crashing down on me. I wondered what the hell kind of world did I wake up to. It was all good the night before. I was active duty then. Like most of my comrades, they could’ve handed me an M16 right outside my front door, and I would’ve happily landed in Afghanistan to avenge those who were killed on that chaotic day. The pain we felt as servicemen and women was amplified because we pledged to protect the country against all enemies foreign and domestic, and somehow we didn’t because Osama’s hate was so compelling, that he violated the very rules of war we thought were understood everywhere. Being in Hawaii didn’t help. I felt so cut off. I felt like I couldn’t grieve because I was in a paradise. And thousands of miles away, the country–one that tends to forget about Hawaii unless it’s vacation time–was feeling the pain of such unprecedented attacks.
The death toll grew and it became clear that–with action in Afghanistan and then Iraq–that Osama Bin Laden had set off, with the help of an eager American Military Industrial Complex, a chain of events that claimed lives over and over again. Day after day after day with no end in sight. The base became emptier and Hawaii lonelier. As we prepared to get out of the Army, because our child was our priority, it became clearer that the blood on Bin Laden’s hands would multiply; would swell like a river ushering forth. In one day, in one fateful day, Bin Laden’s actions and those of his minions would change the lives of thousands for days, weeks and years to come. Naturally, everyone responsible, whether their intentions were good or otherwise, will be held accountable, if not in this life, the next. However, the ONE man that made this insanity possible will have to answer not only for his actions, but for the actions of others on a grander scale.
Tears sprang forth from my eyes. I cried because all the memories came flooding back. I cried because in some way, it felt like some lives were vindicated. I cried because it was so anti-climactic. That was it. He was dead and did not even have to explain himself, and because of that, future generations will never learn the flawed logic of a megalomaniacal madman. In turn, we may never learn from our mistakes.
So many sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, relatives taken away by IEDs, or suicide because of the strain of combat and the killing of one’s fellow man. So many lives gone never to get married or have children or see their parents grow old and wise. So many flags draped over so many caskets. So many grim processions through small town streets to a final resting place. So many children without their parents. So many veterans left to their own devices because they are no longer of “use.” I cried because it’s not over and if we continue on this path in our foreign policy, it will never be over. My husband tried to console me. There was no fairness to this. His death was as much a simple figurehead as he was. It is but a chapter in a very large book filled with chapter upon chapter of the same old story, just with different characters. The outcome in many ways is still the same. They are all still gone. Erased and forgotten. The nation moves on as if they never existed. The nation moves on as if those who survived tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq are lepers. We, as a collective, pretend they are invisible. We look on with some sort of sadness when we realize who they are and what they’ve lost, but that’s it. As a nation we expect that a “thank you for your service” will erase the fact that limbs are forever gone and psyches forever marred by nightmares and visions of fallen comrades; guilt for making it out alive.
With just a few bullets to his body, Osama Bin Laden was gone. It was quick; probably painless. A merciful death for a man who showed no quarter, not even to women or children. In one day, it was over. For us it’s been a gradual punishment. It’s been a sick and twisted deja vu.
“Two soldiers killed in bomb blast in Iraq”
“Soldier Killed in Afghanistan”
I cried because even after his death, more lives will be lost and now there won’t be a major figure to blame, but the country won’t care. As time progressed I wiped my eyes, and proceeded with my night. His death has become as meaningless and utterly irrelevant as his very existence. In the end, we shouldn’t mourn or even pay attention to his death any longer. If we truly want to dish out some sort of justice; if we really want to make his death mean something, let’s rally around the 9/11 families and survivors, those veterans who answered the call and came home, and those currently still answering the call. Let’s stop talking about that beast, and let’s start talking about the forgotten war and the forgotten troops in the forgotten country we went to war with first. While at it, let’s help those who serve and served in Iraq, and the families of those who died there.
The tragedy in all of this was Osama Bin Laden attacked us, and we were united, but then we let factions fracture us again, and then we discarded those who sacrifice and sacrificed everything, and then we forgot–or never bothered to care–about how Osama Bin Laden even rose to power on our watch. The tragedy was not learning from the actions of the wicked to combat the wicked. I guess only time will tell if the life and death of Osama Bin Laden and all those he touched, negatively or otherwise, will actually mean something more than just an “eye for an eye.”