Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ten years after: mission finally accomplished

I almost missed the news; I was watching HBO’s “Treme,” and nothing interrupts HBO (because it’s not TV; it’s …you know). Had I not turned to the news, I would not have jumped for joy and yelped in the middle of the night.
Finally, after almost 10 years of vexing, kvetching, wishing and hoping, two wars, thousands of Americans dead and many more thousands wounded and maimed and too many jokes about something too deadly serious, came the words every American had been waiting to hear.
Osama bin Laden, public enemy number 1, was as dead as a mackerel. How did he get it? As was said on film by Liberty Valance, “OK, dude; right between the eyes…” Uh, so to speak.
His was the face on the target for American troops, U.S. intelligence and elected officials of two administrations in Washington, D.C. His name was usually followed by all seven dirty words the late genius comedian George Carlin spoke about, and then some additional creations.
I had not seen such spontaneous celebrations in the streets of several major cities since President Barack Obama’s November, 2008 election, or since the American hockey team edged to Soviet squad in Lake Placid, during the 1980 Olympics.
For thousands of families, it might have been the first time a feeling of inner satisfaction existed since their loved ones lost their lives that Tuesday morning in New York City. Bin Laden’s death doesn’t bring any of those innocent victims back because you cannot un-ring a bell. But they’re in heaven and bin Laden is in a special dungeon in hell when the Devil doesn’t even visit.
I wrote the following column during the evening hours of Sept. 11, 2001, and it went to press for the next morning’s edition of the Plano (Tex.) Star-Courier, where I was managing editor.
In re-reading it, the sentiments are just as accurate and true today (in my humble opinion).
Exactly WHO does America go after?
A little more than six years ago, I sat in a completely silent news room with scores of people surrounding me. It was another place, another time and a different circumstance that caused those folks, and almost everyone else in the nation, to stop, look and listen to tragic news.
That was Oklahoma City. Yesterday, it was New York City and Washington, D.C. The stunned silence was the same, the tear-filled eyes were the same and the numbness was the same.
And the questions posed were the same, “Who would do such a thing?”
In the case of Oklahoma City, where initial police and press reports suggested that the culprit was Arabic, the perpetrator was a good old boy, who wasn’t much of a man and wasn’t very good. He was one of us and that stunned the country almost as much as the act.
Who would do such a thing?
If the U.S. hadn’t learned before, it knows this morning clearer than ever – there are people, many people, more than we want to realize or accept, that do not like us and will do whatever it takes to see our country suffer. Humanity doesn’t enter into the equation. Acts like this suggest that the instigators embrace martyrdom – meaning they worship death while we have always worshipped life.
How can are overcome that kind of thinking when it is fundamentally opposite of what you know to be true?
I have asked these questions today (Tuesday) and I have no answers. The people in New York City have no answers and the government officials in Washington, D.C. have no answers. Otherwise, someone would be taking swift action ... and it didn’t happen.
All this pent-up emotion and no safety valve. People are (stupidly) ready to march off to war without fully weighing ALL the consequences. Others want scorched earth regardless of whose earth is being scorched.
So I pose it to you: Exactly WHO does America go after? Which foreign country is responsible for this act of terrorism? Do we know for sure, or would we be guessing?
And if you believe in the writings of the Bible or Torah or Koran, what does vengeance ever solve? It just inflicts more pain, injury and death upon innocent people whose sole “crime” is to have been born in another nation with a different skin color.
A pound of flesh weighs much heavier on the heart and soul than you think.
Let’s theorize that international outlaw Osama bin Laden is the power and the money (and perhaps brains) behind this well-executed and dastardly deed. OK, where is he? Where do we look? Where we would attack to capture him? Can we justify illegally entering a sovereign nation’s territory because we waive the Stars and Stripes?
Are we ready to start World War III? Because the next retaliation, if we would attack a Middle East nation looking for bin Laden, would be directed toward Israel and it won’t involve “conventional” weaponry. Bin Laden, Saddam and the other godfathers of terrorism won’t stop with a few exchange of bombs.
And no one alive is ready for that.
There was a movie done three years ago, starring Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis, called “The Siege.” Its premise was eerily redone on television screens across the world.
Terrorists strike New York, forcing federal troops to take control of the city, imposing martial law and interring all families of Arabic descent. The rationalization and justification used was the old, tired argument that you have to sacrifice some liberties to maintain freedom and peace.
Except, as the movie notes (in a convoluted manner), that is not how THIS country works. We have fought, and died, to have 100 percent of the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. Deprivation never works.
Yes, we need to find out, with total certainty, who did this. We need to bring them to justice – American justice. We need answers and we garner them without blindly pointing fingers at various groups.
And we need to pray. Our country took a bad body blow in the solar plexus. It hurts – a whole heck of a lot.
But we are strong and we are resilient. We don’t like having this happen and we will not yield to this kind of threat.
Someone misjudged badly. Tragedy unites us ... and united we DO stand.
I was extremely proud of what I wrote that evening for my audience of Sept. 12. Having studied bin Laden a bit prior to 9/11, I knew he could have been the mastermind, but the questions I posed were valid. Asking NOT to stumble or rumble into war seems more than justified in light of how many casualties this nation has had to endure in the last decade.
I’m not sure bin Laden’s death changes anything; beating the Russians in Olympic ice hockey changed nothing either in 1980 … but it made us feel good to be Americans, if for only a moment. This man’s justified homicide should make us feel good – about the precision of our elite SEALs units, the planning of our military brass and the sharing of intelligence by other agencies (frankly, that was a MAJOR problem in the Bush White House because of a ridiculous turf war, which really wasn’t Bush’s fault)
My news staff did admirable work that day, despite heavy, heavy hearts and being shocked to their core, like every other American. I can proudly point to that edition as being the finest in that publication’s history, including my cautionary piece (which was ripped by many readers who wanted to send other people’s children into combat for quick revenge).
It took longer than any of us wanted, or any of us hoped. But the job got done.
And I don’t need photos to confirm what the “deathers” claim not to have happened. All the proof in the world won’t convince them that an African-American man with an Arabic-sounding name helped plan, and gave the order, to take out the world’s most heinous terrorist. He did and we did.
The world is a better place today after Sunday night. It won’t truly begin to heal and prosper until like-minded individuals, or cells, STOP killing people out of the need to terrorize, or for some extreme religious doctrine that only fools follow.
It sounds simplistic to ask “Why can’t we all just get along?” But the face, voice and spirit of vile hatred … is dead and gone. Good riddance and if it forces someone to alter their course of violence towards a more peaceful road, it was more than worth it.
God bless the U.S.A., bless our troops (hopefully they will come home soon to their families and help make America a better and safer place) and bless our leaders for not wavering from the promise President Obama made in 2008 – to get bin Laden.
Mission FINALLY accomplished!

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