Bin Laden street party?

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Bin Laden street party?

The view from in front of the White House

By Clayton M. McCleskey / Contributing Writer
[email]mccleskeyletters@gmail.com[/email] | Bio
1:30 AM on Mon., May. 2, 2011 | Permalink
I've just returned from the White House, and I'm trying to make sense of the massive street party that has broken out on Pennsylvania Avenue. Don't get me wrong, Osama bin Laden's death is definitely a moment worth celebrating. But the mood began to feel more like a soccer riot. I went ready for a moving patriotic moment, but left feeling like many in the crowd had totally missed the point.

On the one hand, people were singing the national anthem. Some in the crowd were more somber. I noticed several with tears in their eyes. But I also spotted several bottles of booze making the rounds as people took big swigs of vodka and waved American flags. Folks were lighting cigars and holding signs declaring "Ding, dong! Osama's dead!" and "America, F%!& yeah!" I saw couples making out. Since when is the death of a terrorist a turn on?

A guy from San Antonio wrapped himself in the Texas flag and led cheers of "USA! USA!"
I hadn't seen a crowd this big gathered outside the White House since election night 2008. On that night, I didn't mind the crazies in the crowd because it was by nature supposed to be just a big party. Tonight, however, I was uncomfortable with mood. The crowd seemed dominated by those hoping to grab the attention of news cameras (such as the guy in a Spider Man outfit made out of the American flag), while others looked on, trying to figure it all out.

A few minutes ago I talked to ABC News in Australia to share my observations on the Osama news. Having seen footage of the crowds in Washington, the journalist calling from Sydney was a bit surprised when I told him that there were at least a few in the crowd who weren't carrying on like soccer hooligans. Sure, there was definitely a frat party element to the evening, but some were there simply to witness history.

"I wanted to be part of such a historic moment," said Nathaniel Glover, a student at American University who raced to the White House as soon as he heard the news. He said killing bin Laden was "retribution" for all the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. Glover then added he didn't think Osama's death would necessarily cause much change, saying, "This is more of a symbolic thing, it's a morale thing."

He is right. I fear that this will lead many Americans to think we have now defeated al-Qaeda or that terrorism is no longer an issue. The media isn't helping -- I heard several cable news anchors speculating that this could "change everything." One went so far as to say bin Laden's death could mark the shift from a decade of terrorism in the Middle East to "a decade of democracy." That might be a bit of a stretch. Just recently Foreign Affairs ran an interesting piece about al-Qaeda's growing strength, independent of bin Laden.

That said, we should take a moment to celebrate, but with the proper frame of reference.

"The scene you see is jubilant, and rightfully so," observed Martin Scales of Flower Mound, who I found strolling in front of the White House wearing the Texas flag as a cape. "But it has taken a lot of lives, a lot of effort for us to get to this point. A lot of Texans have paid the ultimate sacrifice ... we can't forget that."

USA! USA! USA!

I am not sure if climbing a lamp post is the best way to mark the occasion ...

1. Is it right or wrong to celebrate the death of bin Laden? (or anyone)

2. Do you believe that is death is significant as it relates to the current "situations" in the Middle East, the "war on terror", in terms of national security, or in terms of anything, really.

Joined: 03/14/09
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I think it's sick, honestly.

Joined: 05/31/06
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Me too! I'm as vengeful as the next guy, but jeez.

I also think that this "buried at sea" business is awfully......fishy? Why? Why on earth doesn't his family get his body? Was it really him?

The only thing that killing does is fuel MORE terror, IMO. So....I personally feel really weird "cheering"? Bizarre.

Joined: 03/14/09
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I kind of get the buried at sea thing, the last thing that is needed right now is a martyr.

Joined: 05/31/06
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I guess. He is already one, however.

I just see those images from in front of the White House and it reminds me of the people cheering in the Middle East as the towers fell, and the utter disgust I felt. I don't want to be them. I won't cheer for death. I will cheer for peace.

culturedmom's picture
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There is always going to be a faction of people who just want a reason to publicly get drunk and act a fool. I don't spend much time thinking about the morality of those kind of people. I don't understand anyone who would choose to go itno the street and celebrate the death of anyone. That just doesn;t seem street worthy to me.

As for whether Osama's death means anything. eh. Obviuosly he is an evil person who's followers are a threat to the US. But I also think he was just the target US citizen's were given to focus our hate on and detract us from the other things. I think he was the carrot on the string. I think now the carrot has been eaten, the gov't will dangle something else in front of us to keep us focused on so they can hide the rest of the reasons they are fighting this war.

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That's exactly how I feel. I felt disgust at all the people cheering after 9/11, this is no better.

wlillie's picture
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1. I'm glad he's gone, but don't think it's something to party about. Someone died. He may have been an asshole, he may have been responsible for thousands of deaths, but he was still a human.

2. I think that someone else (probably not as good at getting people to follow him) will take his place. I think it will affect our national security for awhile; we should definitely be even more vigilant than we already were being.

Joined: 01/18/06
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I'm okay with his death. Maybe even glad. but rejoicing and cheering and all these 'pats on the back' that are going around just rub me the wrong way.

And TBH, it makes me nervous to live so close to the US border. I have no doubt there will be retaliations.

RebeccaA'07's picture
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I think it's tacky and sickening. When is it ever ok to publicly celebrate death? This will only enrage his people into further attacks against the US.

And a South Carolina Senator (Graham) actually said "We got the bastard"...really?

Don't get me wrong, I am overjoyed that they finally got him - this man killed many, many innocent people. But I don't get celebrating it.

Alissa_Sal's picture
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"culturedmom" wrote:

There is always going to be a faction of people who just want a reason to publicly get drunk and act a fool. I don't spend much time thinking about the morality of those kind of people. I don't understand anyone who would choose to go itno the street and celebrate the death of anyone. That just doesn;t seem street worthy to me.

As for whether Osama's death means anything. eh. Obviuosly he is an evil person who's followers are a threat to the US. But I also think he was just the target US citizen's were given to focus our hate on and detract us from the other things. I think he was the carrot on the string. I think now the carrot has been eaten, the gov't will dangle something else in front of us to keep us focused on so they can hide the rest of the reasons they are fighting this war.

Ding ding ding!!!!

I was shocked while watching the news last night. It just feels so wrong to have a block party to celebrate anyone's death. I can see taking to the streets if there was a declaration that the war was over and we won, but I just can't see using someone's death as a reason to par-tay.

I also don't think that his death really changes anything. ITA with Lana's second paragraph (well, I totally agree with the whole post, actually.)

wlillie's picture
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I haven't heard anyone say the reason for this war was to kill OBL.

There is still a huge population of terrorists that really hate the USA; one guy didn't make all of this happen. The govt doesn't have to change the carrot because he wasn't the carrot.

Joined: 08/05/06
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I think public displays of people celebrating someone's death are gross. I'm not sure they're that much worse than privately celebrating someone's death, though. Is it because it looks bad to be doing it publicly? I think everything else (assuming people think his death was a good thing) was handled well and not for show.

I'm feeling confused about people saying this doesn't matter or that it puts us further at risk. Didn't we go into Afghanistan for bin Laden? Didn't Bush rationalize invading Afghanistan because of 9/11. Why are we more at risk now than we were 2 days ago?

wlillie's picture
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It would be like saying that 9/11 was because of any of our former presidents. The war didn't rely on just the one person, it's a group of people with some really bad ideas and some warped views on the world and their religion. Bin Laden may have been the most important leader, but they will continue on without him. Just like the US continued on without Bush.

-eta- we are in more danger than we were before he died. They are going to strike back. I don't have any special information, it just makes sense that they (the terrorists) are going to try to hurt us because their leader died at our hands and then we publicly broadcast everyone celebrating.

GloriaInTX's picture
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I don't have a problem with it. I'm glad he's gone he was a very evil man. I didn't go out in the streets and celebrate but I don't have a problem with those in New York who have to live with the reminders of what he did every day taking to the streets. Sure Al Queada will go on without him, but those 3000 people wouldn't have died without his plan. I heard the tapes where he was rejoicing after 9-11 that he killed so many people.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I don't have a problem with it. I'm glad he's gone he was a very evil man. I didn't go out in the streets and celebrate but I don't have a problem with those in New York who have to live with the reminders of what he did every day taking to the streets. Sure Al Queada will go on without him, but those 3000 people wouldn't have died without his plan. I heard the tapes where he was rejoicing after 9-11 that he killed so many people.

One more reason I am anti rejoicing. Who wants to be like Bin Laden???? Not me.

LiveFreeOrDie's picture
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"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that" Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alissa_Sal's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

One more reason I am anti rejoicing. Who wants to be like Bin Laden???? Not me.

"LiveFreeOrDie" wrote:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that" Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yes.

Joined: 01/01/06
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While I personally am glad that bin Laden is dead, I completely disagree with those that were out on the streets cheering and celebrating. It's simply wrong. In fact, DH and I had a hard time watching the news with that going on in a second window. It's wrong.

On the other hand, I heard there was a group of New Yorkers who passed those moments by coming together respectfully and singing our national anthem. I am fine with that. That scene is one where people found a more proper way to express their feelings about what bin Laden did to them. He destroyed millions of families. And affected even more with his terrorist activities. Not just 9/11 but the bombings of ships and embassies too before that. And anyone old enough will always remember that fatal day and the weeks that followed. My oldest child was 6 weeks old when I watched it live....he has heard his whole life about it. He will turn 10 this summer. This man's actions have affected millions for more than just that decade. I'm glad to know he really is not a live anymore. I can understand the need to express some of thos emotions that have worked on people for the last decade or more....but not through revelry.

And honestly I am glad that he was taken by American hands. I think that many believed he was dead and it would be one of those "who really knows what ever happened" scenarios. I think it's good to have closure there.

Sadly I do think we will see a surge in terrorist activity...it happened after other top members were killed. But it is still better to have Osama removed from his position. I think they will have a hard time filling in bin Laden's role. He had a certain charisma that attracted people. I do hope that we can pull our troops home now...turn the rest over to those who live there. It will be interesting to see the role Pakistan played in his discovery or staying hidden longer.

Andy1784's picture
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W

"LiveFreeOrDie" wrote:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that" Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you for this, it expresses how I feel about this situation much more eloquently than I ever could.

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"wlillie" wrote:

It would be like saying that 9/11 was because of any of our former presidents. The war didn't rely on just the one person, it's a group of people with some really bad ideas and some warped views on the world and their religion. Bin Laden may have been the most important leader, but they will continue on without him. Just like the US continued on without Bush.

-eta- we are in more danger than we were before he died. They are going to strike back. I don't have any special information, it just makes sense that they (the terrorists) are going to try to hurt us because their leader died at our hands and then we publicly broadcast everyone celebrating.

Why did the US invade Afghanistan if not to take town the heads of Al Queda?

You think the US is in more danger now that it has been proven effective at killing a wanted criminal than before when it was perceived to be ineffective? I don't understand that. Do you think it would have been better to not pursue or capture/kill bin Laden?

wlillie's picture
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It was to take down Al Queda, not just the leaders. :confused:

Yes, right now we are in more danger because we've given them another reason to be angry. We wouldn't react peacefully if someone killed President Obama and buried him at sea; but we wouldn't give up our fight either. Just like the US would go on if something happened to our President, Al Queda will go on without their leader. Just like we would strike back if someone killed our President, Al Queda will strike back because we killed their leader. We weren't happy when we saw their reaction to 9/11, so they won't be happy with the reaction to this.

No, I don't think ignoring he was out there was the way to go. I wish they could have found him and captured him alive so those Navy Seals didn't have to kill him, but he wasn't going peacefully. If it was a choice of him being free to committ more murder/leadership to murder or dying with a consequence of heightened attack mode from his followers, I'd choose his death every time.

GloriaInTX's picture
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I think a lot of the celebration is pride in our military and that they were able to accomplish something many had given up on.

IMO people would be cheering just the same if they had captured him alive, so its not really about his death it is just that they got him.

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"wlillie" wrote:

It was to take down Al Queda, not just the leaders. :confused:

Yes, right now we are in more danger because we've given them another reason to be angry. We wouldn't react peacefully if someone killed President Obama and buried him at sea; but we wouldn't give up our fight either. Just like the US would go on if something happened to our President, Al Queda will go on without their leader. Just like we would strike back if someone killed our President, Al Queda will strike back because we killed their leader. We weren't happy when we saw their reaction to 9/11, so they won't be happy with the reaction to this.

No, I don't think ignoring he was out there was the way to go. I wish they could have found him and captured him alive so those Navy Seals didn't have to kill him, but he wasn't going peacefully. If it was a choice of him being free to committ more murder/leadership to murder or dying with a consequence of heightened attack mode from his followers, I'd choose his death every time.

How do you take down an organization without taking down its leaders?

I'm feeling confused about the criticism if you think this was the best thing that could have happened. I just don't understand it.

wlillie's picture
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You can take down the leaders, but it's not like they don't have more people to fill the spot. I'm still confused. Do you think Al Queda is just going to drop this whole mess and send us some cookies or something because we killed OBL? Do you think they'll just dismantle and go back to being normal citizens who work, go to community events, and raise families? I don't.

What criticism?

GloriaInTX's picture
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"wlillie" wrote:

You can take down the leaders, but it's not like they don't have more people to fill the spot. I'm still confused. Do you think Al Queda is just going to drop this whole mess and send us some cookies or something because we killed OBL? Do you think they'll just dismantle and go back to being normal citizens who work, go to community events, and raise families? I don't.

Even though there will be others to take his place, they don't have the incredible charisma and standing he had that recruited people to his cause. Also 9/11 was a very organized attack that took years in advance planning, and I think there will be retaliation but it will be much harder for them to organize something on the same scale again.

ClairesMommy's picture
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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I think a lot of the celebration is pride in our military and that they were able to accomplish something many had given up on.

IMO people would be cheering just the same if they had captured him alive, so its not really about his death it is just that they got him.

What do you mean by many? Many other countries? Other militaries?

wlillie's picture
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I know Gloria. Which is those that were dedicated to the cause are going to be really upset. I really don't think they'll have to start from scratch, I'm sure they've been waiting for a good time. How much more support are they going to get from those Radical terrorists now that they see people dancing and drinking in the street celebrating the death of a man who they admired?

GloriaInTX's picture
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"wlillie" wrote:

I know Gloria. Which is those that were dedicated to the cause are going to be really upset. I really don't think they'll have to start from scratch, I'm sure they've been waiting for a good time. How much more support are they going to get from those Radical terrorists now that they see people dancing and drinking in the street celebrating the death of a man who they admired?

I don't think it really matters. They are going to hate us for killing him no matter what we do. I think it is silly to think we are going to provoke them in some way when they already want to kill us if they just get the chance.

GloriaInTX's picture
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"Claire'sMommy" wrote:

What do you mean by many? Many other countries? Other militaries?

Many of the people who are celebrating.

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"wlillie" wrote:

You can take down the leaders, but it's not like they don't have more people to fill the spot. I'm still confused. Do you think Al Queda is just going to drop this whole mess and send us some cookies or something because we killed OBL? Do you think they'll just dismantle and go back to being normal citizens who work, go to community events, and raise families? I don't.

What criticism?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding your comments about the only effect of this death being to put the US at greater risk as being criticism.

I don't think they're going to send cookies. Give me a little credit here. I just don't agree that there's going to be no negative effect on al Queda. I think the fact that we had been unable to find him for 10 years sent the message that we were disorganized and ineffective. Do you not think that killing bin Laden sends any message at all? Why has the military been trying to find him for 10 years if his capture/death means nothing?

ClairesMommy's picture
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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Many of the people who are celebrating.

Thanks for clarifying.

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Just dropped in to add....my parents are on a tour in the Middle East right now. Their tour guide is an Arab whose political views do not match many Americans... Anyways, he told them that he didn't think Osama's death would really change anything because so many Arabs already believed he was dead and just thought Americans weren't admitting it so they could keep fighting... Interesting...

GloriaInTX's picture
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I think Bin Laden's location proves even more how important he was to the organization and was still involved in the day to day operation of Al Queada. He wasn't hiding out somewhere he was in a central area still giving out orders. I think our military definitely has something to celebrate in a job well done. My son may be deploying to Afghanistan in a couple months and it makes me breathe just a little easier.

wlillie's picture
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Kate- I don't think that was the only effect, It's just the Biggest One to me. Like I said, I think someone else will take his place. I wasn't trying to say that it wasn't something that needed to be done, just that a lot of people seem to believe that our troops will be coming home now and we'll all be safe because this one man is dead. It's nice to know that his replacement won't be as powerful as he obviously was, but it's not like we shouldn't be worried about future attacks.

Gloria- I disagree. My son hates ants, but he hates them a lot more right after one bites him. We hated terrorism before 9/11, but you can't say that it didn't change our view on a lot of things we as a country didn't feel strongly about before. These people aren't any less prone to revenge than we are.

Jesus died, look how much more Christianity has spread since then.

GloriaInTX's picture
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"wlillie" wrote:

Gloria- I disagree. My son hates ants, but he hates them a lot more right after one bites him. We hated terrorism before 9/11, but you can't say that it didn't change our view on a lot of things we as a country didn't feel strongly about before. These people aren't any less prone to revenge than we are.

The thing is before 9/11 we hadn't done anything to these people besides exist and they hated us just as much then as they do now.

Alissa_Sal's picture
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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

The thing is before 9/11 we hadn't done anything to these people besides exist and they hated us just as much then as they do now.

Gloria, not true. There are long standing historical reasons for the bad feelings against the Western World and the US in the Muslim countries. Not that that excuses terrorism (of course not!) but it's not historically accurate to act like there is zero rationale behind it.

Interesting Summary:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/reac_ter13.htm#ov

GloriaInTX's picture
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"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Gloria, not true. There are long standing historical reasons for the bad feelings against the Western World and the US in the Muslim countries. Not that that excuses terrorism (of course not!) but it's not historically accurate to act like there is zero rationale behind it.

Interesting Summary:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/reac_ter13.htm#ov

I thought we were talking about Al Queada not Muslims. There IS zero rationale behind their reasoning and there is not one thing we could do differently that would make them hate us any less. (besides the whole nation converting to Islam) From your article:

Bin Laden cannot simply be called a Muslim, or a Fundamentalist Muslim. He is a extreme, radical, Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist. Each of these five terms is important. Some of his beliefs and actions are:

He believes that the world is divided into two: the House of Islam, and the House of War. He views the House of Islam as being permanently at war with the House of War.

He believes that he has a divine right from God to impose his will on others.

Whereas almost all Muslims believe that there must be no compulsion in choosing Islam, Bin Laden believes that the West must accept Islam, by force if necessary.

He has called for a holy war against the U.S.

He has called on all Muslims to kill any Americans and Jews that they can.

He is not troubled by "collateral damage" for example of those Muslims who were killed in his terrorist attack in New York City. His reasoning is that some of those killed were good Muslims. Because they died during a holy war, they would be given special treatment in Paradise. Those who were non-observant Muslims would simply be hastened to Hell where they belong.

Alissa_Sal's picture
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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I thought we were talking about Al Queada not Muslims. There IS zero rationale behind their reasoning and there is not one thing we could do differently that would make them hate us any less. (besides the whole nation converting to Islam) From your article:

I think you have to look at the history behind the conflicts between the Western World and the Muslim world in order to understand the atmosphere of resentment that helps to create the Fundamentalist Muslim Terrorist mind set. Like, if you were brought up to hate a certain kind of people, you probably would hate them, right? But that doesn't change the question of "Why were you brought up this way? What are the influences on your culture that create those attitudes?"

I don't think that it serves the US very well to try to turn a blind eye on history. Those who forget history....you know? I think it's important to understand that most of this stuff doesn't happen in a bubble, or a vacuum, it's part of a greater current of history.

Please don't mistake me at all - I'm NOT excusing the behavior of terrorists. They are evil, evil men. I'm just saying that I think it's worth looking at the culture that they grew up to understand maybe how some of this came down the line. Does that make sense?

GloriaInTX's picture
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So do you think its a coincidence or was it planned?

May Day: Both Hitler and bin Laden Announced Dead on May 1
http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/05/02/may-day-both-hitler-and-bin-laden-announced-dead-on-may-1/

Alissa_Sal's picture
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I think it's a coincidence. I mean, if you think about it, probably about 1/365 of everyone who has ever lived has died on May 1st. That's a lot of people.

Andy1784's picture
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This is a total tangent but that MLJ jr quote was not an authentic MLK jr quote, at least not in its entirety. I still think it expresses how I feel very well regardless of whose thought it is.

http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/anatomy-of-a-fake-quotation/238257/

As far as the May 1st thing goes, I think people are trying too hard to find a conspiracy but that is to be expected with most things of this nature.

LiveFreeOrDie's picture
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Killing One Monster, Unleashing Another: Reflections on Revenge and Revelry by Tim Wise
Posted on May 2, 2011

There is a particularly trenchant scene in the documentary film, Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead, in which Blecker — who teaches at New York University School of Law and is the nation’s most prominent pro-death penalty scholar — travels to Tennessee’s Riverbend Prison for the execution of convicted murderer, Daryl Holton. Blecker is adamant that Holton, who murdered his own children, deserves to die for his crime. Yet, when he gets to the prison on the evening of Holton’s electrocution, Blecker is disturbed not only by the anti-death penalty forces whom he views as dangerously naive, but also by those who have come to literally cheer the state-sponsored killing. He agrees with their ultimate position, but can’t understand why they feel the need to celebrate death, to party as a life is taken. The event is somber, he tries to tell them. Human life is precious, he insists; so precious, in Blecker’s mind, that occasionally we must take the lives of killers so as to reinforce that respect for human life. But there is no reason to revel in the death of another, he tries to explain. While I disagree with Blecker on the matter of the death penalty, I felt sympathy for him in that moment, trying to thread the needle between advocacy of killing — any killing — and the retention of the nuance that allows the supporter of such a thing to still preach about the sanctity of life. It was a nice attempt, and heartfelt.

Of course, his pleas for solemnity fall on deaf ears. His ideological compatriots cannot comprehend him. They even misunderstand his position on the ultimate issue, presuming at first that his unwillingness to cheer the death of one as evil as Holton means he must oppose the death penalty, and that he doesn’t care about the children Holton killed. Ultimately, Blecker walks away, clearly shaken, not in his support for capital punishment, but by the way in which others on his own side seem to literally glorify death, even need it.

I was reminded of this scene today, while watching coverage of the celebrations around the country (but especially in Washington D.C. and Manhattan), which began last night when it was announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. In front of the White House were thousands of affluent and overprivileged (and mostly white) college students from George Washington University (among the nation’s most expensive schools), partying like it was spring break. Never needing an excuse to binge drink, the GW and Georgetown collegians responded to the news of bin Laden’s death as though their team had just won the Final Four. That none of them would have had the guts to actually go and fight the war that they seem to support so vociferously — after all, a stint in the military might disrupt their plans to work on Wall Street, or to become high-powered lawyers, or just get in the way of their spring formal — matters not, one supposes. They have other people to do the hard work for them. They always have.

In New York, the throngs assembled may have been more economically diverse, but the revelry was similar. Lots of flags, chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” and an overall “rah-rah” attitude akin to that which one might experience at a BCS Bowl game, and once again, mostly led by guys who would never, themselves, have gone to war, to get bin Laden or anyone else.

You have to wonder — or actually, you don’t because the answer is so distressingly obvious — would these throngs pour into the streets to celebrate in this fashion if it were announced that a cure for cancer had been discovered, or for AIDS? Would thousands of people be jumping up and down belting out patriotic chants if the president were to announce that our country’s scientists had found a new, affordable method for wiping out all childhood disease, malnutrition or malaria in poor countries around the world? Though these maladies kill far more than Osama bin Laden ever dreamt of slaughtering, and although any of these developments would be a source of intense pride for millions, there is almost no chance that they would be met with drunken revelry. Partying is what we do when we kill people, when we beat someone, when we grind them to dust. It is not what we do when we save lives or end suffering. Saving lives or doing humanitarianism is like making love, while killing people is tantamount to a good, hard, and largely one-sided ****; and unfortunately we know which of these two things men, in particular, are more apt to prefer.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not a pacifist. I know there are times when violence may be necessary, either in self-defense, vicarious defense of others, or to prevent greater violence. If you were to break into my house and attempt to harm my family, let there be no misunderstanding: you would die, and I would kill you, without so much as a moment’s hesitation. But I would not, upon having taken your life (however justified), proceed to pop a cold one, invite friends over and dance around your bloody body. I would not be happy about what I had done. Taking a life, even when you have no choice, is no cause for joy. It is a grave and serious event; and it is utterly unnatural, such that militaries the world over have to dehumanize their enemies and work furiously to break down their soldiers’ natural human tendencies to not kill. The fact that violence may be necessary in certain cases, and even in the case of stopping bin Laden, cannot, in and of itself justify raucous celebrations of his death at the hands of the United States.

So yes, we can argue that bin Laden deserved to die. But that’s the easy part. Beyond what one deserves, whether they be terrorists or just street criminals, there is the matter of what society needs. And it may be that what a healthy society needs is less bombastic rhetoric, less celebratory embrace of violence, and less jingoistic nationalism, even if that means that we have to respond to the news of bin Laden’s death with a more muted tone, perhaps being thankful in private, or even drinking a toast with friends in our own homes, but not turning the matter into public spectacle, the likes of which cheapens matters of life and death to little more than a contest whose results can be tallied on a scoreboard.

It may prove cathartic that one the likes of bin Laden is dead. His death may provide an opportunity for a much-needed exhaling; but that doesn’t render it the proper subject of a pep rally. And given the larger need to challenge the mentality of disposability that is at the root of all murderous violence, it may be that in such moments we would be far better off to solemnly commemorate the death of the monster than to cheer it openly, when the latter is so likely to inflame passions on the part of those whose allegiance to the monster remained unsullied right to the end.

Ultimately, the mentality of human disposability that animates war, terrorism, gang violence and all forms of homicidal street crime, is a dangerous one to indulge, and certainly to indulge giddily. Such a mindset feeds upon itself, perpetuates itself without end, and serves to ratify the same in others. Surely we should strive to do better, even when, for various reasons, we can’t manage it, and are required to take life for one reason or another. Most soldiers, after all, are not happy or self-satisfied about the things they’ve done in war. For many, if not most, killing even when you have no choice, is life-changing. It scars. It comes back in the middle of the night, haunting the soldier’s dreams for years, and sometimes forever. We do not honor them or their sacrifices by treating the mortal decisions they so often have to make as if they were no more gut-wrenching than those made during the playing of a video game.

Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than the celebrations unleashed in the wake of bin Laden’s demise was the cynical way in which the president suggested that his killing proved “America can do whatever we set our mind to.” If this is, indeed, the lesson of bin Laden’s death, then this only suggests we clearly don’t want to diminish, let alone end, child poverty, excess mortality rates in communities of color, rape and sexual assault of women (including the many thousands who have been victimized in the U.S. military), or food insecurity for millions of families; because we aren’t addressing any of those things with nearly the aplomb as that put to warfare and the killing of our adversaries.

We are, if the president is serious here, a nation that has narrowly constricted its marketable talents to the deployment of violence. We can’t manufacture much of anything, but we can kill you. We can’t fix our schools, or build adequate levees to protect a city like New Orleans from floodwaters. But we can kill you. We can’t reduce infant mortality to anywhere near the level of other industrialized nations with which we like to compare ourselves. But we can kill you. We can’t break the power of Wall Street bankers, or jail any of those bankers and money managers who helped orchestrate the global financial collapse. But we can kill you. We can’t protect LGBT youth from bullying in schools, or ensure equal opportunity for all in the labor market, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or any other factor. But we can kill you. Booyah, *****es.

But somewhere, I suspect, there is a young child — maybe the age of one of my own — who is sitting in front of a television tonight in Karachi, or Riyadh. And he’s watching footage of some fraternity boy, American flag wrapped around his back, cheering the death of one who this child believes, for whatever ****ed up reason, is a hero, and now, a martyr.

And I know that this child will likely do what all such children do; namely, forget almost nothing, remember almost everything, and plan for the day when he will make you remember it too, and when you will know his name. And if (or when) that day comes, the question will be, was your party worth it?

This is the best article I have read on the subject.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

I think it was necessary for him to die, but very unnecessary and in poor taste for the celebrating. I remember after 9/11 the photos of people celebrating just was fuel to the fire. After that time, everyone I knew was ready to take up arms and fight, and I think those people will feel the same way about us now. That was just so terrible celebrating that thousands of American's had died. Yes, he needed to be captured, but no it does not need to be celebrated.

carg0612's picture
Joined: 09/23/09
Posts: 1554

Frankly I wouldn't give the creep the time of day if he were alive (so to speak) so why would I waste a single second on him dead. There, I already wasted too many words on him.

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