Letter: America should not feel morally righteous in bin Laden's death

May 20, 2011

As America assumes its self-congratulatory posture at the sneak attack murder of an unarmed man in his own home surrounded by family, consideration of who we are as a nation and what we are becoming might be in order.

First, whatever claims the United States may have had to moral superiority are now shredded. Our own elected leaders openly refer to the murder of Osama bin Laden as an assassination, without a hint of shame.

Historically, neither democracies nor moral nations openly engaged in assassinations, let alone took vulgar pride in them. We, who have had one of the highest percentages of leaders assassinated, should be especially sensitive to the hideousness of such acts.

Second, U.S. leaders at the highest levels boast that the success of the murder is partially based on information extracted by torture. CIA Director Leon Panetta boasts of the role of torture. He and so many others are clueless to the morally slippery road sanctioned torture takes us as a society. No government in a democracy or moral nation deserves to exist that sponsors torture.

Third, while initial claims of bin Laden living in a lavish palace and using his wife as a shield have been discredited, it bears remembering that for many of the past 10 years since 9/11 he has been on the front lines and in the trenches with his men. Although twice as old as the typical American soldier (or SEAL), his maneuvers fighting much larger, far better-equipped Americans prevented his army from capture or death.

He simultaneously built communities at the local and regional levels. He also had the love of the populace for the most part and as we now know to our chagrin, the admiration of national leaders, including the Pakistanis. By contrast, we continue to be hated.

Last, in spite of bin Laden's billionaire Saudi family, for most of his adult life he lived humbly.

Bin Laden is dead. The question is: Did his murder make us a better democracy, or a more moral people?

H. L. Goldstein


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