Ending Osama bin Laden’s legacy of hate & violence
Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist who dedicated his life to promoting hate and terrorism under the guise of religious and moral righteousness, was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs during the pre-dawn hours of May 1st, ending a 10-year global manhunt following the 9/11 attacks.
Two bullets – ‘double tap’ – above the left eye ended bin Laden’s life. It was a quick and a far more dignified death compared to what many of bin Laden’s victims had suffered. Collectively, the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, the coordinated 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the hijackings of four airliners killed more than 3,000 people and wounded more than 10,000. Imagine the level of pain and desperation that would force nearly 200 people to jump off the World Trade Center to escape the burning infernos on Sept. 11, 2001. The victims who survived bin Laden’s terrorist attacks bear physical scars and mental trauma that haunt will them for a lifetime. Some of the victims’ remains were never recovered, denying closure to their loved ones. Given this context, Osama bin Laden’s death and burial at sea were far more compassionate and dignified compared to what he had inflicted on his victims around the world.
Bin Laden’s death sparked an emotional response in the United States. Justice, vengeance, relief, rejoice, celebration – a mix of these emotions were captured by Monday’s newspaper headlines:
- U.S. forces kill Osama bin Laden; Obama: ‘Justice has been done’ – Washington Post
- The butcher of 9/11 is DEAD – San Francisco Examiner
- Got him! Vengeance at last! US nails the bastard – New York Post
- Rot in hell! – New York Daily News
- Nation celebrates death of bin Laden – The Tribune of San Luis Obispo
Should death and vengeance be celebrated? Wouldn’t that would be stooping to the same type of sadism held by violent extremists? Perhaps what is worth celebrating is the end of bin Laden’s active campaign to spread hate, violence, and terror around the world. The Saudi national was born to a life of privilege yet he chose to dedicate his life to inflict pain on others. He preyed on the weakness, anger, and sense of injustice of his followers. He channeled his considerable resources to cultivate hatred, an unearned sense of superiority, and a demented form of righteousness to radicalize others to carry out his visions of violence, destruction, death, and suffering. Osama bin Laden manipulated the words of Islam to claim religious justification for his violent agendas and created a global terrorist network – al-Qaida – that exploited Islam in the most perverse fashion. With bin Laden’s support, al-Qaida carried out the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, the coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the hijacking of United Flight 93 on 9/11. His raison d’être was advocating terror and destruction, and Osama bin Laden became the biggest traitor – an infidel – of Islam, a religion of peace.
While it is tempting for Americans to gloat over bin Laden’s demise, fixating on victimization and vengeance will not address the underlying causes of terrorism nor break the cycle of violence. There is no doubt that the world is a safer place now that Osama bin Laden is dead. However, the truth is bin Laden’s legacy will continue to pose a danger to the world, and tracking down and eliminating one terrorist at a time – while necessary – would only bring a temporary reprieve before someone else carries on his legacy. The best way to end bin Laden’s legacy of hatred, violence, pain, and destruction is to counter with empathy, compassion, and building a mutual respect for our common humanity. Osama bin Laden’s life was defined by his choices, and he chose to destroy rather than to build. The world can choose to embody everything he was not. The world can choose to build on the foundations of respect, dignity, and peace. Now wouldn’t that be worth celebrating?
- WhiteHouse.gov: Osama Bin Laden dead
- FBI.gov: Bin Laden killed
- LATimes.com: 40 minutes to capture or kill: timeline, history of Osama bin Laden raid
- LATimes.com: Osama bin Laden’s appeal had waned in Arab world
- WashingtonPost.com: Osama bin Laden killed in U.S. raid, buried at sea
- CBSNews.com: The killing of Osama bin Laden
- CNN.com: Trail leading to bin Laden began with his trusted courier
- Reuters.com: Analysis: bin Laden leaves a scattered, diffuse al Qaeda