This week from my hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria, for the first time in almost 10 years, I watched the towers fall. I listened to the tales of widows, friends and comrades as they recounted that day. I saw footage I’d never seen of firefighters running into the towers as others staggered out, and once again remembered the virtues of courage, sacrifice and what it truly means to be a hero. And I was overwhelmed with emotion. Just as hard a time as I had that day, maybe even more so because of what we’ve been through and where we are as a nation 10 years later.
Gen. David Petraeus gave a very moving going-away speech this last week after 37 years as a man of honor in military uniform. We will still need this most respected American general since Eisenhower because:
The New York Times reports that President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said Monday that he was going to the United Nations this month to seek membership for a state of Palestine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said at a separate event that a Palestinian bid for recognition by the United Nations would “set back peace, and might set it back for years.”
The Ticking Bomb — How can society not do whatever it has to do to avoid a terrorist calamity? If we know a bomb is about to blow up the Empire State Building filled with innocent people, why read a suspect his Miranda rights? The Constitution isn’t a suicide pact, as Supreme Court justices have pointed out.
The Slippery Slope — Once we slough traditional values and standards, where do we stop? If the suspect refuses to confess after waterboarding, is it OK to torture his children to break his will? Why not, if the Ticking Bomb is about to go off? When do we stop, in the Slippery Slope situation?
Civil-liberties advocate Aryeh Neier argued in a recent Washington Post op-ed that the torture debate is pointless because neither side can prove its thesis. So it comes down to principles, and on principle he is against torture.
We don't need to see them. We know Osama bin Laden is dead. Those who say they don't believe it still won't believe it if the photos are released.
President Obama got Osama. It's a very, very big deal, and the world knows it. I would hope he would wait at least as long to release proof of Osama's death as he did to release his own birth certificate. He didn't need to show us proof he was born in the U.S., and he doesn't need to show the proof of Osama's death.
In addition to inciting violence from OBL sympathizers, the death photos, reportedly of the extremely gruesome kind, could also make bin Laden appear to be a victim, of sorts, or be perceived as gloating. Seeing the world's most evil person in a mangled, vulnerable state could bring out misguided and misdirected sympathy that al Qaeda might take advantage of.
Things would have been different if, back in April 1980, the helicopter hadn’t crashed; eight went into a desert sandstorm to rescue 52 Americans held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. One crashed and another had to turn back. Desert One was a dismal failure on the heels of Vietnam, telling the world that we, the Americans, could not do things well anymore. The helicopter wrecked in the desert became the symbol of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, but it would have been different if the rescue attempt were successful. Carter would have been a great hero and America would have been renewed because all that matters in war is whether the spear hits the lion. Had he been successful there would have been no “morning in America” just ahead — no need for it, no Reykjavik Summit, and probably no Ronald Reagan. So there was a moment of anxiety when the one helicopter went down on Sunday on the way to the compound at Abbottabad. But this time it was different. This time the spear hit the lion.
From my perspective, this has been a remarkable three days this weekend. Two central institutions of Western civilization were affirmed: the Roman Catholic Church (what remains of the Roman Empire); and the British monarchy (the symbol of the British Empire); and then you had the slaying of Osama bin Laden (the leading Western antagonist of the Islamic strain) with the implements of Western technical prowess.
The Roman Empire and the British Empire were the incubator and primary global distributor, respectively, of the essentials of Western civilization: Judeo-Christian ethics and Christianity, classical learning, technology and, latterly, liberal democracy and market economics/free trade. To watch a million people in London (outstripping even the attendance at the 1981 wedding of Charles-Diana), and an estimated 2 million in Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II was an indication that though both are under challenge, these central institutions of Western-ism have a remarkable resilience and ability still to captivate.
President Obama was gracious toward President Bush and President Clinton in his comments about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and he was right to do so.
So much of our politics has become a useless Kabuki dance where everyone takes predictable, predetermined positions in a ritual that puts most normal Americans to sleep. Let me part from the Kabuki here.
President Bush made one major mistake. He became so fixated about the Iraq war that he took his eye off the bin Laden ball. This led to bin Laden's escape at Tora Bora and diverted resources from the killing of bin Laden toward the Iraq war, over the private objection of many military commanders who advised otherwise.
The first reports of Osama bin Laden’s death told us that he was buried within 24 hours of his death, and "at sea,” because “finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world's most [notorious] terrorist would have been difficult.” So we would assume there would be physical evidence of the death if there is no body. That would presumably be photographic identification or DNA evidence. During the Vietnam War, the military on the ground was notoriously unreliable about physical evidence in combat.
Because if I have this right, “the sea” is at least 800 miles from the Abbottabad region of Pakistan where reports say bin Laden was killed. How did they get him from there to the sea? Did they drop him out of an airplane or travel by land convoy 800 miles with the six-and-a-half-foot corpse? Then other reports said the body was delivered to Afghanistan. Did they bring him to Afghanistan and then bring him to the sea? That would have been more than a thousand miles to haul the corpse.
Dead at last. Dead at last. Thank God almighty.
The most wanted terrorist in the world is now rotting away in dust. Due to an American “military action,” we got our man.
A special debt of gratitude goes out to the men and women in uniform for their tireless months and years of sacrifice — running this pestilence down and eradicating him. Predator drones finished what others started on 9/12. We didn’t wait. We couldn’t wait. Too many Americans lost their lives that fateful day. It might have taken years to bring this to pass, but it did occur. And now justice has been served.
Osama bin Laden is dead. Stay tuned for news from Tripoli.
I couldn't resist a 2 a.m. visit to the grounds outside the White House as flags were waving and Americans were cheering the killing, none too soon, of Osama bin Laden.
It was a victory for President Obama, a victory for our heroic men and women in uniform, a victory for the American people and good people everywhere.