Osama Bin Laden tried to kill me on September 11th 2001.
Can I now be satisfied with myself knowing that I killed him?
Yes, I killed him. As Americans, we all did. I paid the taxes that bought the bullets and I voted for the man who ordered the strike.
I also voted for the man who, I think, gives me the best chance to live the longest and happiest life possible. My taxes also pay for the services that are critical for me to continue to live happily and healthily.
But, he is a man like me. Has he not the right to justice? Would it be just for him to sit in front of a council of peers (impossible) and listen to his own final reckoning live on TV broadcast for the whole world? Even if I would have decided it was just for him to sit in front of me emasculated (but knowing in his heart salvation awaited him as a true believer), there is no consequence great enough for a crime like the attack on the World Trade Center. Death would have found him in the end no matter when, how, or where he met it. I would have preferred a fair trial, but for the selfishness of both my conscience and the hope for similar treatment if I succumb to weakness. The outcome is the same.
However, it is not wrong to celebrate a battle won in the War on Terror, because people are not consistently righteous and governments are human creations. My president, I am sure, acted with the best possible information and used every one of his formidable facilities, personal and instrumental, to accomplish what he believed to be the most preferable end. International politics are a matter of pragmatics. It was probably impossible for Osama Bin Laden to have been captured alive and tried in an international court, and that is fine.
His death is not meaningless. Any terrorist with the dream of causing death and fear on the same scale will know that his/her predecessor received the ultimate punishment. But, there will certainly be terrorists hoping to cause death and fear on that scale again. By killing Osama Bin Laden, we have have merely bandaged our wound. It is only a salve for a symptom of a powerful disease. To provide ourselves a brief, and admittedly cathartic, release we have given up the pretense of American exceptionalism. Americans have based our foreign policy on an inconsistent ideology that we insist on installing in every society we can feasibly pervert. Inconsistency is in the nature of democracy. Every four years there is a new doctrine to follow, how can the most powerful nation the world has ever seen be consistently righteous if its political system makes it impossible to do so. It can’t be and it should no longer ask to be perceived thusly. We need to change our rhetoric. This is the slow end of not just American hegemony, but hegemony in general. Global economic trends are already seeing the rise of a level playing field. China, India and many other nations are flexing the muscles they toned with years of self-reliance and national determination. The world has changed.
First in Libya, and now in Abbottabad, Barack Obama has proven himself to no longer be the leader of the free world; but he has proven himself to be my leader, and a president I can follow proudly.
Paul T. Karolyi