Hump Day: Just because Osama bin Laden is dead, we’re not necessarily safer

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I would dare say that most people in the western world were reasonably pleased to hear of the death of Osama bin Laden. It’s difficult to have much pity or sympathy for someone who wanted nothing but death and destruction for our society and way of life.

Still, I felt uneasy about those who waved American flags and cheered in front of the White House two Sunday evenings ago after Mr. bin Laden’s death was officially announced by U.S. President Barack Obama. It certainly wasn’t because I was sorry to see him go. It just felt odd cheering on the death of someone – anyone.

With that said, I have to admit that there are a couple of people I know whose death would elicit a broad smile from me – albeit when no one is watching. I think we all have a few people in our lives like that.

Sometimes, people just don’t mesh – to the point of not caring if they live or die. Particularly toxic relationships with others can lead to strong feelings of dislike – even hatred. I’m not proud of it, but there are few people I would dance a little jig about if I heard they met their maker.

I just don’t think I’d do it too publicly. Is standing over a grave of someone you hate while whistling “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz considered to be tacky or in poor taste? It probably is – but only if someone catches you doing it. If I ever end up doing that, you can be sure that I’ll do it in the middle of night when there’s no one else around in the graveyard except zombies and ghosts.

Oh, it’s always harmless fun until someone loses part of their brain to a hungry zombie, eh? Unfortunately for them, the zombies won’t have much to munch on with me.

I was impressed by the American administration’s restraint at not wanting to show too much glee in Mr. bin Laden’s death. Were they happy? Of course! But, I have to admit that I was pleased to hear President Obama proclaim that they didn’t have to “spike the ball” by releasing the death photo. (Football players who score a touchdown often throw the football to the ground in celebration immediately afterwards – “spike the ball.”)

Had Obama spiked the ball, so to speak, I’m not so sure that the outcome would be terribly different. Mr. bin Laden’s sympathizers have already vowed revenge. By not spiking the ball, I doubt America’s enemies will be much nicer in the aftermath.

Regardless, it’s just all very scary. Terrorist acts have been averted in the past – some by pure luck, others by good intelligence gathering.

Regardless of the U.S. not spiking the ball, I don’t think Americans and their allies – including Canadians – can become complacent that the terrorist threat has disappeared because of one man’s death.

With that said, it’s true that the photo would certainly have been used to incite further hatred toward the U.S. Just imagine! Had President Obama released Mr. bin Laden’s death photo, it would be splashed on every protest sign at anti-American protests around the world. As gruesome as the photo likely is, it would have most certainly led to compelling news photos and television coverage.

The visuals of thousands of anti-American demonstrators holding up Mr. bin Laden’s death photo would have been dramatic and would have had the effect of throwing gasoline on a fire that’s already out of control.

Then there’s the matter of the Pakistani government. I mean, really!

It’s difficult to believe they didn’t suspect Mr. bin Laden was “hiding” practically in plain view. Allied soldiers have been searching caves and mountains for Mr. bin Laden when all they should have done was walk through Abbotabad, Pakistan and peek over a wall surrounding a mansion. It’s a stretch, to say the least, to believe that Pakistan knew nothing of this.

Regardless, thousands of soldiers have died or had their lives changed forever by life-altering injuries. Because of Mr. bin Laden’s attack on New York City on that beautiful Tuesday morning on Sept. 11, 2001, not only did those who died in the attacks lose their lives, but the lives of their families and friends were changed forever, too.

Mr. bin Laden was never going to stop attacking – or planning to attack – the United States and their allies, including Canada. As a country, Canada is relatively unscathed when it comes to foreign terrorist attacks directly on our soil. Had Mr. bin Laden successfully targeted our country – and there’s nothing to say we aren’t going to be attacked at some point – I can’t help but think we would have been outside cheering his death, too.

Terrorists attack the innocent. They rarely attack “Mr. Big.” They attack Joe Lunchbucket and Mary Cookiebaker . . . and their kids . . . and their neighbours. While the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks targeted the Pentagon, the terrorists did so by hijacking a jetliner full of passengers. At least they lived up to their name – terrorists – considering the terror that passengers and crew must have gone through that fateful day.

While the White House’s sensible refusal to release Osama bin Laden’s death photo (at least so far) seems to be the right decision, it shouldn’t be looked at as some sort of altruistic symbol. It’s just practical.

Not releasing the photo may prove to be about as effective as pouring a cold glass of water into lava flowing out of a volcano. The difference may be imperceptible and it will not stop terrorism from continuing to erupt violently when we least expect it.

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