A week ago today it was announced that the U.S. had assassinated Osama bin Laden – an unarmed, sickly 54-year-old man who had eluded us for 13 years. I shed no tears for bin Laden, and have no illusions about the practicality of putting him on trial (though I do think that would have been the right thing). But was it a triumph for the U.S.? Hardly. Before we managed to track this man down and kill him, we as a nation have spent trillions of dollars on a multi-front war, stripped our own citizens of civil liberties and generally made fools of ourselves.
The latest example: We have to take off our shoes to go through airport security. We can’t carry more than 3.4oz of liquids or gels. We go through full body scanners, or subject ourselves to pat-downs. And yet, we still don’t feel safe. When two guys dressed in traditional Muslim garb get on a plane, we lose our shit.
That’s not the sign of a brave, powerful country. It’s the sign of a nation of cowards. The death of Osama bin Laden wasn’t a great victory. I shed no tears for bin Laden, but it’s hard to feel triumphant today when he’s accomplished what he set out to do. The U.S. is an empire in decline – broke and both unable and unwilling to provide for its own people. Meanwhile, we cower in fear at the sight of unattended packages, blinking LEDs and dudes with beards. Putting a bullet in bin Laden’s brain at this point was an exercise in futility. It’s hard to look tough when you shoot an unarmed man and then refuse to get on an airplane, even after you’ve body scanned every single person boarding the plane.
In 2006 Bruce Schneier wrote that the only way to beat the terrorists is to refuse to be terrorized. It’s cliché to say at this point, but yes, the terrorists have won. Until we grow a proverbial pair, stop gloating about unremarkable political assassinations and get on a fucking plane with some people who look different than we do, they will continue to win.
What’s it going to be America?