Please no pictures of the body

The Green Berets Magazine Volume II

I am still somewhat conflicted about what happened in Pakistan yesterday and still trying to work my way through it.  In general, what you think or believe about something, depends on where you are standing – your point of view.  For most of us, that changes with the changing activities and fortunes of our lives.

Long ago when I was a young man in the army I trained for just such missions as the one that resulted in the death of bin Laden.  If I was still that young man, I would have celebrated yesterday by pumping my fist in the air and cheering,  as I would for a 49’er touchdown or Giants’ home run; my team just scored.  And then I would have wish that I could have been in the game on that play.  But I am not that young man.  It has been 50 years since I was in the army and my opinions have changed on most things, military and civilian.

Some of my opinions are different simply because I am older; some because my circumstances are very different; and some because of the experiences of 50 years of living and learning have lead me to different conclusions.  Even ten years ago when we first sent troops to Afghanistan, I had a brief moment where I wanted to go, to get in the game; but then I remembered my age and realized war, like professional sports, is for young men – just as revolutions are made by young, not old men.  Yesterday, I did not wish I was in the game, nor did I cheer; but, mark it down to age, not moral superiority.

Had I lived in New York City 10 years ago, yesterday would probably have been an important day for me personally too and probably one of at least satisfaction if not joy.  But, on 9/11, I woke up to hear my brother was in the hospital with a heart attack, by the time I had time to focus on New York City, Washington D. C. and the third plane, it did not quite have the same importance to me as it did to others; I was still concerned over my brother’s well-being.  New Yorkers have very different feelings about 9/11 and yesterday, I can’t judge their reaction, nor even relate to it. But it helps to remember they experienced something the rest of us did not experience.

And to be fair, I should pose one more theoretical possibility.  If ten years ago I had been a young man struggling to find a career and make a life in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Palestine I might easily have resented American power and wealth.  On 9/11, I might have found a hero and maybe even a leader while watching the planes hit buildings in the United States.  Wouldn’t I have felt empowered by those events, just as a sports fan feels the power of his team in victory?  In that case yesterday might easily have been a tragic day for me. Of course, in practical political terms, the organization that grew up under the legend of bin Laden has diversified into separate groups with separate ideology and agendas; many within the organization felt Osama had lead them off track and unnecessarily into the cross-hairs of the United States.  Certainly for the Taliban, his presence in the region has made their life’s much more difficult.  Still, it is unlikely any felt joy or satisfactions and what might be called an American victory.

A friend of mine contributed another point of view, he thought the people celebrating were not celebrating death or killing, but rather they were celebrating justice and closure.  There are of course dozens, if not hundreds, of other points of view and interpretations of the death of Osama bin Laden.  Events like this serve to remind me that there is always more than one way to think about things and very often each has its validity.  Regardless of the possible reactions and interpretations of that raid, I know one thing for certain, I do not want to see any pictures of dead bodies, blood or gore.

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