As President Obama announced last night, Osama bin Laden was killed after a firefight at his compound in Pakistan. Coincidentally, it happened while I was reading Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, which details the evolution of Islamic terrorism beginning with the writings of Sayyid Qutb in the 1950s. (For those who claim, by the way, that bin Laden’s motivations were purely political and anti-imperialistic rather than religious, this book will dispel that notion.)
bin Laden’s body was buried at sea, supposedly in accord with “Islamic custom,” which I take to mean that he was shrouded and bathed, though he could hardly have been buried, as that custom also dictates, facing Mecca. Clearly the burial was designed to prevent his grave from becoming a kind of holy site for terrorist sympathizers.
Now I am not a birther, and I’m certain that Obama is not lying (the body was said to have been identified by DNA), but are we supposed to go solely on our government’s word here? Could they at least release a photograph (which, of course, many wouldn’t accept as genuine anyway), or the results of the DNA tests? For me, at least, some evidence would settle the matter.
And the sight of Americans driving around Washington, D.C., honking their horns and shouting “USA! USA!” is unseemly and embarrassing. bin Laden was a vicious criminal who killed many innocent people, and his death does constitute a type of justice. I would have preferred a trial—although its outcome would have been inevitable—rather than execution, but there was presumably no choice. [Updates: Reuters notes that the object of the American mission was to kill bin Laden rather than capture him.] But his summary execution was a necessary evil, not an excuse for a party.