My first reaction to the news was surprisingly nothing. I mean, I wasn’t really concentrating. I was on the phone and simply checking my google news feed during a lull in the conversation, but I must say that it took me to the moment I was checking my mail in 2001.
I was still using a dial-up internet connection and was logging into my rediffmail account, for which I had to go through rediff.com. While I was entering my username and password, I inadvertently noticed a piece of news saying something to the effect of “Plane crashes into World Trade Center building”. I barely took notice of it, and the page refreshed quickly anyway to my email inbox, which preoccupied me completely. I basically did nothing productive, just replied to a bunch of emails and logged out. I was brought back to rediff.com and by now the news had changed to “Second Plane crashes into World Trade center” or something like that. Now, my interest was piqued.
As I read about what would probably be the largest single act of terrorism I will ever see, I felt a kind of fear I didn’t understand. Sure, people died needlessly on the streets of Bombay and Delhi etc, but America was untouchable…or so I had thought.
Living in a developing country makes us susceptible to a bunch of misunderstandings about the developed world. To us, places like America seemed like a large playboy mansion where everyone was comfortable and getting a lot of nookie. Of course, I was 16 in 2001, so you can excuse my sweeping generalizations. But most of all, I was under the delusion that people in the Western world were a lot safer than us. This event scared me a lot because I just realized how far from the truth I was.
While I was but 16, I couldn’t understand what force could be so strong as to motivate 19 young educated people to giving up their lives and their futures while taking so many people with them. It was later revealed by the media that the planes were to hit the buildings at exactly the right height and angle, and with the right amount of speed in order to inflict the damage that they ultimately did. So this wasn’t some spur of the moment hot-headed act. It was planned, cold-blooded mass murder.
And now the perpetrator of that was dead. What bothered me so much was that all we heard was that he died. Sure, there were some details as to the incident, but was there an attempt to capture him alive? They said he resisted, but he didn’t seem to have a weapon. Just how do you resist capture by armed forces without weapons?
The reason I did not feel the closure I wanted to feel was that I wanted him captured. I wanted him handcuffed, held against his will, pleading for the right to live and be free. I wanted him tried in a court, so that we can show the numerous other misled folk what happens to people who hurt us. I wanted it to be clear that while we will avenge our wrongs, we are not barbarians. We will not deign to deal with scum like him the way he deals with our people. And most of all, I wanted his followers to see what a common man he was, who lived secretly and died a joke, and not the martyr they probably think he is now.
While the Republicans are scrambling for photos of his body, I do believe that releasing them to the public would be a bad idea. Photos of bin Laden with a bullet hole in his eye are inflammatory. Representative Duncan Hunter of California says that terrorists who want to hurt innocent people will not be dissuaded by the lack of these photos. Perhaps. But photos like these are great recruiting material for the Muslim fundamentalists. These people are easy to rile up. Mere Danish cartoons generated unbelievable vitriol, and actual photos of their hero’s corpse will shore up Al Qaeda’s enlistment numbers.
While I’m pissed off with President Obama for a bunch of things, I do believe he made the right call here. We all just need to move on.
Update: Chembelle argues that bin Laden could’ve had bombs strapped to his chest which he could’ve detonated at any time. Maybe trying to capture him alive would’ve been too big a risk to take.