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Article posted May 02 2011, 2:19 PM Category: Commentary Source: Glenn Greenwald Print

Killing of bin Laden: What are the consequences?

Glenn Greenwald

The killing of Osama bin Laden is one of those events which, especially in the immediate aftermath, is not susceptible to reasoned discussion. It's already a Litmus Test event: all Decent People -- by definition -- express unadulterated ecstacy at his death, and all Good Americans chant "USA! USA!" in a celebration of this proof of our national greatness and Goodness (and that of our President). Nothing that deviates from that emotional script will be heard, other than by those on the lookout for heretics to hold up and punish. Prematurely interrupting a national emotional consensus with unwanted rational truths accomplishes nothing but harming the heretic (ask Bill Maher about how that works).

I'd have strongly preferred that Osama bin Laden be captured rather than killed so that he could be tried for his crimes and punished in accordance with due process (and to obtain presumably ample intelligence). But if he in fact used force to resist capture, then the U.S. military was entitled to use force against him, the way American police routinely do against suspects who use violence to resist capture. But those are legalities and they will be ignored even more so than usual. The 9/11 attack was a heinous and wanton slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians, and it's understandable that people are reacting with glee over the death of the person responsible for it. I personally don't derive joy or an impulse to chant boastfully at the news that someone just got two bullets put in their skull -- no matter who that someone is -- but that reaction is inevitable: it's the classic case of raucously cheering in a movie theater when the dastardly villain finally gets his due.

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