Vol. 6    No. 9
MAY 5, 2011

The Capital City Hues
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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
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It has been quite a week. When I browsed the Internet sites of major news organizations this
week, it seemed that half of the news stories were about the death of Osama bin Laden. When I
google bin Laden’s name, 748 million items come up. By comparison, President Barack Obama’
s name came up with 150 million and al Qaeda brings up 15 million items. Bin Laden has surely
been a part of our national consciousness — much more than al Qaeda itself — for the past 10
years, a symbol of the terrorist threats that our country faces and will continue to face long after
bin Laden’s memory fades into the annals of history.

Call me a cynic, but I don’t think it was an accident that bin Laden was killed and then buried at
sea. With the difficulty that the U.S. has had in carrying out the trials of lower level al Qaeda
members, just imagine what it would have been like if bin Laden were imprisoned at
Guantanamo Bay or in a U.S.-based prison indefinitely while our government tried to figure out
what to do with him. Imagine the spectacle of a trial or endless efforts to break him out of prison
or the number of hostages taken prisoner and held until he was released. Bin Laden would have
preoccupied our national consciousness for years to come. And he would have been the poster
boy for the recruitment of al Qaeda members as well. Bin Laden in prison was a national
headache that I am sure our government wanted to avoid.

And of course there could be no grave for bin Laden. I’m fairly certain that no Middle Eastern
country would have wanted him, although I could be wrong about this. I haven’t seen any news
item that has stated that a country would have wanted his remains. His gravesite would have
become a shrine for the true believers. Can you imagine a country openly embracing a shrine
that would attract people who believe in terrorist tactics to the gravesite? It would have
attracted turmoil for any country that held his remains, even those countries that are at odds
with U.S. policy.

The U.S. could have buried bin Laden on some non-descript island in an unmarked grave during
the 24 hour period proscribed by Islamic law. But I think a gravesite anywhere would have been
a focal point for the terrorist community and someone somehow would have found bin Laden’s
remains and created a shrine. But burial at sea brought a sudden end to bin Laden with nothing
physical to focus and rekindle the passions of the terrorist community. Bin Laden is now a
memory.

While the death of bin Laden may soothe the pain of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, I don’t
think it has really solved anything. There is the Biblical saying that those who live by the sword
shall die by the sword. Bin Laden did live by the sword and his life has ended with it. But it is
now the U.S. that has used the sword and I am sure that there will be those who seek to avenge
bin Laden’s death. Death and violence will continue to reverberate through our world like a
chain-reaction, low-grade explosion. It seems that it is our curse, our original sin, that it will
never stop.

And rightly or wrongly, the conditions that created the terrorists are still present. Whether one
agrees or disagrees, the U.S. still has hundreds of thousands of troops in the Middle East. And
there are still those who feel that the U.S. and its economic system are at war with their way of
life. Bin Laden and al Qaeda got their funding from some sympathetic source somewhere, quite
possibly from the oil revenues derived from America’s love affair with gas-guzzling vehicles.
And there is still massive poverty in the Middle East, a level of poverty that isn’t going to be
swept away by the spread of democracy anytime soon.

There is, of course, a part of me that wishes that this nightmare that we have experienced over
the past 10 years is over. I wish that we could take away the airport security, take away the
restrictions on our civil liberties, take away the spying domestically that 9/11 wrought on all of
us. But none of this is going to end because the threat is still out there. While some may think
that the death of bin Laden will cause al Qaeda to wither and die, it could also be like Hydra of
Greek mythology, a serpent-like creature with many heads that if you cut off one head, two
would take its place. No one knows for sure how al Qaeda will evolve and what future terrorist
threats will look like. We have removed Osama bin Laden from this earth, but not the conditions
that created him. I want to feel safe and secure and go about the business of my private life. But
9/11 and its aftermath have forever changed our national landscape and psyche. The death of
bin Laden is a marker on the journey; it is not the end of the journey by any means.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling   
                 Thoughts on Bin Laden