Monday, May 2, 2011

The Real Reason There Was No Ninth Season of "24"

Osama bin Laden: No longer #1

First, we learn that there will be no ninth season for the popular Fox TV counter-terrorism drama, "24." Then we watch the news that, after a period of detailed planning, US special operations forces have killed Osama bin Laden in a dramatic night-time assault on the terrorist mastermind's lair.

Coincidence? I think not. Now we know what Jack Bauer has been up to for the past year!

Where were you when you learned of ObL's demise? I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I learned of the death of the world's most hated terrorist criminal. At 10:30 pm on Sunday, May 1st, 2011, I turned on the HDTV to watch the movie Spy Game. The now 10-year old movie features an interesting premise: retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) recalls his training of operative Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) while working against CIA politics to free Bishop from his Chinese captors. This movie was originally in theaters just weeks after 9/11, and just as the first season of "24" started. 

As is my hyper-habit, at Spy Game's first commercial break I flipped through the other channels so I could set up the split screen with something interesting. Yadda, yadda, what the? I could hardly believe my eyes and ears when I saw the breaking news about ObL's death on all the main network stations. After all this time on the run, bin Laden was finally found and summarily dispatched. 

Coincidence? Again, I think not. The Anti-American terrorism that began with attacks on our embassies in Africa, continued with an attack on one of our ships, and crescendoed with the 9/11 attacks on our financial, military, and political centers had not only launched Operation Enduring Freedom, but also spawned movies like Spy Game and TV programs like 24. And now, while watching a 24-like movie and wondering what Jack has been up to lately, the news comes through: ObL is dead. 

I believe that our stature in the world was diminished every day that ObL evaded us. I believe the efficient assault that terminated him not only eliminates him as a threat but also restores our stature as a country willing and able to eliminate such threats. I think our respectful handling of ObL's remains will keep Muslim extremist retribution to a minimum. The burial at sea will deny ObL's followers a shared place to go and honor his memory and congregate with other pilgrims. There is a certain amount of welcome and needed closure that comes with this news.

"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." -- Mark Twain

As for justice, I am less sure. I am glad ObL is dead, but unlike my neighbors dancing in the streets last night, I am not gloating. I am not celebrating. It is not over because balance has not been restored. Lt General Tim Maude, Colonel Bud Boone, Lt Colonel Dennis Johnson, and Lt Colonel Neil Hyland are still dead. Mr John Yates and others are still disfigured from their physical injuries. Others carry emotional wounds. Many others are hurt by the loss or injury of someone dear. Despite the very real victory of eliminating ObL, we are not done with al Qaeda, nor the Taliban, nor extremists, nor terrorists. The effect of ObL's death is simply that he is no longer #1. 

You can imagine the extra security in place at the Pentagon today. Put yourself in my boots for a minute. Is ObL's death a cause for celebration? Is it the end of anything? 
ObL's death was necessary. But was it sufficient?
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

ObL spent a few hundred thousand bucks to terrorize us. We lost 3K on 9/11 and 5K more military since. We have spent several hundred billion (some say 3T) to silence him. "Mission Accomplished?" People who say we should peel out of A'stan, Iraq, and Libya now because of this one act overestimate the importance of ObL and do not understand the roles of the Departments of State and Defense. If State is unable to protect our vital National interests in these areas through diplomacy--and they are not--then it's penny smart and pound foolish to remove our military forces now. Sure, I'd rather have a much more capable State department, but that is just one of many things on my wish list!

A safer, happier, and more prosperous planet. Is that asking too much?