Monday, May 2, 2011

Public Enemy #1 is No More!

I'm not what you'd call a news junkie.  I do the best I can to stay informed, but I tend to stay away from business and political news for several reasons, the most important of which is that mostly, I just don't care.  I also find it all a bit too confusing for me, and so I try to get the important information out of what I can and then pretty much ignore the rest.

But for some reason, I am absolutely fascinated and captivated by the news that US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden yesterday.  I discovered the news when I was lying in bed, getting ready to fall asleep but my brain was still on overdrive a little, so I checked Twitter to see what interesting the few celebrities I follow had to say.  The first tweet I read was from Joel McHale (The Soup, Community) which read, "I sure hope Bin Laden caught the early showing of Game of Thrones."  At first I was really confused, and the next one I read was from Kevin Nealon (Weeds, SNL Alum), which said, "Hello, Bin Laden, Goodbye Royal Wedding!"  So then I was really confused. Obviously something had happened with bin Laden... The next one was from Steve Martin that said, "Tonight, President Obama will announce that Clint Eastwood shot Osama Bin Laden."  Things were becoming a little clearer.  Maybe Clint Eastwood HAD shot bin Laden?  Stranger things have happened.  Then I read a retweet by Zach Braff (Scrubs) of Jimmy Kimmel (Late Night with JK) that read, "I would give almost anything to see the look on Bin Laden's face moments after he asks 'so...where are my twenty virgins?' "  With that, along with the other tweets, I was able to glean that it was possible that bin Laden had been hurt, maybe even killed.

Now at this point, I should mention that I had been watching Red Eye on TNT, a movie I'd never seen all the way through, and I was pretty keen on watching the end, but by this time, my interests were piqued and I changed the channel to CNN and my jaw dropped.  I must have sat there, in bed, for several minutes, mouth open and in stunned silence while I listened to the news.  The next thing I did was call my parents house, to see if they knew about it (they did, they'd caught Obama's news conference) and see what they had to say.  I hung up, and flipped the channels back and forth among CNN, Fox News and 9 News, to see if the information everyone had was the same.

I think part of it might have been that I was alone when I found out.  Another part may have been that I was earnestly aware that Osama bin Laden was still number one on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Terrorists list, because I check the FBI website probably about once a week to see if there are any new Most Wanted suspects out of pure curiosity and I have read the Most Wanted poster for bin Laden several times over.  I really, honestly thought that the US or our allies would probably never find bin Laden, what with all the different intelligence that we've gotten over the years that has been made public.  I, along with probably most of America, thought that our chances of finding Osama bin Laden in some hidden cave somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan were about as good as us finding a damn unicorn in the jungles of Africa.

But sure enough, with the right combination of intelligence, patience, and perseverance, it's been done!  I actually teared up while I was watching the news last night, and I wasn't sure I'd ever get to sleep.  Why I was so excited I have no real idea.  I was virtually unaffected by the events of September 11, 2001.  I didn't know anyone who was killed, or who survived, but I was swept up in the patriotism that our country exhibited following the attacks as much as anyone else.  The part of it that affected me the most was that Kate's dad (my surrogate dad) had retired from the Navy on September 1st of 2001.  There was a big party, and it was a big deal for their family.  But after 9/11, her dad pulled his retirement papers and decided to go back to work for the Navy, which resulted in their moving to Newport, Rhode Island, and in the loss of my best friend (geographically speaking.  She wasn't dead, after all).  That was as affected as I was by the whole thing.  So I'm not sure why I am so elated over the news that we've killed this person who had nothing to do with my life (aside from the fact that I have had to travel after the attacks and have gone through the increased security countless times by now).

I text messaged Kate a bunch of times last night because I knew that she'd be just as interested (if not moreso with her military affiliations) as I am, but I knew she was asleep.  I asked her some questions and made some observations that I knew she'd respond to this morning.  Turns out, her dad knows the admiral that was in command of one of the SEAL teams that went in yesterday.  It's fun being able to get a little bit of inside information that is not on the news.

I keep thinking about what it must have been like for the special forces (from what the news is reporting it was all Navy SEALs) teams to prepare for and go into the compound, knowing that they might encounter the most wanted man on the planet.  The men who train to become Navy SEALs are beyond elite military personnel, and I'd like to think that they were not nervous about this mission.

As I am reading the literally TONS of reporting, and learning more and more information about the operation and the outcome, I am imagining what it must have been like to be there.  I hope they make a movie about it someday.  I'm sure they will.  I'm imagining it like it was a movie, how quiet it must have been in the dark early hours of the morning, how the teams would have communicated with hand signals, what it would have been like to come face-to-face with bin Laden once and for all, and how satisfying it must have been to see him being shot in the head.  I can imagine how organized it must have been to jump out of the helicopters and see everything from the eyes of a SEAL, to be vigilantly aware of every single detail of the location and the militia that were inside the compound.  And for them to be together enough to have taken bin Laden's body with them when they left - that is just incredible.

When I fell asleep last night (my last thoughts were of how I could show my patriotism this week), there were little details of the mission, except that bin Laden had been killed and that the US had taken custody of his body.  When I woke up this morning, the news was reporting that they had buried bin Laden at sea.  Which meant that they'd dumped him in the ocean.  My first reaction to that was disappointment.  I had been very curious last night about how the US would handle being in charge of disposing of him, and if we would handle his remains with dignity so as not to anger the Taliban and al-Qaida, or if we would take the low road to humiliate the regime.  The news is reporting that the decision was made to do it this way to prevent a terrorist shrine from being erected, and also because it would have been very difficult to find a country that would be willing to take responsibility for his remains.

All in all, I think the US did what it was supposed to do, flawlessly and in an extremely dignified manner.  I know, as well as everyone else, that the fight is not over.  There are still plenty of terrorist cells in the world that would like nothing more than to see the US toppled by violent force, and we still need to be extremely prepared and cautious.  But it feels like the world is just a tiny bit safer now that our biggest enemy is dead.

I can't imagine what it would have been like if we'd captured bin Laden instead.  Or what it must have been like to be on the team after they returned to the US base in Afghanistan after the operation.  Or what it must be like to be in the military today.  I bet the celebrations are impressive.  The civilian celebrations are impressive.

I think mostly I am relieved for the men that were involved in the mission itself.  I doubt they will get their due credit in the days to come because Navy SEALs are as secretive as CIA Operatives - they will not want their identities disclosed, and rightly so.  They don't do that job for the fame and fortune it brings, they do it because it is their job and because they have pride in their country.  And I am extremely proud to live in a country with such dignity and force as to have carried out such an impressive operation in such secrecy that will have such a lasting impression on the history of this planet.  Taking down Osama bin Laden is up there with taking down such evil as Hitler and Stalin, and it is something to be extremely proud of.

I think the part of all this that disappoints me the most is that President Bush won't get any credit in finding and killing bin Laden.  President Obama was more than willing to share with the country last night that it was he who had given the final go-ahead for the mission and that he was very involved in approving the intelligence that has been gathered that led to yesterday's operation.  I'm sure that it's mostly my disdain for the man that makes me so skeptical of his involvement, but I'd like to think that he probably didn't even know it was going to happen before it happened.  For all he knew, it was just another mission on a regular day that the US military was planning.  I find it quite doubtful that he had much knowledge before yesterday of the intelligence that led the US to believe that bin Laden was living in this compound.  From what I gather, there was no SOLID evidence that bin Laden was actually living in this place, but that the mission occurred just like any other mission to stop terrorists - to find and kill as many of them as they could, regardless of their stature in terrorist cells.  I have full confidence that the US had the best possible intelligence and that everything else regarding the information that was gathered up to this point was true, but I am very doubtful as to Barack Obama's involvement in these operations.  He's got absolutely no military experience, and the only experience he's got in intel is what he's gone through in the two and a half years he's been in office.  I am certain that it was not really his decision that led to the death of bin Laden.

However, I must concede that I know virtually nothing of what it is like to be the President of the United States.  I think that perhaps he was given some information with regards to this mission beforehand, but I think he is taking full credit for doing none of the work.  Again, I'm sure that the reason I feel this way is because I generally don't like the man and I don't agree with most of his politics, so perhaps I am simply biased.

Either way, I felt like I needed to record my thoughts and feelings on this "momentous occasion" if not for the people who may read this blog than for myself to have some memory of what I felt like when I heard the news.  May Day, indeed.

Also, I like the irony that I found out such important news from comedians.  

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