I thought maybe it was just me, but I am happy that I have heard one person on TV, and read one letter to the editor by people who share my distaste for the horrible American jubilation at the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Okay, the guy is dead. Okay, he wasn’t a nice man, he was a killer himself. But surely I wasn’t the only person who felt it was beneath the dignity of the President of the United States to announce that he had personally ordered and had carried out the murder of this man, living in a foreign country which was never notified of the attack. Killed, the body secured, then dumped at sea. Was this some kind of Mafia operation?
For a while, as I registered my feeling that there was something wrong with this celebrating in the US streets, I began to be overcome by a creeping fear that maybe I was, sub-consciously, some kind of closet Christian. A fate worse than death, I would say.
Anyway, not to keep making jokes about my unexpected compassion, there were also political reasons for my feeling that the news should be met with a decent, hands-off dignity. The fact is, the Americans have always, since the day the 9/11 attack happened, made too much of it. They acted as if no one in the world had ever suffered a similar disaster. Of course, the number of people killed was exceptionally large, but that was a result of a circumstance which even the terrorists involved could never have expected, the total collapse of these tall buildings in New York. Without that unexpected event, the death toll would have been about the same as in many such incidents that have happened over the years around the world. In other words, the only exceptional thing about the attack was that it happened on American soil, and took the lives of American citizens. As we know, the assumption in the United States is that an American life counts more than does the lives of any number of other nationalities.
Thus, the assumption that the death of the so-called (but even this is unproven) mastermind of the incident is an event of epoch-making importance because it is somehow an act of American revenge for the death of Americans is all of a piece with the assumption that the original attack on the World Trade centre was an event of exceptional importance because it happened to Americans.
It is all, I suppose, part of the colossal error of judgment by George W. Bush to launch the United States into a “war on terror”, and to declare that whoever was not with them was against them in what he called a war on evil --- as if evil is waiting out there, armed to the teeth, and ready to launch an assault at any moment on the Army of the Good, comprised of young Americans.
Consequent on this colossal misjudgment has come the building of the special prison at Guantanamo Bay where people who have never been charged can be kept incarcerated indefinitely; and that, too, presupposes a change in the underlying concepts of justice administered through the rule of law that the United States always boasts is its peculiar contribution to the goodies in this world.
In describing these peculiarities of the US system of government, I am inexorably forced back on to one overwhelming fact: the basic document by which the US system of government was established, known as the Declaration of Independence, not only dedicates the nation to the concept that all men are created equal, but was drawn up --- no doubt with tongue firmly implanted in cheek --- by slaveowners. This is a contradiction, or, if you like, an hypocrisy, that has informed the whole history of the United States ever since it was founded. And its existence has led inexorably to this moment where the people are dancing in the streets because their president has presided over the illegal murder of an adversary.
It makes me shudder, this while thing.