Final thoughts on death of bin Laden - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Final thoughts on death of bin Laden

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Michael Moore is the Oscar and Emmy-winning director of "Roger & Me," "Bowling for Columbine," and "Fahrenheit 9/11." He can be reached at his website MichaelMoore.com.

Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 3:30 am | Updated: 11:19 am, Wed May 18, 2011.

Last week, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise and killed Osama bin Laden. Well he didn't actually do the killing himself. It was carried out by a very brave and excellent team of Navy SEALs. Not only does Mr. Obama have the overwhelming support of the country, I think there are millions who gladly wish it could have been their finger on the gun that took out bin Laden.

When I heard the news a week ago Sunday, I immediately felt great. I felt relief. I thought of those who lost a loved one on 9/11. And I was glad we finally had a president who got something done.

Being near Ground Zero that night, I decided to head over there and join with others who saw this event as a chance to have some closure.

But before leaving to go to the former World Trade Center site, I turned on the TV, and what I saw was a frat boy-style party going on, complete with the shaking and spraying of champagne bottles over the crowd.

I can completely understand people wanting to celebrate - like I said, I, too, was happy - but something didn't feel right. It's one thing to be happy that a criminal has been captured and dealt with. It's another thing to throw a kegger celebrating his death at the site where the remains of his victims are still occasionally found. Is that who we are?

I remember my parents telling me how, on the day it was announced that Hitler was dead, there was no rejoicing in the streets, just private relief and satisfaction. The real celebration came six days later at the announcement that the war in Europe was over. THAT'S what the people wanted to hear - not just the demise of one evil madman, but the end to all the killing.

We are a different people now, aren't we? Well, sort of. There was no bloodlust euphoria on the day Timothy McVeigh was executed. We were silent. The families of the Oklahoma City dead were silent, relieved. What is the difference between McVeigh and bin Laden, other than the number they slaughtered? I wonder. I think we know the answer.

Meanwhile, we - me, included - get lost in the weeds of how this one madman was killed. The official story from the Pentagon changed four times in the first four days! It went from bin Laden firing on the troops with one hand and using his wife as a human shield with the other, to, by the fourth day, not a single person in the main house, including bin Laden, being armed when killed. Instantly, this created a lot of suspicion about what really happened, which itself was a distraction.

In a perfect world, I would like the evildoers to be forced to stand trial in front of that world. I know a lot of people see no need for a trial for these bad guys, and think trials are for sissies. Well, that is the exact description of the Taliban/al-Qaida/Nazi justice system. I don't like their system.

In fact, the reason I like a good trial is to show these people how it's done in a free country that believes in civilized justice. It's good for the rest of the world to see that, too. Sets a good example.

The other thing a trial does is establishes a very public and permanent historic record of the crimes against humanity. This is why we put the Nazis on trial in Nuremberg. We didn't do it for them. We did it for ourselves and for our grandchildren so that they would never forget these horrors and how they were committed. And we did it for the German people so they could see the evidence of what their elected leaders had done. Very helpful. Very necessary. Very powerful.

And for those who wanted blood back then - well, the majority of the Nazis all hanged in the end. So, it doesn't mean the bad guys get away - they still swing from the highest tree.

In the end, we did exactly what bin Laden said he wanted us to do: Give up our freedoms (like the freedom to be assumed innocent until proven guilty), engage our military in Muslim countries so that we will be hated by Muslims, and wipe ourselves out financially in doing so. Done, done and done, Osama. You had our number.

If we really want to send bin Laden not just to his death, but also to his defeat, may I suggest that we reverse all of that right now. End the wars, bring the troops home, make the rich pay for this mess, and restore our privacy and due process rights that used to distinguish us from any other country. Right now, our democracy looks like Singapore and our economy has gone desperately Greek.

Hideki Tojo killed my uncle and millions of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and a hundred thousand other Americans. He was the head of Japan, the Emperor's henchman, the man who was the architect of Pearl Harbor. When the American soldiers went to arrest him, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The soldiers immediately worked on stopping his bleeding and rushed him to an army hospital where he was saved by army doctors.

He then had his day in court. It was a powerful exercise for the world to see. And on December 23, 1948, after he was found guilty, we hanged him. A killer of millions was forced to stand trial. A killer of 4,000 (counting the African embassies and USS Cole bombings) got double-tapped in his pajamas. Assuming it was possible to take him alive, I think his victims, the future, and the restoration of the American Way deserved better. That's all I'm saying.

Good riddance Osama.

Come back to your ways, my good ol' USA.

• Michael Moore is the Oscar and Emmy-winning director of "Roger & Me," "Bowling for Columbine," and "Fahrenheit 9/11." He can be reached at his website MichaelMoore.com.

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