Osama bin Laden is dead.
I had hoped that he would be captured alive. I would have preferred a trial. At the time of the attacks, I wrote a lengthy essay on justice vs. revenge for the company newsletter for a now former employer. I’m not sure that this is justice.
The thing is… I feel absolutely NOTHING. Other than a twinge of sadness. Sadness that it has gone on this long. Has it really been almost 10 years?! I guess it has. At times it feels like yesterday. At times it feels like 30 years ago. I still remember the day vividly, and I still have problems watching the footage. I wasn’t in New York, nor was I near where the plane did or did not hit the Pentagon. But I lived close to both, and had dear friends in New York at the time, and I worked close enough to the Pentagon that what was normally a 30 minute commute home turned into 6 hours.
Was it worth it? Was it worth all of the lives? All of the American lives? All of the Afghani lives? All of the Iraqi lives? All of the people everywhere caught in the crossfire? Not to mention all of those disfigured and wounded?
I can’t, in all honestly, say that I believe so. And again, while part of me feels like bin Laden’s death brings some closure, I still would have preferred a trial.
Justice. Not vengeance.
In the intervening time since the attacks, I’ve moved to California, finished graduate school, and had a host of other things both hideous and wonderful happen to me. I’ve also learned a lot more about Islam than I knew on September 11, 2001.
Five years ago today, I had the following dream. And it still haunts me:
May 1, 2006:
Somehow, I’d wound up (through a series of weird events) training with Osama bin Laden. I remember meeting him in a giant office building, along with Ayman al-Zawahiri. They were particularly interested in me, as I was an American. I’d originally gone simply to meet him, to try to understand what was making him tick. Before I knew it, I was in too deep, and had to play along, and undergo training, with a group of other men. We were given our target, and our orders.
Our mission went horribly wrong. We were supposed to attack some military base or something in Iraq. My comrades either got themselves killed, or deserted. I was captured by American forces, and knew I’d be in trouble. Then there was a loud explosion, and my captors ran off to investigate. I was shackled to something, and when the coast was clear, bin Laden himself came over to free me.
“I knew you would fail,” he told me. “You don’t have the stomach to do this sort of thing to your own people. Yet, I took you in, because I wanted you to understand, so that you can pass this message along to others. Just as you are human, I, too, am human. Just as I am a monster, so, too, are you, monsters.”
He unshackled me, and told me to go, pointing a way out through a garden. The garden became rather maze-like, full of geometrical patterns. The idea was, that as an American, I’d be able to blend back in, and nobody would be any wiser about what I had been through.
Saddam Hussein (who had nothing to do with the attacks) spent his last days gardening and writing poetry. I found this truly fascinating that a man who knew that his role in the world was coming to a close chose to spend the days leading up to his execution taking pleasure in the simple things – nourishing life, and creating.
Part of me can’t help but wonder how bin Laden would have spent his final days.
It’s over. I’d like to think things could return to “normal” now.
But I fear we don’t even know what that is anymore.