The killing of Osama bin Laden has had a strange effect on me. That the murderous terrorist who loomed over our lives for more than a decade is gone is worthy of myriad emotions. But the one that has swept over me is profound ambivalence. Should I care whether enhanced interrogation techniques yielded even a nugget of information that led to his demise? Should bin Laden have been captured instead of killed? My answers would have been different before May 1. They are surprising to me still after that historic night.
I remember recoiling in horror after learning that the United States was either engaged in or condoned torture. Sorry, enhanced interrogation techniques. That’s not what we do as a nation. That’s not who we are. Besides, trusted voices said that techniques such as waterboarding produced ultimately unreliable intelligence. Through their use, President George W. Bush had permanently damaged the reputation of my America. That’s what I felt.
The fellas held at Guantanamo deserve to defend themselves in a court of law. Our Constitution can withstand anything, especially being used to defend devils hellbent on destroying the nation that thrives because of it. Even capturing bin Laden and putting evil on trial would have shown the power of our founding document. That’s what I felt.
But a funny thing happened when my feelings smacked up against the reality of bin Laden’s sudden and violent death.
When questions started being asked about the role enhanced interrogation techniques may have played, I found myself thinking, “I don’t care what was done.” When the question about whether he should have been captured instead of killed arose, I found myself not caring that bin Laden took two bullets to the head. What I cared about was that bin Laden was dead.
On a beautiful and cloudless September morning in New York City nearly 10 years ago, a madman’s plot murdered innocents, scarred my city and wrecked my country’s and my own sense of self and place. Knowing that he has met justice fills me with indescribable relief. Sure, it’s vengeful. But I own it. And I hope to never be put in this position again.