Monday, May 2, 2011

Thank God He Is Dead, But...

By Mark Young
My first reaction to the news last night about the killing of Osama bin Laden was Thank God He Is Dead. But moments later, a Fox News channel switched their cameras to a jubilant crowd gathering in front of the White House, cheering and flashing hand signs as if it was party time. Is this the face of America we want the world to see? Is this the America we have become?

I don’t think so. This is not who we are.

We do not gloat over taking the life of another human being, even of it is that of a notorious terrorist like bin Laden. We do not clank beers with each other in bars, and try to outdo each other in demonstrative, unbecoming behavior. This killing is not an excuse to have a party. Have we become so desensitized by our culture and media that killing others—even mass murders like bin Laden— has no meaning. If this is what we have become as a country, then I must hang my head in shame. I have to believe that this is not who we have become. We are a greater country that what I saw on the screen. We have much to be proud of. We run deeper than the gloating faces I saw flashed on television last night.

I did not lose someone close to me on 9/11, or in any of the other acts of terror this man and his thugs perpetrated on the world. Many people did lose a loved one, a friend, at the hands of this killer. I mourn for all his victims, of all colors, all nationalities, of all countries. I mourn for those of our military who gave the ultimate sacrifice in trying to keep us safe in this war on terror.

Yes, I am proud of  our military and intelligence community who relentlessly hunted this man down for ten years until he was dead. I am proud that our country, after 9/11, began systematically tearing apart these terrorist organizations that are seeking to kill Americans here and abroad. Our country, with our staunch allies like Britain, took this fight to where these killers sought to hide, even as many other countries harangue, mocked and passed judgment on our efforts. I am proud of what has been accomplished as we rose from the ashes of 9/11 and learned to adapt to a swiftly-changing world.

We’ve made mistakes, and at times our country has been divided about the best way to fight this new borderless war. In the midst of war—and make no mistake, that is what terrorists have brought to our shores—it is hard to be perfect, to never stumble and fall at times. Day-to-day decisions in war cannot be made from the quiet retreats of board rooms and classrooms, pondering over all the possible scenarios before taking action. In war, failure to act in a timely manner means you die. This is true for our brave military on the ground in the midst of a firefight, and for our military and government leaders calling the shots from thousands of miles away.

Our military and governmental leaders made the right choice when it came to killing bin Laden. I am sure, over the next few weeks or months, we will learn about the imperfect process by which bin Laden was tracked down and killed. We will hear from others who will argue that we should have scooped this killer up and brought him back to this country to stand trial.We may even learn that undue caution was taken—due to jittery political concerns—that could have jeopardized the mission and allowed bin Laden to escape the trap. This happens midst the throes of war. But jubilation and partying does not factor into the equation. No reasonable people give each other a high-five after taking a life.

Ask any military or police officer about taking a life. Are they jubilant? Did they feel like it was time to have a party? I can tell you first hand this is not how it feels.

Many years ago—in another time, in another war—I took a man’s life. It was the life of a man who mortally wounded my friend and put a bullet in my right arm. Before we pulled back, I and fellow marines shot and killed this man. We had no time or inclination to gloat. We were patrolling along the Ho Chi Minh trail in the jungle mountains along Laos, and needed to pull back before light for fear of becoming surrounded. We carried our dead and wounded with us because we never leave them behind. My friend never made it. It took most of the night for my friend to die as we suppressed his screams.

Was I glad that we killed the man who did this?


Did I feel like partying?


Before I left that war, many of those in my platoon would be dead by friendly fire. And I would never be the same again. I grew up that day at the age of eighteen years. I came home much older, trying to figure out what I just lived through. And when I returned, people spit at me and stomped on the flag that my friend fought and died to protect. A waitress dumped a pot of hot coffee in my lap. A couple of good-old-boys tried to run me off the road with their pickup. It was a different, drastically-challenging world back then. Like our own civil war, we became an America that pitted brother against brother, father against son. And for those of us fortunate enough to return from that war, we did not feel like gloating.

When I think of taking a life—any life—I think of that unknown man in the mountains of Vietnam many years ago whose life I ended after he killed my friend. I think of a prison gang member sitting on death row for killing a deputy I worked with many years ago, a prisoner I hope is finally brought to justice by lethal injection. I think of another man who kidnapped, raped and killed a beautiful  little girl, a girl who played with my daughters in my home. Do I want these men dead? Yes. Would I gloat? No.

Contrary to what others may believe, I think our way of life sometimes requires justice to be served by taking the life of another. But America, don’t  gloat and party over that death. That is not who we are. This is not what we represent.

We are a peace-loving country, with blemishes and mistakes in our great history. We are a country that seeks to protect the downtrodden and those who cannot protect themselves. We are a country of laws based upon a constitution, a living document that our forefathers bequeathed to us after they gathered together and took time to pray to almighty God. We are an imperfect system that I believe is the best thing going on this chaos-filled planet.

Yes, I thank God that Osama bin Laden is dead.

Justice has been served. Let us leave it at that and move on.


  1. Mark, extremely well said. Thank you...

  2. Thanks, Wulff.This was one of the harder ones to write because it still hurts.May God continue to protect those Seals from harm.

  3. Well said Mark, I would have to say a felt a bit of shame in myself while reading this. My wife and I had a very similar conversation yesterday, she had the same belief as you and I was trying to defend my “jubilation”. I was conceding to her that I too thought the street celebrations were a bit much, it was eerily similar to what we saw across the Middle East and Afghanistan after 9/11.

    I was telling her my emotions were not so much joy that he was dead, as it was relief. We climbed a mountain for almost 10 years never knowing when we would get to the top and at that moment, for me, we popped our head through the clouds and we were there.

    I was proud, for a country that was humiliated by this thug and followers for far to long.

    I was so proud of the JSOC and the Navy, after suffering the greatest lost of Special Operations soldiers ever in 2005, they were the ones who got him in the end.

    So very proud of that 18 year old kid(soldier, sailor, airmen, marine), who like you Mark saw and did things that no man wants to be a part of even though he or she volunteers. Then to come home and watch their fallen buried at a funeral surrounded by screaming protesters, parents greave while people scream holding signs that say “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”. They needed this moral boost so bad.

    I grew up in a time when playing war with my brothers we almost always fought either the U.S.S.R. or “Charlie” of N. Vietnam. My 10 year old mind was well prepared for a “Red Dawn” style invasion of U.S.A. It wasn’t until I was a teenager when the Berlin Wall came down and later visiting a Russian ship in port down in Florida, that I realized how skewed my reality was.

    I think what we saw yesterday was a compilation of some of the above. The crowds we saw were mostly young college age “kids”. Who grew up in post 9/11 world of which Bin Laden was responsible for. I think many might have thought this was the end of our war on “Terror“. A war that has defined they way they grew up. The high emotions, coupled with youthful ignorance, no concept of the value of Life and beer, which I saw plenty of in most the news footage, lead to some embarrassing moments for us.

    I don’t know if I ever prayed to God for the death of Bin Laden. I did pray many a time that he would work his will so as that this man be brought to Justice. I praised him when he did and ask for peace for our world.

    Sometimes I ramble Mark, but in short I agree with you. Your life experiences are unique to say the least. I would hope our nations youth could learn from stories like yours rather than experiences like yours. As a world leader, the only nation in the world that can even pull this kind of a mission off. We missed a great opportunity in the follow up to lead by example.

    I’ll leave you with this:

    What the colors of our flag have been said to represent.

    RED- represents hardiness and valor
    WHITE- means purity and innocence
    BLUE- denotes vigilance, perseverance and justice

    And boy it sure looks sharp hanging from my porch. : )

  4. Thank you for such a poignant view of recent events. I could not help but cry when you described your own interactions after the Vietnam war and it amazes me that you were able to move past such horrific behaviour. I have also said that we should not celebrate the death of another, no matter how horrible a person he was in life. Life is a precious gift and when someone has to take a life I feel part of their life is taken as well and those that are partying and celebrating obviously do not understand that. Thank you. - J(Y)S

  5. Steve: Your points are well made. Thank for your comments and insight.

    JYS: I noticed most of the jubilation seemed to come from the young (at least in media coverage). As Steve mentioned above, 9/11 and this man changed their world. I am sure a part of their reaction stems from this.Soon, they will learn the world is not so simple. Taking a life has eternal repercussions.

  6. Perhaps you might know the answer to a question about ObL that has been bugging me ever since I first heard he and his cowardly crew hide behind the skirts of women and the bodies of children in hopes the good guys care more for their lives than he - ObL - does.

    Do we know for a fact that ObL was ever involved in a hostile action in which he personally was at risk of death or grave injury in which he did not hide behind women and children?

    If at all, I suspect it was when he was fighting with his US allies to oust the Russians from Afghanistan.

    ObL died a coward, my question asks if he was ever anything but a coward.

  7. Anonymous: Sorry, I cannot answer your question. Those who were close enough to know are not revealing this. My guess: he was involved in direct armed conflict at some point. But when dealing with a superior forces like the U.S., he seems to have learned from those like Mao Tse-tung, or the Vietnamese during their conflict--hiding in villages, posing as peasants and farmers, and use women and children in their conflict.

  8. Uncle Mark: Thank you so much for voicing this; I find a great deal of relief in it. I feel relief that bin Laden is dead, and relief that it is OK to feel something other than joy about it. I've been feeling incredibly conflicted. While I wanted him dead, ending the life of any person, even one as evil as bin Laden, is a serious matter. It certainly isn't to be celebrated as can be seen by the media coverage. Before reading your blog, I felt as though I either had to not want him killed or be joyous about his murder. Neither of those fit. So thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this voice. It couldn't have been easy to write. Love, Jacqueline

  9. OMG- A waitress dumped coffee in your lap? I want to weep. Thank your for your service. Thank you for not turning on those who turned on you.

  10. Jacqueline: Thank you for your comments. I wrote this because I felt many people felt the same kind of conflict as you expressed. Take care.

    Lelia: Thanks for your comment. We in America are a very passionate people. Sometimes that is a good thing. Sometimes it is not. I will always love my country, in the good times and the bad.

  11. It is true...we are desensitized as a people. But 911 is still very raw for most of us in the US. The threat to our existance is till very real. I think people were celebrating the freedom from what this man represented....evil. Sheer evil in the form of the son of Satan here on earth. They celebrated the fact that at least he can't cause us harm. Many people who did lose loved ones on 911 said this does not bring closure for those they have lost. It does remove one source of evil from preventing more harm to so many innocent people. This is worth celebrating. We have many more followers and the like of bin ladden to fight. Even though one powerful man was indeed killed, we celebrate winning a small battle on the war on terror. Defeating a single man with so much influence and power, in today's world, is winning a battle. Our enemy is a coward who now hides behind women and children. You are right in that things have changed. Wars are no longer between properly identified solders from each side doing battle. No more innocent casualties. The innocent are now the target.

    So I do celebrate the end of terror and evil this man represented. I feel no shame in that.

  12. Very well said.