Weisel, Bhutto, Lévy, and Sullivan on the Death of Osama bin Laden
In this week’s Newsweek, Elie Wiesel, Fatima Bhutto, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and Andrew Sullivan reflect on the end of Osama Bin Laden.
A Death Deserved By Elie Wiesel
Pictures of Americans celebrating and rejoicing on the streets of New York and Washington, D.C., were shown all over the world. They were people who felt compelled to demonstrate their satisfaction that the man they considered their No. 1 enemy was finally dead.
Normally, I would respond to such scenes with deep apprehension. The execution of a human being—any human being—should never be an event to be celebrated. Death—anyone’s—must be taken seriously, thoughtfully.
This time is different. As we listened to President Obama report to the nation and the world the news of bin Laden’s capture and death, I, too, shared in the collective response of so many Americans: “He got what he deserved.” He committed too many crimes, too many murders— he caused too much suffering—for his death to arouse pity or sadness. By his actions, he gave up any right to human compassion.
Sadly, he was not the only one put at risk by the American operation. There were others. Among them, children. And children are never guilty. Still, it was bin Laden himself who placed them in harm’s way.
War is never just. In bin Laden’s case, there is no doubting his responsibility for countless attacks. Nor do we know what horrendous acts he may still have been planning. And so it is understandable that we respond to his undoing with a certain amount of satisfaction.
As someone familiar with Abbottabad, I can say there is no doubt in my mind that bin Laden was welcomed, then dropped, by the powers that be in Pakistan, according to the terms of a bargain we do not yet understand.
Most important, we are grateful to our president for reconfirming our faith in the nation’s leadership and the ability of our men in and out of uniform to restore some semblance of order, however fragile. The Book of Ecclesiastes says it most clearly: there is a time to mourn and a time to rejoice. And so, let us rejoice and hope that this will be a time of rededication to the ideals of peace, cooperation, and mutual respect among nations, all concepts that bin Laden sought vainly to destroy.
Wiesel is a writer and Nobel laureate.
Pakistan's TrialsBy Fatima Bhutto
On May 2, Pakistan's commercial capital, Karachi, was on fire. Fourteen cars, buses, and trucks were set ablaze, gunfire broke out in the busy Malir neighborhood, and across various parts of the city people were told to stay at home. The violence had nothing to do with the death of Osama bin Laden the day before, but with the murder in the city of a former member of Parliament. Pakistan's trials don't start and don't end with Osama. The country is gripped by bloodletting—Baloch dissidents have disappeared by the thousands (a sinister byproduct of our government's engagement in the war on terror); the price of basic foodstuffs has skyrocketed as government industrialists and feudal landowners hoard basics like sugar and set the price of wheat far above international prices; and the nation has begun to descend into sectarian and ethnic violence not seen since the mid-1990s. Maybe it's not peculiar that government spokesmen claim to know nothing about Osama's killing, since they never seem to have any idea what's happening in their country at all.
Bhutto is a writer living in Karachi.
America Is Prepared to Act By Tony Blair
The September 11 attacks were attacks not just on America but on a set of values, on a way of life that we share. The World Trade Center was very deliberately chosen by the terrorists as a symbol—a place where people of different nationalities came to work together in peace and tolerance.
After September 11, Osama bin Laden proved extremely difficult to find. I remember months after the attacks, and months after we’d defeated the Taliban, pacing up and down in frustration at meetings with advisers, trying to work out why it was so hard to locate him and get him. At times we came very, very close, but ultimately to no avail.
However long it’s taken, the fact is that someone who set about deliberately killing large numbers of innocent people was finally brought to justice. It is a fantastic achievement and crucially important as a message, and as a lesson, and as a method of deterrence, for other terrorists.
Perhaps just as important, the world now knows that America is prepared to act when it’s necessary—and prepared to act with strength, dedication, and a commitment to justice.
Blair was the prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1997-2007.
Dangerous Nation By Bernard-Henri Lévy
I've been saying it since the publication of my investigation into the death of Daniel Pearl, and I will repeat it now: Pakistan, far more than North Korea, Iran, or Syria, is the most dangerous country in the world. Why? Because its secret services are infiltrated by jihadism. Because the father of the Pakistani bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, was a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a jihadi group that was a component of the first circle of al Qaeda. And because the senior staff of the organization, its upper-echelon directors, have always been coddled, hidden, protected by Pakistan.
As someone familiar with Abbottabad, I can say there is no doubt in my mind that bin Laden was welcomed, then dropped, by the powers that be in Pakistan, according to the terms of a bargain we do not yet understand. I would even speculate that it was known not, as I read everywhere, by "a few elements" of the Pakistani military hierarchy, but by the hierarchy itself.
We imagined bin Laden hiding out in a grotto. We thought he was running from one makeshift shelter to another. Not so. As in 2003, when he was admitted for care at the hospital of the Binori Town mosque in the heart of Karachi, he was living under the protection of a strategic ally of the United States.
Let us hope that this time the Obama administration will learn the strikingly obvious lesson about this supposed ally.
Lévy is a French philosopher and author.
A Sliver of Justice By Andrew Sullivan
As a Christian I am asked to pray for the soul of Osama bin Laden, not to celebrate his death. And this prayer I have spoken, as I am bound to. But this is also true: the joy will not leave me either, and I am not ashamed in the slightest. In fact, the only sane thing to feel is both great sorrow and great joy.
The reason for the sorrow is obvious: that this one figure was capable of inflicting so much pain on so many people, that he distorted so many minds and souls, that he killed so many human beings. And that he did it all in the name of God.
The reason for the joy is actually less obvious. It is, at its best, not vengeance or relief—although they are within us all. The joy comes because somewhere we feel for the first time in so long that this hideous, bungled, tortuous, torture-filled decade of war and mass murder might, after all, have some smidgen of emotional closure, some sliver of justice in its long arc, some core thread leading to something we can call victory.
I think especially of all those young Americans who, on Sept. 12, 2001, woke up and decided to serve their country in its hour of need. They did not sign up because they wanted to reshape the Middle East, or bring democracy to Iraq, or bribe Hamid Karzai. They signed up to find, capture, or kill Osama bin Laden—and to attack everything he represents.
It gives bin Laden too much credit to say he made them soldiers. But they became soldiers because of his crime and what he had done to the country they loved.
And so we say to our heroes: You did not die in vain. And your comrades finished the job.
And who cannot feel joy at that?
Sullivan blogs at The Daily Beast.