Everything and Nothing: We love symbols

The news is chock o’block with coverage of the Bin Laden death/killing. I have a bunch of random things floating in my head and I’m just going to download them here. Maybe you will enjoy it, maybe not. Here goes:

I think there’s a lot of symbolism going on. Some of it obvious and some of it deeply coded. Our military loves symbols, don’t you know. Eagles, purple hearts, Marines carrying around sabers even though nobody fights with them any more. I’ll get into the symbols in a minute.

I’ve read two really good pieces about the search and killing. This one from Mother Jones and this one from The New Yorker. If you’re interested in a little more depth then they might fit your fancy.

This is a really conflicting story for me. On one hand, I have no doubt that Bin Laden was a bad guy and deserved to die. But, as Gandalf said, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be to eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (Lord of the Rings: Book One: Chapter II)

Yes, I fully recognize that I am quoting The Lord of the Rings in the context of talking about Bin Laden’s death and I realize it is completely geeky. And I’m okay with that. I think it’s completely valid though and everyone else has their Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and Mark Twain quotes, so, I’m busting out the Tolkien, yo. Anyway, that’s my conflict. I think that Bin Laden deserved death if anyone did. I’m only against the death penalty in the sense that it costs the state way too much money for appeals and there are times that we conflict innocent people. So, I don’t favor the death penalty in legal cases in the United States.

But, Bin Laden was not innocent. He was a bad motherscratcher.

But WHAT DOES IT MEAN??? Well, I don’t think it means a lot, really. Not in the sense that we are safer or that Al Qaida is now weaker or something. I read a piece by Nick Kristof of CNN and NY Times that talked about the on-one-hand-and-on-the-other-handedness of this situation. I agree that it kinda does send a message to terrorists that, sooner or later, if you mess with the United States you will eventually find a Navy SEAL in your room in the middle of the night. You will have to live the rest of your life fearing every shadow and living without using the Internet or cell phones. That’s the price you have to pay if you really want to be a terrorist and kill Americans.

But, do you really think that makes terrorists nervous? They strap bombs on themselves and crash planes into buildings, for goodness sake.

Does this increase the threat? Do they want revenge? Um, well, see, that’s the thing. Do you think that terrorists were, like, “You know, those Americans haven’t really been that bad. Maybe we should leave them alone. Unless they kill Bin Laden. Then it’s on like Donkey Kong.” I don’t think anything like those words were ever uttered by a terrorist. So, saying this might prompt a terrorist attack is a little like saying that Jon Stewart might make fun of some politicians if they go on TV saying things. Pretty sure that train left the station a while ago.

For me, I’m glad we got him. Nobody needed killing more than Bin Laden did. I don’t feel bad about it one bit. But, let’s move on. I don’t want to spend the next week fist pumping and singing “God Bless America” because we killed one guy who probably wasn’t really in the fight anymore anyway. This means everything and nothing. Everything because we needed to put him in the ground (or water – more on that later), like, five years ago. Bin Laden eluding our military was embarrassing and this feels like justice. But, it changes nothing. And everything.

See what I mean? It’s symbolic. Like a wedding ceremony. Marriage doesn’t take place in a church. It takes place in the hearts and minds of two people. It is a commitment and a promise. The ceremony is symbolic. And so is this killing/death.

A couple other things jumped out at me, speaking of symbols. Remember when we first invaded Afghanistan and we called it Operation Infinite Justice? And then, they changed it to Operation Enduring Freedom? Do you think they accidentally named the military operation after an Islamic description of God? Look, I know it’s funny to say that people in the military are idiots. You know, the old oxymoron, “Military Intelligence?” Yeah, so I don’t think that everyone in the military is stupid. In fact, I bet there are some smart people in the military along with some that aren’t just like in any other big company. And, I bet someone who is one of those smart people thought it would be totally cool to name the war to kill Islamic terrorists after a quality they use to describe God. It would be like naming the plot to fly planes into the World Trade Center “Operation Alpha and Omega.” So, that wasn’t an accident. It’s just that they didn’t really think through how bad it would look to the rest of the world. But, they knew what they were doing when they did it.

There’s another piece you might find interesting that talks about how this looks to the rest of the world. That was something I was thinking about today, as well. I will grant you that it is horrible that over 3,000 Americans were killed on 9/11. But, does this one death cancel those out? It doesn’t really get talked about a lot in our news, but there have been estimates that well over 100,000 Iraqi’s have died since we invaded in 2003. Is that justice? How many Americans deserve to die to equal that? Or, is there some weird math that I’m not aware of that means that 3,000 dead Americans is equal to 100,000 dead Iraqis. Plus dead Afghani’s, too, don’t forget. There’s been a lot of vengeance going on.

Something really weird jumped out at me. On ABC News tonight, (I was watching as I was using the elliptical machine so forgive me if this is not factually accurate.) they related that the code name the military was using for Bin Laden was “Geronimo” and that when they killed him the call was “Geronimo KIA.” (KIA stands for killed in action, if you didn’t know.) I thought that was odd. Why “Geronimo?” So, having read a few books on secret societies, I recalled that (go here to see the Wikipedia page about it) allegedly, members of the secret society/fraternity at Yale called Skull and Bones broke into Geronimo’s grave and stole his skull. One of the members, allegedly, was Prescott Bush, who was George W. Bush’s grandfather. Both President Bush’s were members of Skull and Bones, too. This skull was supposedly used in rites at The Tomb (as the Skull and Bones members called their secret meeting place) and was a kind of mascot for the group.

And then the same name is used to signal that Osama Bin Laden, Bush’s nemesis that eluded him, was dead. Coincidence? Sure it could be. But, I think, maybe, it’s not super far-fetched that Obama, a clever guy, helped choose the name as a veiled jab at the former president. He gets to appear presidential and yet George W. sits at home, sees the “Geronimo KIA” and just KNOWS that Obama is giving him the business over it.

Also, there are some indications that a burial at sea, as happened with Bin Laden, is not allowed under Islamic law. I can just hear Urkel saying, “Did I do that?” Yeah, that was an accident, too. If it turns out to be true, I guarantee that someone who was in on the planning knew that it was not cool to Muslims. How about the story that, supposedly, Bin Laden hid behind a woman during the firefight. Is it true? We’ll never know. But, it’s a total insult to an Arab. This is an ultra-paternalistic culture. Women are not respected at all. There’s only one reason to say Bin Laden used a woman as a shield (a human shield – Say, wasn’t the Invasion of Iraq the first time we heard of the use of human shields? It’s the first time I remember it, anyway.), and that’s to make him look like a total wimp. It could be true, but it just as easily might not be. But, it’s getting repeated on nearly every news report as a fact. So, since the winners get to write the history, I guess it’s true.

There’s a lot of symbolism going on, I think.


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