The spontaneous celebrations of the assassination of Osama bin Laden that are spilling across the US reflect the extent to which the American society was traumatized by the September 11 drama. In the aftermath of media reports of the killing of “the number one terrorist” along with his innocent relatives, crowds are rejoicing noisily in the streets of US cities and extolling the special forces soldiers who pulled off the operation, leaving a recurrent impression that the emotions could be running even higher if, in line with the medieval epoch's custom, the hated enemy's head were carried around and exposed in public places.
The people seem totally oblivious to the moral ambivalence of the reaction, as if the wild instincts that led mobs to watch the burnings of schismatics are still alive in the civilized XXI century. In the US, dancing on a grave – no matter whose – should have been perceived as something incompatible with the values upheld by America's founding fathers. It might be natural for B. Netanyahu, the premier of a country routinely resorting to terrorist methods, to say that killing bin Laden was “a resounding victory for justice”, but real justice could only be served through arresting bin Laden and properly putting him on trial. Killing the leader of the world's largest terrorist network instead of seizing him looks like a cover-up, considering that a whole army of experts challenge the view that bin Laden was the mastermind behind the September 11 attack and that the synchronism between the operation and Obama's re-election is hardly a coincidence.
Was it really beyond the range of doable for the US and Pakistani special forces to take bin Laden, trapped in a compound with his family, alive, especially given that concern over the lives of his relatives could prompt him to surrender? The US special forces chose to kill him and whoever they encountered on the way, which may fit neatly with the American concept of humanism but still seems suspicious in the settings. Bin Laden is silenced forever, and Al Qaeda will continue to exist in its current shape, albeit with a new leader at the helm, as the US Department of State immediately predicted if not actually promised. Alive, bin Laden could tell a lot and the information could help deal to Al Qaeda a devastating blow, but obviously Washington was not interested. Fear that bin Laden's revelations would have made it clear who actually inspired, masterminded, and planned the horrifying September 11 provocation – and what subordinate roles in it were given to a bunch of Arabs – are a likely explanation why.
In any case, the problem of terrorism remains unresolved regardless of how happy the crowds in the US feel at the moment. Things will proceed as usual, and the CIA will have to find another foe of the US to take bin Laden's place, which is not an uphill task in today's world loaded with anti-Americanism.
The assassination of bin Laden will certainly overshadow the shocking story of the killing of M. Gadhafi's son and three grandsons in Libya, which highlighted the essence of the West's “democratic” mission in the post-colonial world. According to alternative reports, bin Laden was killed a week earlier by an air strike, and chances are that the information about his death was withheld to be released – as a trick to divert the public attention from what is happening in Libya – parallel to the news about the killing of Gadhafi, but Gadhafi survived the NATO air raid. Indeed, the Muslims' rage over Gadhafi's death could be diluted by the information about the death of bin Laden, a divisive figure in the Muslim world.
No doubt, the killing of bin Laden (regardless of under what circumstances he was killed and even whether he was indeed the person killed) was an intelligent way to open Obama's presidential campaign. Luckily for the candidate, the public in the country forever scarred by September 11 is sure to be impressed by the symbolic episode.