Follow Osama’s death with rebuilding

by Chris Pocock

What began as an ordinary pilgrimage to Love Library for a group project was transformed the minute I heard the news: “We killed the bastard,” a woman told me. “We killed Osama bin Laden.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt such an overwhelming collage of emotions. I stumbled in shock to my study group, who had already heard the news of the al-Qaida leader’s death. Shock gave way to an overwhelming sense of joy as the event finally hit me. Joy transformed into nationalistic and patriotic pride, as President Barack Obama delivered his address to the nation. And finally, that pride turned into a medley of guilt and grief, as I realized that by celebrating bin Laden’s death, I was missing a greater part of the picture.

What part? Bin Laden’s death solved nothing. It doesn’t resurrect the 2,977 victims of the World Trade Center attacks. It doesn’t break us out of our current recession, it doesn’t create jobs and it sure as hell won’t end partisan contentions. Yes, we successfully assassinated public enemy No. 1, arguably the most hunted man on the face of the Earth — a huge symbolic victory for our country. But he was an old, weakened shadow of a man who couldn’t go a week without a dialysis machine cleaning his failing kidneys. His only success in the last 10 years has been his cowering in fear from coalition troops. In short, he was no longer a threat to the U.S.

Not that the psychological value of his death wasn’t powerful — May 1 tied a loose end present in every American’s mind since the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11. But the road getting us there had its costs. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan has claimed 1,572 American lives. Likewise, the lives of nearly 9,000 Afghani civilians have been snuffed out in the last three years. I’ve seen my home country commit deplorable and dehumanizing acts of violence and injustice, only to justify those actions by stating we are a country at war: torture by simulated drowning, the suspension of habeas corpus for those incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, the curtailing of our own rights because of the Patriot Act and the drone attacks responsible for the murders of dozens of Afghani civilians; $400 billion blown in 10 years of battle with a mobile terrorist group on the other side of the

world. And yet, I still find myself unable to answer the question that inevitably arises from the war in Afghanistan: Has it been worth all of this?

I am 20 years old. My country has been at war for more than half my life; men my age are returning home jaded from a decade-long battle with blown off arms and legs, or lying in flag-draped coffins. But even with bin Laden killed in action, there remains no end in sight for the war. The threat of terror is still alive and well: Another man will pick up

where bin Laden left off, a few more thousand troops and civilians will be killed and our country will continue to operate with a morally ambiguous and clouded pursuit of justice and end to tyranny.

With the leader of al Qaida dead, we must begin planning an end to this ongoing conflict. Militarily, we’re a superpower. We’re great at bulldozing regimes, but we’re not good at the important part — reconstruction. We’ve done little to rebuild Afghanistan, to build schools and hospitals and other necessary buildings for the country. Instead, we’ve been caught in a cat and mouse game with Muslim extremists.

Even further, I don’t believe in a “War on Terror” in the conventional sense. Terrorism exists; it’s an awful fact. But a violent ideology cannot be killed through more violence. An ideology can only continue, adapt and warp as it’s met with resistance. Even with all the U.S. military’s resources and prowess, we will not see an end to terroristic ideals in our lifetimes. No, I consider it an addendum to Newton’s Law — as long as the U.S. remains the global power that it is, there will be a force of resistance. Our wisest plan of action here is to rebuild. We will not change the minds of the men shooting at our troops, the engineers of improvised explosive devices and the suicide bombers. But we can prove to future generations in the Middle East we represent a country free of hatred and violence, that we are a country of freedom. Freedom will never be something shot through the barrel of an assault rifle; it is something built with brick and mortar, with teaching, with time and patience and free of spilt blood. I can only hope America takes such a path of sanity.

—Chris Pocock is a journalism junior.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.