Two Non-American Views: Should Any Death Be Celebrated?

Osama Bin Laden Checking the mail here at LAX, after my note last night saying that Osama bin Laden's death was the rare exception to the principle that no man is an island and all deaths should be mourned, I find two dissenting notes. Each is from a non-American who is well familiar with life in the United States.

First, from an Englishman now living and working in the SF Bay area:

>>I did not find the news heartening, I found it slightly depressing. I support the action to kill OBL, and I believe that the world is a better place w/o him. But I find that reality depressing, and the fact that 'we' choose to celebrate his death (there were fireworks in SF) more depressing still. It reminds me how base we (humans) are. I've never lost anyone in a terrorist attack, so this is easy for me to say, I know.

I wish Obama could have said something along the lines of 'we kill with a heavy heart', but I realize that the bigger battle (for re-election) justifies some causalities of decency along the way. This too saddens me.<<

And from an Italian citizen who was living and working in New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks:

>>Celebrating a death.

If I had learnt that Osama Bin Laden had died peacefully in his bed, or after a heart attack, or of terminal kidney failure, I would have thought: "Good riddance". And secretly, I would have whispered to myself - so glad he was not killed by American special forces in one of those Hollywood-style terminator operations.

But that's precisely what happened. At one point, we shall learn why the option of capturing him was not pursued (after all, Reichsmarshall Goering, who killed many more innocent people than Bin Laden, was given a grand trial). The way it ended, in my view, points to a very insecure power: one that is terrified at the thought that its archenemy's body could become a symbol of worship for its foes. The kosher Muslim funeral at sea looks like a farce. No. This is not the way a country that wants to lead the world in honourable conduct behaves.

Cheers for Britain, in retrospect. Karl Marx was left undisturbed in his grave in Hampstead, even at the height of the cold war.<<

More to say in response to these view and other developments, but that is all from me until very late tonight, as it is time to get on the plane.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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