Five Best Wednesday Columns

On defeating a real enemy, regulating food advertising, and a terrorism-filled adolescence

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Matt Gallagher on Bin Laden's 'Just' Death  Matt Gallagher, an Iraq War veteran, remembers, at The New York Times, daydreaming often about spotting bin Laden and carrying out a raid in which he and his team killed "the architect of 9/11 and villian to everything America and the Free World encompasses." He explains these fantasies as "seeking a clear purpose in a dust storm of nuance and innuendo ... Bin Laden was symbolic of something that wasn't supposed to exist in postmodern warfare: a total enemy." In the midst of fighting against enemies that, for the most part, "looked more like angry, prepubescent mall rats than legitimate insurgents ... Killing him would be like our grandfathers saving democracy from the Nazis--clean, complete, and entirely just."

Mark Bittman on Making Food Marketing Rules Mandatory  The New York Times' Mark Bittman denounces the Federal Trade Commission's new food marketing guidelines: "We need legal action, not voluntary guidelines," he says. "If their suggested rules were followed, food advertising would be drastically different." But the companies that benefit from these harmful foods are not going to choose to abandon the ad campaigns that garner sales, and in five years kids will already have developed bad eating habits. He recalls the banning of cigarette ads on billboards when they became directed at kids and argues that the health risks of obesity should be taken as seriously as those linked to tobacco, rejecting the argument that the difference between the two is that food is necessary for life. "This isn't food I'm talking about, but food-like products," he clarifies. "No one needs Pepsi or Whoppers; we aren't born craving doughnuts or nachos."

Ruth Marcus on Terrorism's Effect on Young Americans  "My younger daughter, 4 at the time [of 9/11], asked me in the scary days afterward what the news used to be about before it was only about terrorism," recalls Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post. She notes a feeling of "exuberance" upon hearing that bin Laden had been killed and argues that, while "fist-pumping celebrations [may] seem more appropriate to clinching a soccer championship than nabbing a terrorist ... for young people who grew up with the omnipresent specter of terrorism, I cannot begrudge them the vuvuzela." She closes with a note that, while she is "an inconstant gardener," she responded to bin Laden's death with a trip to the nursery, replacing last year's "showy mix of orange marigolds and royal purple petunias" with "something more muted and soothing ... A proud yellow poppy will be my silent reminder of Afghanistan. And a showy white peony, with its wedding dress layers of petals, will stand testament to the fact that a world capable of producing an evil like bin Laden also contains instances of such improbable splendor."

Tim Rutten on the Qualifications of Sainthood  Tim Rutten questions at The Los Angeles Times today whether Pope John Paul II deserves sainthood. "There is little doubt that John Paul II was obtuse and derelict in his handling of the [sexual abuse] crisis, perhaps because, as his defenders argue, sexual misconduct charges were so frequently fabricated against clerics by communist authorities in his native Poland," Rutten points out. "Still, difficult questions remain about his close association--and that of members of his household--to moneyed sexual predators like the now-disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ." He also notes the former pope's effort to stifle outspoken theologians and bishops with non-traditional ideologies. "Although it's true that not everything about a saint's life need be blameless, there's also a reason so few popes are made saints," he writes.

Jimmy Carter on Supporting the Palestinian Reconciliation  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter urges the United States and the world to support the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas in order to "help Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a unified Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that can make a secure peace with Israel." He argues, in The Washington Post, that this agreement should be considered "a Palestinian contribution to the 'Arab Awakening'" as well as a sign "of the growing importance of an emerging Egyptian democracy." Acknowledging Hamas as the democratically elected party not only would show respect towards Palestine, he writes, but can help promote a ceasefire on its border with Israel. President Carter admits that he finds Hamas's charter, "which calls for Israel's destruction, ... repugnant," but points out that Israel was willing once to negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which, at the time, had a similar mission statement.

Photo by Reuters.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.