Upon arriving back home in the United Kingdom this week, I was greeted with two contrasts to the United States, where I had been visiting the East Coast for ten days. The first was a decent cup of tea, something that lets me forgive the other evils of English cuisine. The second was less welcome: a change in mindset and morals – the European intelligentsia’s outrage at the circumstances surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Among the emotive criticism and cries of insensitivity leveled at the US, a number of opinion articles slammed the American celebrations of Bin Laden’s demise.
Writing in the Guardian, Gary Younge stated that:
Americans have a right to grieve and remember those who died on 9/11. But they have no monopoly on memory, grief or anger. Hundreds and thousands of innocent Afghanis, Iraqis and Pakistanis have been murdered as a result of America''s response to 9/11. If it''s righteous vengeance they''re after, Americans would not be first in line. Fortunately it is not a competition, and there is enough misery to go around.…If "they" killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad then "they" also bombed a large number of wedding parties in Afghanistan, "they" murdered 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha and "they" gang-raped a 14-year-old before murdering her, her six-year-old sister and their parents near Mahmudiyah. If "they" don''t want to be associated with the atrocities then "they" need to find more to celebrate than an assassination. Vengeance is, in no small part, what got us here. It won''t get us out.
I celebrated in New York’s Times Square, and I was grateful to be there. My colleague and I waved the American flag, chatted, sang and cheered with the young, old, disabled, Jew, Christian, American and foreigner – a miscellany of identities all united in the triumph of justice. I am proud to have celebrated, and at the time, all the moral superiority exhibited by the unctuous European Left could not have dampened our spirits one bit.
The French newspaper Libération stated the celebrations were an example of the “toxic rhetoric” employed in the war against terror, and that the jubilant crowds in New York in Washington were "unprecedented in a democracy." L''Express opined that those celebrating were the same as the "turbaned barbarians who danced the night of September 11th. It is to tell them the ghastly competition continues between them and us.”
The implication of such a moral equivalence is no longer just a manifestation of the European sickness – that is, the moral relativity and obsession with Orientalism that blames the West itself for the Islamists’ actions – but it has now become a disgusting and absolute detachment with reality itself.
It is a detachment that the taxi driver who drove me from the airport could not understand: “He’s dead isn’t he? I’d have thought that would be a good thing?” Compare this to the lofty Yasmin Alibhai Brown, who on BBC’s Question Time informed Douglas Murray that he was as bad as Bin Laden for refusing to wish Bin Laden had received the proper Islamic burial rites. At what point does the so-called intelligentsia’s moral superiority just become utter insanity?
For Younge to suggest that those celebrating were also praising the mistakes of war and the brutal rape of a young girl by soldiers - who now face punishment for their crimes - is a disgusting lunacy. And yet there is little objection: the charade goes on.
There were some who welcomed Bin Laden’s death but expressed dislike at the sentiments of the American crowds. In the Jerusalem Post, Shmuley Boteach concluded:
I hated Osama bin Laden, but I will not rejoice at his death. It would have been better had he never been born, but once he was, and once he dedicated his life to unspeakable cruelty, it was necessary for him to be stopped and killed.
Those who danced in the Arab streets, once the Twin Towers had fallen and 3000 killed, were celebrating murder; they were celebrating death. But those in New York were celebrating survival and the comfort brought by the accomplishment of justice. There were no shouts of ‘God is Great’ or ‘Death to the Infidels!’, but rather there were cheers and chants for ‘New York’s Finest’ – the Fire Department who lost so many colleagues on 9/11. Is this not the ultimate difference between the West and its adversaries? – The moral nihilism of Islamist ideology usurped by the American appreciation of life itself.
The crowds, including those who had lost friends and family to Al-Qaeda, now had, as one American put it to me, “closure.” The scales of justice have been righted, and Western ideals revitalized. The crowds did not celebrate the downfall of evil that night, but rather the triumph of good.