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Late Night: And Then

First of all, I have zero interest in scolding anybody for being happy today. For dancing or singing or spraying champagne. For celebrating for the TV cameras, for Twitter, or just for themselves. For cracking jokes. We grieve how we grieve, and make no mistake, this is still grief. It’s impossible to get an A in it, and it’s grotesque to try. Lecturing others on how to do it right is just a way to draw attention to yourself, to make you the Virtuous Voice of Truth. I’ve never liked that voice. Ever.

But let me ask you this: Read this and tell me, could we have done this before now?

In an interview at CIA headquarters two weeks ago, a senior intelligence official said the two proud groups of American secret warriors had been “deconflicted and basically integrated” — finally — 10 years after 9/11. Indeed, according to accounts given to journalists by five senior administration officials Sunday night, the CIA gathered the intelligence that led to bin Laden’s location. A memo from CIA Director Leon Panetta sent Sunday night provides some hints of how the information was collected and analyzed. In it, he thanked the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency for their help. NSA figured out, somehow, that there was no telephone or Internet service in the compound. How it did this without Pakistan’s knowledge is a secret. The NGIA makes the military’s maps but also develops their pattern recognition software — no doubt used to help establish, by February of this year, that the CIA could say with “high probability” that bin Laden and his family were living there.

Could we have had the champagne at Ground Zero, could we have had the dancing and the singing, the silence and the reflection, the closure and the open wounds, without the past 10 years of pointless death in Iraq and Afghanistan? There were no military casualties from killing bin Laden, the president said, and it hit me like a fist in the gut. Could we have done this, brought justice however brutal, without killing another American soul?

There are times I go to a Pat Robertson-type place, I really do, and think about the karmic bitchslap we are so utterly due for what we’ve done. And I pray, almost, an argument, “lots of us tried to stop it.” Tried, of course, meaning nothing to the dead.

So this morning the wars continue, because after all they weren’t about bin Laden. If we had done this 10 years ago, would it have been enough? The president talked about how united we were on 9/11; I was working that day and every day thereafter, not too far from where he was, and he is telling us a pretty story, a pretty lie. We were not united. We were fractious and enraged, and quite a few Sikh and Indian men, quite a few innocent Muslim women, can attest to that if we choose to listen to them. In that furious fear-driven anger, would this have been enough?

Look at the pictures. Look at the joy and sorrow. You tell me.


x-posted at First Draft

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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.