Staff editorial: Victory should not equal vengeance

When President Barack Obama approached the podium in the East Room of the White House Sunday, he gave America one of the defining moments of its history: the death of Osama bin Laden.

The announcement spurred a rash of celebrations, including a gathering at the White House gates.

The declaration resonated with Americans as the destruction of a monster, our victory over not the personification of evil, but rather evil itself. Chants of “USA, USA” filled the air of our collective conscience; we hearkened back to conclude, “Mission accomplished.”

[X]press does not view the death of bin Laden in such simplistic terms.

His death is a victory for the U.S., but as with any loss of life, it should cause us to pause. Those who carried out the murder of 3,000 American citizens on Sept. 11 did so proudly without wavering. We should not be as cavalier about any life—even that of a terrorist.

Sunday should not have been a moment for welcoming the death of a man. Bin Laden’s death should have been an opportunity for introspection. It should have provided an opportunity for analyzing the complexities of the last 10 years.

After commandos killed the al-Qaeda figurehead and four others, Americans should ask themselves whether death is the same as justice.

The U.S. is a country that embraces the idea of minority rights, one of those being the rights of the accused. Is death, or trial by jury, actual justice? Can we disregard our principles for convenience? [X]press does not know the answer to these questions, but we are disappointed that Americans simply wanted him dead; they wanted revenge, not justice.

Americans are well versed in the sending of troops to war, desensitized perhaps. They are not, however, accustomed to seeing it. If there was any silver lining to be had after 9/11, it was a further appreciation of all life, not just our own. Yet, we celebrated bin Laden’s death as callously as we imagine bin Laden cheered his victims’ demise.

The events of 9/11, while devastating, should have taught Americans compassion, not rage; reflection, not vengeance.

Because vengeance has consumed us, how can we justify ourselves against our enemies? We can’t.