By MARC McDONALD
I was unable to bring myself to join in the recent jubilant celebration over the death of Osama bin Laden. Nearly a decade after 9/11, I can't help but think that America is a nation that has lost its soul. Once, we were the good guys in the world. Now, we're not.
It's hard to fathom how much America has changed since 9/11. We've inflicted an enormous amount of senseless damage on other nations---far more damage than we ourselves suffered on that terrible day.
Yes, "we" finally got Bin Laden. We shot dead an unarmed man. A man who was never even charged with anything, much less tried or convicted. In fact, the FBI, in its "Most Wanted" list, never even mentioned the 9/11 attacks in its entry for Bin Laden.
Bin Laden was clearly no angel. But once upon a time in this country, we considered people innocent until proven guilty. And Bin Laden is hardly the only person America has killed in recent years, without any sort of charges or trial. It's now become routine for the U.S. to fire drone missile attacks in remote Pakistan, killing people we believe are "terrorists."
And just who says these people are terrorists? The CIA?
We all know what a stellar track record the CIA has for accurate information. After all, these are the incompetents who were completely blindsided by the 9/11 attacks, the most deadly terror attacks ever launched against any nation. The CIA also signed off on George W. Bush's case for war on Iraq.
It seems to me that, for all the hundreds of billions of dollars we've lavished on the likes of the CIA, this agency has been bumbling and incompetent for many years. I'm unclear what we've gotten back for all the billions we've spent on the CIA. Certainly not national security.
I can't help but think that the CIA has been symbolic in many ways of how much America has changed since 9/11.
Once, it was unthinkable that the U.S. would officially embrace torture as a means of policy. Now, it's routine. What's worse is that, an increasingly bloodthirsty public, fueled by HateWing radio and Fox News, now supports it.
Before 9/11, the Constitution was held with reverence. Maybe it wasn't always followed to the letter, but it was still regarded as the bedrock of our democracy.
Today, after eight years of Bush, the Constitution lies in shreds. Between blatantly illegal warrantless wiretaps, waterboarding, and the "Patriot" Act, it's clear that this nation simply no longer holds the Constitution in high regard. Of course, things are better under Obama, but the damage remains.
Yes, the U.S. finally took out Bin Laden. But how many innocent people did we murder along the way? Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghanistani civilian men, women and children have died violent deaths at America's hands for no good reason.
With the death of Bin Laden, Americans proclaim that "Justice Has Been Served."
But what about justice for the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghanistanis, slaughtered with American Predator drones, Tomahawks, and Hellfire missiles?
Watching the jubilant crowds celebrating Bin Laden's death frankly left me with a queasy feeling. Something, I thought, just didn't seem right. In fact, I've increasingly felt this way ever since 9/11. America is today a vastly changed place. It's no longer the America that I grew up with.
Once upon a time, the random execution of civilians without trial was something that other nations did----usually corrupt dictatorships. Torture was something that only occurred in places like Stalin's Gulags. Warrantless wiretaps only took place in totalitarian states, far away from America. Unprovoked warfare was something only other nations like Hitler's Germany engaged in.
But 9/11 changed all that.
We Americans could have responded to 9/11 like we've always done during crises in our nation's history. We could have shown the world that American democracy and respect for the rule of law is always stronger than any crisis.
But instead, America took a darker path after 9/11. In many ways, we became the bad guys.
So, yes, we did finally kill Bin Laden. But somewhere along the way, in the decade after 9/11, America lost its soul.
Update:In the piece above, I wrote: "America finally got Bin Laden, but along the way, we lost our soul."
Two days later, Michael Moore was being interviewed by CNN's Piers Morgan. Moore talked about the death of bin Laden and said, "We've lost something of our soul." In the interview, he made many of the same points I did in the article above.
Interesting. Clearly, Moore and I think alike.