C: Terrorism is in the news again.
D: Why do people keep attacking us?
C: You don’t want to know.
C: Anyway, they’re not attacking us. We’re attacking them.
D: It’s not terrorism when we attack them.
C: That’s what we’d like to think!
D: Isn’t that all that counts?
D: What we like to think.
D: Why should we care what other people think? After all, we’re Americans.
C: That’s the point, if you want to lead other people, you have to care about what’s on their minds.
D: Who says we want to lead people?
C: That’s part of our creed, our whole identity: we’re the leader of the free world.
D: No one believes that bullshit.
C: Ask someone! Ask someone if the United States isn’t the leader of the free world.
D: Doesn’t it depend who you ask?
C: You’re running me around tonight. I just wanted to say that we can’t assume that we’re right in every case.
D: Why not?
C: Sometimes the same standards apply to us and to our enemies. It’s called moral equivalence.
D: More fancy terms. Give me an example.
C: Let’s say an Iranian assassinates someone here in the United States. What would we call that?
C: Now let’s say we assassinate an Iranian in Iran. What would we call that?
D: A fucking success story! How did we do that?
C: Stop it. Don’t you have to call the two acts by the same name?
D: Fuck no! We’re the good guys! We can do what we want. They’re the bad guys. They can’t do anything!
C: You’re trying to bait me.
D: You’re not baitable.
C: Give me a break, then. You asked me for an example of moral equivalence. I gave you one.
D: You mean the two whack jobs are equivalent?
C: A killing is a killing. Once you start killing people, you can’t pretend your hands are clean.
D: I use Purell every morning.
C: Now I know you’re baiting me. Listen, though. I’ve been wanting to talk about another assassination – not the one that just occurred in Iran.
D: Let me guess. You want to talk about Osama.
C: How do you know that?
D: You’ve thought about his assassination pretty frequently.
C: I forgot – you look into my mind.
C: So what have I been thinking about bin Laden’s assassination?
D: You tell me.
C: I think we should have captured him as a trophy of war.
D: Don’t you think capturing him would have been slightly risky?
C: If you can kill him, you can capture him.
D: That SEAL team didn’t know what it was going to encounter. Better they go in and shoot the guy.
C: It’s easier to walk him out of that compound than to carry out his corpse.
D: That’s true. I wonder if they used a stretcher.
C: Doesn’t matter that much what they used. Once they killed the guards at the compound, they could do with bin Laden what they liked. They didn’t have to carry out a dead body.
D: You said trophy of war. Isn’t that a little old fashioned?
C: I don’t think being old fashioned is such a bad thing. Especially not in matters of war.
D: What’s a trophy of war, then?
C: You show it off. It has other meanings, but that’s the main one.
D: You mean it’s like a trophy you win at the state basketball championship?
C: Except it’s living.
D: So how do you show it off?
C: Look what the Romans did. When a general returned to Rome with his army, victorious, they threw a big party for him and his soldiers.
D: A party?
C: Well, a parade and a celebration.
D: Those Romans liked ritual a lot. How did it go?
C: The army would march up Rome’s main thoroughfare. They would display all the loot they captured, plus prisoners and even animals from foreign lands.
D: Did a lot of people watch?
C: You bet they did. Everyone wants to participate in victory.
D: What happened if they lost?
C: I don’t know. The general certainly didn’t get a parade.
D: What happens to the general when he wins?
C: The general’s at the front of the parade. When the procession is done, he mounts the steps to where the emperor sits.
D: The emperor watches the parade?
C: Of course. That’s one thing that makes it so special.
D: What happens then?
C: The general kneels before the emperor, and the emperor places the laurels of victory on the general’s head.
D: So the general demonstrates his subservience to the emperor, and the emperor honors his servant.
C: You’re so right. You don’t want victorious generals to think about deposing sitting rulers.
D: Like Caesar did when he started a civil war?
C: Like Caesar did.
D: So what about those trophies?
C: Well all the objects and animals and prisoners and riches they transported from the conquered land would be trophies. The biggest one of all would have been the conquered king.
D: The king?
C: Or general, or chief: the top guy in the defeated country or nation or tribe.
D: They didn’t kill him?
C: Sometimes he would die in battle, of course. Other times they took him prisoner.
D: So what happened after that?
C: They put him in the parade and presented him to the emperor. That’s some ritual, isn’t it? When you force the defeated king to pay his respects to the emperor?
D: What happened after that?
C: They executed him, of course.
D: You mean the whole time he’s a prisoner, he knows he’ll be executed back in Rome, after the parade?
C: The defeated kings probably didn’t know the rituals. And they probably hoped something might save them. But most people knew that if the Romans captured you, you were done.
D: That’s gruesome. How did they do it?
C: Do what? Execute him?
C: I don’t know. I don’t think they crucified him for another public spectacle. The Romans liked strangulation.
D: So how does Osama fit into all this Roman stuff?
C: I think you can see. We should have brought bin Laden back to the States as a trophy. We shouldn’t have shot him and dumped his body in the ocean.
D: With appropriate rites for a Muslim burial.
C: They just performed those rites so they could say they performed them. I can imagine what they were thinking.
D: Get this over with?
C: Would you want to be the one aboard that ship assigned to wash the body?
D: Perhaps they found a volunteer.
C: It’s not important. What’s important is that Obama missed a big chance. He could have brought bin Laden back to Washington for public display.
D: Seems risky.
C: Look, we know the SEAL team could have brought him out of the compound alive. They had time to search the whole compound. They brought back computers, laptops, all kinds of paper records. They even had time to load up personal videotapes. That was their one chance to take anything that might contain useful intelligence.
D: They’d have to pull up a truck to haul it away.
C: I don’t know how they moved it all to the helicopters. All that stuff plus the body.
D: They fought their way in and loaded up all those things in less than one hour. Those SEALs work fast.
C: They train a lot.
D: So you’re saying they should have brought him out alive, along with the intelligence stuff.
C: They could have done it. Once they killed his bodyguards, he would have been compliant. If he’s not compliant, they can tranquilize him.
D: But they wanted to shoot him?
C: Of course they wanted to shoot him. How long do you think it took from the time they entered his room to the time he had bullets in his head?
D: Not long.
C: You bet it wasn’t long. Now tell me, why shouldn’t they have dumped him in the ocean?
D: You tell me.
C: It looks bad. My gut told me so when the news of the assassination came out. When I got to the part about dumping the body, my reaction was, “That’s not good.”
D: How come?
C: It’s just not. Doesn’t matter if you say the appropriate rites, wash the body and so on. It’s not a funeral at sea. It’s dumping the body overboard.
D: They said they didn’t want his burial spot to become a shrine.
C: All the more reason to bring him back to the States. His burial spot sure won’t become a shrine over here!
D: People wouldn’t visit it, like they visit Elvis’s home?
C: I rather doubt it. If they did visit it, it would be with a sense of patriotism. Nothing speaks to that innate sense of group loyalty better than victory.
D: But we don’t have all those Roman rites. We can’t organize a parade up Pennsylvania avenue.
C: So do another ticker tape parade in New York City. We haven’t had one of those in a long time.
D: People don’t even know what ticker tape is, or where to get it!
C: You know what I’m talking about. Surely we could have figured out a good way to celebrate this victory, in public. Look at all those rallies on the Washington mall. We could have had one of those.
D: We could even have Osama say a few words. Get him up on the stage with Glen Beck.
C: Let Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush say a few words, too! Remember, the celebration is supposed to benefit Obama and the Democrats, not the Republicans.
D: I suppose you’re right. Any national celebration becomes a partisan one these days. Republicans and Democrats aren’t going to celebrate together.
C: The Republicans could have their celebration in New York, the Democrats could have theirs in Washington. That would work.
D: The president’s not going to let the Republicans show off his war trophy at their celebration!
C: You’re right. The Republicans would have to do without. It wouldn’t be the same.
D: But look at Obama’s rally. He could even invite bin Laden over to the White House for a state dinner after the rally. Have a reception, speeches, toasts – now that would unify the country behind victory.
C: Then Obama could take Osama out on the campaign trail for the fall election. What would voters think of that?
D: The political possibilities boggle the heart. We could be one nation again.
C: You know I’m not serious, don’t you?
D: Look, the propaganda we’ve already seen opens up new possibilities. Nothing seems ridiculous or out of bounds any more.
C: The gates are open. Once you have your trophy, you should make the best use of it that you can.
D: What happens at the end?
C: What do you mean?
D: After Obama wins reelection, what does he do with his trophy?
C: He executes him, of course.
D: Without a trial?
C: Why would he need a trial? He executed Awlaki, an American citizen, without a trial. Why would he need a trial to execute al Qaeda’s top leader?
D: Seems like people might object to that.
C: Well you could always put on a show trial for appearances.
D: Yeah, and then the jury gives him a suspended sentence, because we grew to like him out on the campaign trail!
C: The campaign people would want a surprise execution at the end of October, a few days before the election. That would be good timing for them.
D: That’s good, executions timed to the political cycle! Who would have thought?
C: You’d still have to decide whether to make it public or not.
D: A private execution for bin Laden? No way.
C: Yes, but we don’t do public executions any more. Too barbaric.
D: If it’s barbaric in public, it’s barbaric in private, too.
C: Even if it’s private, you can videotape it and put it on YouTube.
D: You’re right. That’s our public space now. Everyone could see him hang!
C: Maybe assassinating him was best after all.
D: Out in the old West, whole families would go out to watch the latest hanging. It was their weekend entertainment.
C: So you’re saying we should all watch bin Laden die on YouTube?
D: Obama could post the video to WhiteHouse.gov, and protect it with digital rights management. Then people would have to go to the government’s website to see it.
C: And you could have all sorts of production values – get the right lighting, decorations, commentators. You have a script, and everyone knows their marks. You bring bin Laden in for the rehearsals. It’s all shaping up.
D: What a finish. Bin Laden would love it!
C: How so?
D: He’s the consummate propagandist. He’d appreciate the preparations for his own execution.
C: I doubt it.
D: He knew he was going to die all along. Who wouldn’t want to have their execution be made into a big show?
C: I don’t know, Dio.
D: Look, if you were bin Laden, would you want your body dumped in the ocean in the middle of the night, or would you want to have a big show?
C: The big show wouldn’t be bad, if you put it that way.
D: Sign me up to be the president’s advisor. I can tell him what to do with his trophies.
C: I’m not sure he wants your advice.
D: Sure he does. Everyone wants my advice!