Before we bury the memory of Osama bin Laden, let's stop to recall that his 1996 and 1998 fatwas, or condemnatory curses, against America referred to grievances that had resonance. The average Arab and Muslim, from North Africa to Indonesia, has legitimate grievances against the rapacious West, its materialism and hedonism.
About a third of the public opinion in Turkey, the most Westernized and secularized nation in the Muslim orbit, still approves of suicide bombings even as it seeks entrance into the European Union.
This is not because they are all crazy out there.
Instead, it is because of the collective memory of all that happened to their region since the mid-19th century, when oil and the combustion engine made their appearance on the geopolitical map. Western control of key resources, first by the British Empire then by the United States, was maintained at the expense of many lives and livelihoods of the peoples of the Middle East.
Before our 9/11 were many 9/11s inflicted on the Arab and Muslim worlds. Massacres and torture and theft by Western forces and hired despots alike, events that never made it into our history books or our news reports because the dead and the losers were neither American nor European, inform the public opinion of the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Those who died on September 11, 2001, were without doubt personally innocent of the chain of murder, cruelty, theft and corruption brought on by the West in the Middle East. Still, they as well as all of us who survived personally reaped the benefits in the form of comforts and ease of travel sold to us by those who have extracted the required resources at a high human cost.
In its original meaning, the principle of an eye for an eye was meant to curb revenge by justifying rightful restitution: you may take an eye, if an eye was taken, but not two limbs as well. Yet what may work for individuals is extremely difficult to apply to the behavior of entire societies over a century or so.
Thus, an eye for an eye is not a solution for resolving the problems of the West and the Middle East. This applies to the actions of 2001 by Osama and his associates as to those of 2011 by Obama and his associates.
Osama bin Laden should have been brought to justice and tried. His argument should have been given its day in court and alongside the prosecution's, both set forth side by side, in an honest and courageous search for truth, understanding and lasting peace.
The grotesque celebration of murder outside the White House last night failed to take note that the historical moral imbalance at the core of this conflict has not been set right by the taking of one more human life.