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Bin Laden's Death

Introducing our new online Columnist Conversations feature

May 3, 2011

Dhruv K. Singhal ’12 is a Crimson columnist in Currier House.

Celebrating Ourselves

What struck me about the post-speech celebration in the Yard on Sunday is that for a “death celebration” it was overwhelmingly positive. The chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” were joyful. No one was cheering “Kill the terrorists,” or anything near as vitriolic as is heard at an average Harvard-Yale game. For this reason, it would be a mistake to think all the students who took to the Yard were celebrating a death. Bin Laden himself was perhaps beside the point. We’re all savvy enough to realize that this does not mean a return to Pax Americana. On Monday, 13 civilians were killed in war-related violence in Iraq. Last Wednesday, eight American troops were killed in a shooting rampage on an Afghan air base. America still has significant military commitments around the globe that show no sign of diminishing. In the end, the death of an old war enemy in a compound without Internet or phone lines is simply not practically significant. Indeed, bin Laden’s death is a Rorschach test for what each person feels about the “war on terror,” America’s international status, and the individual’s place in the world. As such, the reaction over it reflects more of our own insecurities and joys than anything about the man.

ANITA J. JOSEPH ’12

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Cambridge, Mass.

May 3, 2011

Anita J. Joseph ’12 is a Crimson editorial chair in Leverett House.

Remember Harvard’s Ties

Harvard students gathered in the Yard on Sunday to sound a barbaric yawp of patriotism. It seems fair to say that for those students, Osama bin Laden could not have been farther removed from America’s oldest university, the ideals for which it stands, and the patriotic zeal it apparently inspires. But before we all jump on the rickety bandwagon that equates Harvard with American patriotic fervor, it’s worth remembering the University’s ties to the bin Laden family—not because these ties implicate Harvard in any way but rather because they show the nuances behind any issue of this magnitude. In the early 1990s, for instance, bin Laden’s own brother—Sheik Bakr Mohammed bin Laden—made two substantive gifts to Harvard to fund fellowships, including one to the Law School to fund the research of historical Islamic legal systems “particularly insofar as they uphold or apply the Islamic shari’a.” Some years later, after Osama bin Laden had been suspected of embassy bombings in Africa, a University spokesman even made the distinction that here in Cambridge, at least, “the Saudi bin Laden money is being put to good use.” In that sense, the Sunday night celebration seemed a bit, well, misguided.

JAMES K. MCAULEY  ’12

Cambridge, Mass.

May 3, 2011

James K. McAuley ’12 is a Crimson editorial chair in Currier House.

Good Grief

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