Well, after the best sort of weekend, i.e. when ALL our family are around, enjoying each others' company - and Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City all won! -, it was a sharp reminder of reality to wake up last night (after a cacophony of dreams) to hear on the World Service President Obama announcing that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan not far from Islamabad. So he hadn't been holed up in the remote mountains after all as we'd been told. It makes sense, of course. Merging into a populous place makes you much harder to find. The reports came of swelling cheering crowds in Washington.
My initial reaction was "At last. Good riddance - but that's not the end of Al Qaida." However that first feeling has been qualified by further things I've read and heard since. The first was Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, whom I'd come across as the world's foremost expert on autism, talking about his new book Zero Degrees of Empathy: a New Theory of Human Cruelty. The write-up says: "Simon Baron-Cohen proposes turning the focus away from evil or specific personality disorders, and to understand human behaviour by studying the 'empathy circuit' in the brain." Writing as a post-Holocaust Jew and professor of psychology and psychiatry, his perspective demands respect. The 'Start the Week' programme was clearly recorded earlier and so didn't mention Bin Laden's death, but I was simply struck by the idea of not labelling someone as "evil" - although I am sure "evil" is an appropriate adjective for some actions.
A second was Andrew White's verdict: "So Osama Bin Ladin is dead! A day that has been longed for many years. Today is just the beginning of the fight against Al Qaida. Terror is not over, the reality is that that we are now all in a very dangerous time. Al Qaida will try and show the world that they can and will still commit terror. So we all need to be on our guard.
".... with today’s news I am not sure what will happen but we continue onwards and upwards."
Another was a part of the New York Times' report, including official and unofficial reaction: "In Westchester, Harry Waizer, a survivor (of 9/11), paused nearly a minute before he began to speak when reached by phone. ‘If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that,’ said Mr. Waizer, who was in an elevator riding to work in the north tower when the plane struck the building. He made it down the stairs, but suffered third-degree burns.
‘But I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.’
"Asked whether he felt any closure, Mr. Waizer said, ‘I’ve said for years I didn’t think there would be, but I’ll probably need to think about that more, now that it actually happened.’
"‘You know, the dead are still dead,’ he added. ‘So in that sense, there is no such thing as closure.’"
I thought that sentence, "I just can't find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden," was simply remarkable.