Basically Mendenhall questions the jubilation at the death of another human being and attacks the September 11th narrative. For this Mendenhall has been vilified and ridiculed.
Mendenhall has been cast as the bad guy because he did not join in the celebration at the news of bin Laden’s death. Mendenhall took the admirable position of regretting that someone had to die to resolve a conflict. Surprisingly enough in a nation of professed Christians, Mendenhall’s position was not mainstream.
Mendenhall also alluded to the idea that perhaps the widely accepted version of events regarding September 11th has a hole in it. For this he has been both castigated as un-American and laughed at as crazy. Those who dismiss Mendenhall’s position as insane though, do so as if he spoke with certainty about September 11th rather than inquisitiveness.
In reality Mendenhall is merely expressing a position, albeit an unpopular position, held by some regarding the similarity between demolition projects and the implosion of the World Trade Center.
Either of these issues (declining to celebrate bin Laden’s death & questioning September 11th) alone would be upsetting to most Americans. Together the underlying concept that Mendenhall is forwarding becomes clear: he is denying the United States the moral high ground in this situation.
Historically Americans have explained military action as forced in order to ensure survival and the defended the use of lethal force as necessary. No one wants to be seen as a bully.
But in this case, by expressing discontent at the celebrations following bin Laden’s assassination and questioning September 11th, Mendenhall is implying that the military action to take out bin Laden and the deadly force employed were unnecessary – in other words immoral.
Neither Mendenhall’s statements nor my interpretation of them are about painting Osama bin Laden as a martyr. He admittedly hated the United States. The question is whether or not that fact justified killing him.
And if it is, then how exactly are Americans different from any of the nations targeting us? If not liking a country/person or not being liked by a country/person is reason enough to attack them then we have surrendered the moral high ground.
That is an uncomfortable truth that Americans find hard to face. And it makes Mendenhall’s position becomes a lot more understandable.
NEXT WEEK: The continued examination of this truth.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected]