Friday, November 19, 2004

Madman of the Year?

I agree with Tony Pierce. Bloggers would be a *really* lame selection for Time's Person of the Year. Hope the fact that Andrew Sullivan's on the panel doesn't unduly influence the outcome. But I also disagree with Tony's belief that one infamous person isn't eligible this year.

Without intending to be inflammatory at all, I think the obvious choice is still Osama Bin Laden. Arguably, he should have been selected in 2001, but understandably, such a choice then, scant months after 9/11, could have been considered insensitive, even brutal.

Bin Laden then. Why? Well, three years and change after 9/11, and we wouldn't be in Iraq were it not for Osama Bin Laden. We'd not be looking at a U.S. military body count of 1217 (as of today) over there. Most of us would like still never have heard of Falluja. There'd be no Abu Ghraib, no Guantanamo. Saddam Hussein wouldn't be in jail. Thousands (tens of thousands?) of innocent Iraqis would not be dead. And we wouldn't have witnessed elections in Afghanistan and the (temporary?) fall of the Taliban. The list goes on, of course: Would there have been bombings in Bali and Madrid? Would George Bush still even be President were it not for the fear 9/11 cultivated in our country? Etcetera.

Clearly, all of these things don't fall into the same category. Some of them are good, even excellent developments. Others utterly horrific. But there they are. All a direct result of 9/11. With Iraq, ironically, being a direct result of 9/11, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with 9/11.

But three years after the attacks that neutered America's innocence, where is the man who directed them? Does anyone have an honest clue?

Oh, he's certainly dead, some offered. Or he's badly hurt, maimed, crippled. That's why we haven't seen him.

Then a few days before the most important American election of my lifetime, Bin Laden strolls onto the scene looking fit and hardy, not dead, apparently not maimed. Then he delivers a long rambling speech that's aired again and again before the eyes of Americans already glued to their screens during an election season. And Poof! He's gone.

I hope it's clear that I'm no fan of Bin Laden's, but neither was Time a fan of Hitler's when they named him Man of the Year for 1938. (Stalin followed the next year and in 1942.) Undeniably and unfortunately, Bin Laden has had a greater impact on the 21st century than any other living being.

See if you can even find his name anywhere in today's paper.

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