Who killed Osama bin Laden? The question is almost as fraught with mystery as who killed JFK—or the man who shot Liberty Valance. Two different Navy SEALS on the scene have sold competing accounts, one to a book publisher and the other to Esquire, a magazine that in better days purveyed soft girlie pictures and lifestyle advice to young men yearning to be known as “gentlemen.” Now it specializes in news pornography.
There’s no point in getting into a debate over who struck—or rather shot and killed—Osama, an unarmed man allegedly within reach of a gun, and shot one of his wives. I have no doubt about the courage and ability of the SEALS and shed no tears for Bin Laden, but I do have to wonder what kind of homes they grew up in or what sort of training they received in the Navy that they should want bragging rights about an incident that would have cost a policeman his job. I cannot help thinking of a pointless and gratuitously inserted scene from My Little Chickadee. W.C. Fields is tending bar with an old pal in a western saloon. Getting some lip from a drunken woman, Fields recounts the night he was tending bar in New York, and he had to caution a “tough paloma" named Chicago Molly, “None of your peccadillos in here.” The lady sticks her hand into the hot lunch—succotash, Philadelphia cream cheese, and asparagus with mayonnaise “and hits me right in the mug with it.” When Fields claims he knocked her down, the other bartender protests:
“You knocked her down? I was the one who knocked her down.”
“Oh yes, that’s right. He’s the one knocked her down, but I was the one started kicking her….You ever kick a woman in the midriff that had her corsets on? I almost broke my big toe.”
The whole argument is moot, however, since we know that the man who really killed Osama was the fearless commander-in-chief who had the guts to watch the incident unfold on his TV screen.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.