So, a warlord walks into a bar…

Pam Frampton
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

“When that second airplane hit the building, we all changed. We need to get back to some serious thinking.”

Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

I still remember recoiling from the pictures out of Falluja, the images too terrible to reconcile with reality; the indignities too horrible, even now, to recount in all their fulsome detail.

March 30, 2004: four American men working with a security company in Iraq are ambushed as they drive their SUVs down the street.

They are peppered with bullets, blasted with hand grenades, set on fire.

Their charred bodies are pulled out of their vehicles and dragged through the street, prodded with sticks, mutilated. Burned and blackened flesh ripped apart; limbs cracked off at the brittle joints.

Some of the corpses — raw and reddened in places like seared meat, twisted black limbs at unnatural angles — are hoisted and hung from a bridge like macabre marionettes.

Locals converge and cheer, shouting their approval, pumping their jubilant fists into the air.

The White House calls the acts despicable.

Have you found the punchline yet? It’s hard to find one. There’s nothing funny about death or mutilation, as far as I can tell.

And yet, Osama bin Laden’s death last week has spawned all sorts of fresh material on the American television comedy circuit.

Now, let’s get this straight: the killing of bin Laden is not the same as Falluja, where innocent people were murdered, their bodies subjected to unspeakable indignities.

Bin Laden was a mass murderer and terrorist mastermind. His meticulous execution at the hand of U.S. commandos was commendable, whether you see it as justice or revenge.

It’s hard to think of the people leaping to their certain and horrible deaths from the twin towers in New York during 9/11 and not feel satisfaction knowing that the person who orchestrated that atrocious act of terrorism — and many others — has been permanently decommissioned.

Good riddance to him.

I can understand some Americans’ joyful reaction to the news.

But I can’t help but think that mining bin Laden’s death for laughs trivializes the enormity of 9/11.

And I fear it will foment radicals already inflamed by hate in this treacherous war with terrorists that shows no signs of abating, no matter which warlord is killed.

The quotes that follow are from a May 3 story out of New York by Associated Press reporter Frazier Moore, who noted that bin Laden’s death “fuelled a wealth of comic relief, punch lines and unapologetic crowing from TV’s late-night hosts.”

—  David Letterman to his “Late Show” audience: “You seem like you’re in a good mood. You folks enjoy the Osama bin Laden season finale?”

—  Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report:”: “I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl who just shot bin Laden in the eye.”

—  Conan O’Brien on TBS: “Great news! The world’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, is dead. Which means now the official No. 1 threat to America is the KFC Double Down.”

—  Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show”: “(I wonder what the look on bin Laden’s face was when he realized) the helicopters overhead were not giving traffic and weather updates?”

— Letterman, again, on bin Laden’s possible last words: “I need a house full of Navy SEALs like I need a hole in the head.”

— Conan O’Brien, on the fact that news of bin Laden’s death pre-empted the last minutes of the Donald Trump-hosted reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice”: “This begs the question: how do we kill bin Laden again next Sunday?”

And on and on it went.

Now people who work in newsrooms tend to have dark senses of humour. Trust me, a little levity goes a long way in dispelling some of the depressing, horrible stuff we have to hear — and I’m not just talking about throne speeches.

So, I get the jokes, and I even get the need to make them at the worst of times.

What I find unsettling are the glib comparisons.  If, as Letterman jokes, bin Laden’s death is the “season finale,” were the terrorist attacks on the planes and the Pentagon and the World Trade Center the season opener?

Surely this belittles the tragedy. This is serious stuff, not “Survivor Man.” Terrorism is not reality TV; death is not a sight gag.

I see no reason why we should slide down into the same moral cesspool — even if only metaphorically — as those who would drag corpses through the streets for sport, snatching our own pieces of flesh.

I think Canadians who lost loved ones at 9/11 said it best last week in Ontario when they were asked by Canadian Press reporter Michelle McQuigge whether they were glad to hear that bin Laden is dead.

“I don’t know if I feel like celebrating,” said Cindy Barkway, whose husband David died at the World Trade Center. “It doesn’t change much of my reality.”

Erica Basnicki, who lost her father in the New York attacks, said she felt no sense of jubilation.

“We will be happy and celebrating when terrorists are financially incapable of committing further acts of violence,” she said.

“We’ll be happy when the war is over.”

Amen to that.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Associated Press, World Trade Center, Pentagon Canadian Press

Geographic location: New York, Iraq, U.S. Ontario

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Herb Morrison
    May 09, 2011 - 19:27

    Interesting how the sceptical reaction of a segment of the population to a major news event is entirely predictable. Historically, when astronauts travelling to the moon proved that the earth is round. when men landed on the moon (not once but several times), to name two examples, the sceptics came out of the woodwork, making their unsubstantialed claims that the whole thing was a hoax. In recent days, history has repeated itself. News and documented evidence of the demise of Osama Bin Laden has been greeted with a barrage of Scepticism. Perhaps it is the number of incidents involving violation of trust, incidents which have shaken people's faith in individuals and institutions which were once above reproach that is to blame for the scepticism which exists in our world. Sceptism which threatens to make having Faith in anything or aanybody either human or Divine, a risky proposition to say the least.

  • Anonymoose
    May 08, 2011 - 11:45

    9/11 was an inside job/false flag attack. Bin Laden has been dead for years due to a genetic illness and bad kidneys. Everything about this story including how it changes is just silLy with a capital L. I don't buy a single thing about any of this nonsense. A war on terrorism is an oximoron. You can't declare war on a tactic.

  • Steve and Cheryl Thomson
    May 08, 2011 - 05:54

    Pam Frampton, and 99 per cent of the media in Fortress America (USA & Canada), evidently were watching "American Idol" when the late Benazir Bhutto told U.K. newscaster David Frost in November 2007 that OBL had died several years before her television interview. Furthermore, to quote journalist of Veterans Today and former Marine, Gordon Duff, "Evidence of bin Laden’s death being covered up by the Bush administration is, not only overwhelming, but long ago entered the public domain." In other words, let me put this as kindly as I can. The so-called civilized world and all of our so-called leaders, are engaged in pure propaganda. Qui bono? I remember the fairy tale which taught me a valuable lesson as a child: "The Emperor Has No Clothes". It's so sad that people are so gullible, believe all the lies, and then obediently shuffle off to the ballot box. This is democracy? No. This is mind control.

  • Herb aMorrison
    May 07, 2011 - 16:14

    You'll find me in the same place as other people who don't lack either the integrity to express an honest opinion or the backbone to sign their names to posts they make on this site.

  • james
    May 07, 2011 - 12:19

    holier than thou give me a break , where do you get these people

  • Herb Morrison
    May 07, 2011 - 10:03

    Well said, Pam. The reaction that I personally find most unpaletable comes from within the ranks of professing Christians.(For the record, I'm one of those.) The gist of their argument appears to be that we Christians should love the Bin Ladens, the Adolf Hitlerss, and the Russell Williams of this world to death. The wars against injustices of any description comes under the heading of justifiable anger. The inflicting of injustices, whether the perpetuators of that injustice be terrorists, dictators, murderers, or sexual predators, to name a few a few, must be dealt with using utilizing either the justice system as we know it or, in extreme instances, such as in waging the war on terrorism, by utilizing military force. The members of the special forces team , which killed Bin Laden are heros. Likewise, our troops now serving in Afghanistan. Intellectualizing about whether such action falls into the category of either justice or revenge is a colossal waste of time because the debate will never end. Sadly, the death of Bin Laden will not signal an end to the inflicting of injustice and the pain and misery it nurtures. The best we can hope to accomplish is to stem the tide of injustice lest we end up drowning in its' wake. In an imperfect world, that is the best result we can hope for. Making the people like the afore-mentioned persons alluded to earlier, accountable for their actions is what needs to be