Vanessa , I’m trying to understand the point you’re making about Osama Bin Laden not being “evil incarnate” or an “unmitigated monster” because he didn’t use his fifth wife as a human shield and because “he was also a man: shy and vain, fond of zucchini, a husband and father who could be punishing with his sons and who taught his daughters to shoot in case they ever needed to protect themselves.” Perhaps you’re saying tossing around the words evil and monster to describe an enemy only elevates that person to something superhuman. Perhaps you feel the concept of “evil” is a crude Manichean one that belongs back in the Bush era.
But I don’t understand how keeping in mind someone loves zucchini mitigates his evil or monstrosity. You’ve seen the photographs of the African embassy bombings Bin Laden was responsible for – pieces of bodies, innocent, bloodied victims wandering about. This to Bin Laden was a cause for rejoicing, a taste of what could be accomplished. So after the World Trade Center attacks he experienced joy at the images of mothers and fathers jumping to their deaths to avoid waiting for the flames to immolate them. I doubt Bin Laden lacked awareness that the civilians he killed in his holy war had their own food preferences, their own personal vulnerabilities, their own children. His desire was to snuff out anyone who didn’t share his singular set of beliefs. If that’s not evil incarnate, I don’t know what is.