Over the weekend, TMZ caught retired Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill, the man who killed Osama bin Laden, on his way into the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. The celebrity news network hit him with some real lunkheaded questions: Does he get special treatment at bars and restaurants? Was bin Laden really buried at sea, as is often disputed by conspiracy theorists? What did he listen to on the night of the big hit?
“Red Nation” by The Game and Lil Wayne is the answer, it turns out, a goofy pump-up song from The Games’s 2011 LP, The R.E.D. Album. It still kinda goes? It’s great for stepping out onto the gridiron, driving really fucking fast, or killing international terrorists, apparently.
I’m not even going to pretend to understand the mindset of what some of the world’s elite killing machines must assume to condition themselves for the horrors of war, let alone one of the most important missions in American history. I do know, however, that music’s an incredible distraction, motivator, and source of celebration. Since TMZ’s dude on the ground wasn’t the most specific in his line of questioning, we don’t really know if O’Neill was listening to “Red Nation” before or after the kill, and I’m not sure that it matters.
What does matter, however, is that we’re now more than 16 years and many Clint Eastwood films removed from the United States’ initial involvement in the Afghanistan war. The death of bin Laden led to a predictably jingoistic—and bipartisan—celebration, that felt like more of a referendum on the Bush years than an acknowledgement that his legacy of reactionary aggression was still such an important part of our national identity. What seemed like a logical endpoint for a then-ten years long conflict brought only a minor reprieve to cover the fact that thousands of U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians only died for the promise of cowboy revenge, and are still overseas today.
Foreign policy’s not in vogue like it used to be, unless you count interest in Russian interference in our elections or recurring fears of nuclear war, but glorifying coverage of the bangers our soldiers listen to before killing gives me little faith that we aren’t bound to repeat our mistakes, whether a megalomaniac’s in charge or not.
Maybe the next famous SEAL team can get their own Spotify playlist.