Killing Osama bin-Laden
Amidst all the jingoistic chest-thumping about the assassination of Bin Laden, why not get another perspective? Check out all these articles before joining the woot-woot cheering:
- Obama has doubled down on Bush Administration policy of targeted assassination, with Jeremy Scahill. “It was some sort of sporting event, outside of the White House. I think it was idiotic. Let’s remember here, hundreds of thousands of people have died. Iraq was invaded, a country that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. The United States created an al-Qaeda presence in Iraq by invading it, made Iran a far more influential force in Iraq than it ever would have been. We have given a grand motivation to people around the world that want to do harm to Americans in our killing of civilians, our waging of war against countries that have no connection to al-Qaeda, and by staying in these countries long after the mission was accomplished. Al-Qaeda was destroyed in Afghanistan, forced on the run. The Taliban have no chance of retaking power in Afghanistan. And so, I think that this is a somber day where we should be remembering all of the victims, the 3,000 people that died in the United States and then the hundreds of thousands that died afterwards as a result of a U.S. response to this that should have been a law enforcement response and instead was to declare war on the world.”
- Did the Pakistani government know where Osama was hiding? “The idea that bin Laden got from Tora Bora to that house over the last seven or eight years without a single element of the Pakistani state knowing about it just doesn’t ring true. What rings even more hollow is the notion that somehow U.S. military choppers and gunships could fly into Pakistan undetected, [inaudible] and hover above the house, have one of the choppers crash, have perhaps another chopper end up there, kill bin Laden, take a few people there, capture them, and fly them away—and all of this could happen without any coordination, any kind of approval or any kind of data or information sharing with the Pakistani security establishment or the Pakistani state. It just sounds like [inaudible] a flight of somebody’s fancy…..”
One killer killing another. “The first thing that struck me was seeing the Americans out in the streets celebrating outside the White House, outside the old World Trade Center site, people cheering, people exultant. And while some of that may come from bloodlust, I think a lot of it comes from a sense of justice. People like justice. They want to see it. And in this case, I think many people have the feeling, well, he got what he deserved. This was a man who had massacred civilians; he got what he deserved. And there’s a lot of truth to that. But if we recognize that someone who is willing to kill civilians en masse, someone who is willing to send young people out with weapons and bombs to, as President Obama put it, see to it that a family doesn’t have a loved one sitting at the dinner table anymore, see to it that a child and a parent never meet again, if we say that someone like that deserves to die, then we have to follow through on that idea, and we have to recognize, OK, if these things really are so enormous, we have to stop them. Killing bin Laden does not stop them. Bin Laden is dead, but the world is still governed by bin Ladens. People cheer because they thought they saw justice, but this was not justice delivered by—a kind of rough justice delivered by victims. This was one killer killing another, a big killer, the United States government, killing another, someone who’s actually a smaller one, bin Laden….. Every day, the U.S., directly with its own forces, or indirectly through its proxy forces, its clients, is killing, at a minimum, dozens of people. I mean, just since Obama came in, in the one limited area of drone strikes in Pakistan, something like 1,900 have been killed just under Obama. And that started decades before 9/11. We have to stop these people, these powerful people like Obama, like Bush, like those who run the Pentagon, and who think it’s OK to take civilian life. And it doesn’t seem that they can be stopped by normal, routine politics, because under the American system, as in most other systems, people don’t even know this is happening. People know the face of bin Laden. They know the evil deeds that he’s done. They see that he is dead, and they say, “Oh, great, we killed bin Laden.” But they don’t see the other 20, 30, 50, 100 people who the U.S. killed that day, many of them children, many of them civilians. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be out in the street cheering about those deaths.”
If Obama and the other powers wanted to, they could use [the killing of Osama] as the pretext to get out of Afghanistan, to get out of Iraq. But even if they did that, even if the U.S. went back to the pre-9/11 state, that would still mean supporting dozens of regimes that kill civilians all over the world. What Obama should do is become an American Gorbachev or an American de Klerk, a leader who helps to dismantle a killer system that he is charged with running. But that can only happen if he’s under pressure to do it. And that effective pressure can only come from the American public….. We have to redo our foreign policy. Even if we were to end the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Libya, we would still have 800 bases around the world—that we know of. And we’d still spend near of a trillion dollars a year on defense, security, intelligence, nuclear weapons, etc. So I think we have to have a fundamental rethinking of our foreign policy, because, you know, you look back over these last few months, and you look at what happened in the Middle East, these historic changes, and the United States was left out of it. The United States did not take any part in it, with the exception of Libya. We just saw the Pakistani prime minister visit Afghanistan, meet with President Karzai, and say, “You should ditch the Americans because they are a waning power. They are a power who you cannot depend upon.” You just saw what happened in Palestine with Hamas and Fatah, basically saying, “We’re not going to wait for the Americans. We can’t trust the American process. We have to do this on our own.” You’ve seen statements from Brazil and Turkey, other nations around the world, where America is losing any semblance of leadership and any semblance of credibility. If you look at our last 10 years, our foreign policy has been schizophrenic, to say the least. So, we have to have a fundamental rethink of our foreign policy and how we conduct our operations around the world, not just militarily, but also diplomatically and economically.
- 10 years are too long; Barbara Lee calls for an end to it. California Rep. Barbara Lee, the only lawmaker in either chamber of Congress to vote against the 2001 resolution authorizing force in Afghanistan, quoted a clergyman on 9/14/01: “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.” Also comments from filmmaker Robert Greenwald about his Rethink Afghanistan campaign and journalist Anand Gopal, reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan. “While many have celebrated bin Laden’s death as a turning point in the so-called war on terror, the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan continues in full force. Over 100,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan nearly 10 years after the war began, more than that number contractors….We can’t give a blank check to any president to wage war in perpetuity. And I think this gives us a chance to really refocus our strategy now…. We can’t continue to spend trillions of dollars on open-ended wars, such as we have in Afghanistan, and on wars such as Iraq, now Libya….. That  resolution was a blank check… If you read the resolution, it was not targeted toward al-Qaeda or any country. All it said was that the president is authorized to use force against any nation, organization or individual he or she deems responsible or, you know, connected to 9/11. That was a blank check that gave the authority—it wasn’t a declaration of war, yet we’ve been in the longest war in American history now, 10 years, and it’s open-ended. I want to repeal that authorization, because that authorization gives any president the authorization to go to force—to use force, to use military action, when in fact Congress must declare war if we’re going to do this. [Please read the United States Constitution, Article I Section 8] The Constitution requires the president to come to Congress for a declaration of war.
Robert Greenwald, the founder and president of Brave New Films, director of the 2009 documentary Rethink Afghanistan, a critique of the U.S.-led occupation, has launched this new petition calling for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden’s death has created an extraordinary opportunity to look at our policy, to evaluate what we’re doing, and as Congressman Lee has said, to bring an open-ended war to an end, to say to people, for those who believed in this war and many who didn’t, but for those who believed in it, the primary motivating factor often was, well, this is where Osama bin Laden was, therefore we have to go to war. Osama bin Laden is no longer there. He was found by the use of a political action, smart intelligence, thorough research and patience, not by a military occupation of a country that is making us less safe and is costing, $2 billion every week….
It’s very important to use this defining moment to rally the American people and to remind the American people that we are spending trillions of dollars, billions every week, on this open-ended longest war in American history and that we have economic priorities, economic recovery, job creation priorities here in our own country that this money can be used for…. Most Afghans don’t see bin Laden’s death as having anything to do with what’s happening in Afghanistan. The U.S. is facing an indigenous, nationalist insurgency that’s fueled by rapacious commanders and government officials, fueled by the behavior of foreign forces. It has almost nothing to do with al-Qaeda….
The U.S. is really a fundamental force for instability in Afghanistan, and that’s in two ways. One, U.S. and its allies are allying with local actors—warlords, commanders, government officials—who’ve really been creating a nightmare for Afghans, especially in the countryside. On the other hand, military actions, the night raids, breaking into people’s homes, air strikes, just the daily life under occupation, roadblocks—you know, going from one city to the next in the south may take six hours or eight hours, even if it’s an hour away, just because there’s convoys blocking the way—all of this together has really set the insurgency and created a degree of support among some factions of the rural population for the Taliban….
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the U.S. will continue to take the fight to the Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan: ‘Even as we mark this milestone, we should not forget that the battle to stop al-Qaeda and its syndicate of terror will not end with the death of bin Laden. Indeed, we must take this opportunity to renew our resolve and redouble our efforts. In Afghanistan, we will continue taking the fight to al-Qaeda and their Taliban allies while working to support the Afghan people as they build a stronger government and begin to take responsibility for their own security.’ ROBERT GREENWALD: I think it’s a horrible statement in every way. The notion of tying the Taliban to al-Qaeda has been disproved over and over again. They’re separate forces. The Taliban is—it’s a civil war that we’re engaged in. And if you could impeach Secretary Clinton for that statement, I think we should impeach her. It’s unconscionable, after what has gone on, the loss of lives and the loss of money, and for her to continue to try to escalate this misguided war.”
Chris Hedges speaks on Osama’s offing. ”The tragedy of the Middle East is one where we proved incapable of communicating in any other language than the brute and brutal force of empire. And empire finally, as Thucydides understood, is a disease. As Thucydides wrote, the tyranny that the Athenian empire imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. The disease of empire, according to Thucydides, would finally kill Athenian democracy.”
You can’t make war on terror. Terrorism has been with us since Sallust wrote about it in the Jugurthine wars. And the only way to successfully fight terrorist groups is to isolate [them], isolate those groups, within their own societies. And I was in the immediate days after 9/11 assigned to go out to Jersey City and the places where the hijackers had lived and begin to piece together their lives. I was then very soon transferred to Paris, where I covered all of al-Qaida’s operations in the Middle East and Europe.
So I was in the Middle East in the days after 9/11. And we had garnered the empathy of not only most of the world, but the Muslim world who were appalled at what had been done in the name of their religion. And we had major religious figures like Sheikh Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar—who died recently—who after the attacks of 9/11 not only denounced them as a crime against humanity, which they were, but denounced Osama bin Laden as a fraud … someone who had no right to issue fatwas or religious edicts, no religious legitimacy, no religious training. And the tragedy was that if we had the courage to be vulnerable, if we had built on that empathy, we would be far safer and more secure today than we are.
We responded exactly as these terrorist organizations wanted us to respond. They wanted us to speak the language of violence. What were the explosions that hit the World Trade Center, huge explosions and death above a city skyline? It was straight out of Hollywood. When Robert McNamara in 1965 began the massive bombing campaign of North Vietnam, he did it because he said he wanted to “send a message” to the North Vietnamese—a message that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.
These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind. The language of violence, the language of occupation—the occupation of the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has been the best recruiting tool al-Qaida has been handed. If it is correct that Osama bin Laden is dead, then it will spiral upwards with acts of suicidal vengeance. And I expect most probably on American soil. The tragedy of the Middle East is one where we proved incapable of communicating in any other language than the brute and brutal force of empire.
Remember? October 2001, our sec’ty of state, Colin Powell, insisted that the Taliban regime of Afghanistan turn over Osama bin Laden, accused perp of our 9/11 tragedy. (Interestingly, it took Osama 2 months to boastfully take credit for it.) The Taliban did not turn him over, so we invaded. We’re still there, after (from official numbers) nearly 1500 US troops killed & nearly 10,000 wounded (not counting PTSD and TBI cases), with native Afghan deaths many many times the Americans slaughtered in 9/11. Now we have offed Mr. Osama. Leaving aside the point that he hasn’t even been in Afghanistan since soon after our invasion there, don’t you think that, now that Mr. Powell’s demand is moot, we could get the hell out of there? Do you think we will?
Always have to shudder with that “our” (in “our foreign policy”) when I have to acknowledge the shit that is being done in my name. And it’s true, as you say, that, from the point of view of the oligarchs who control the government (Hillary and Barack are just the suits in front), it’s indeed rational. Machiavelli and Bismarck would be proud… Well, maybe not, because the blowback from the human victims of our policies, not to mention the ultimate responses of Mother Nature, may show us just how irrational are the policies in the long run.