Dust off your flags America, the big bad wolf is dead. After announcing the kill and capture of Osama bin Laden President Obama jumped twenty points in opinion polls overnight. You'd think bin Laden's death were a stimulus package. But with the Obama administration aiming to revamp the War on Terror and simultaneously cut corporate taxes by as much as ten percent, another stimulus package is unlikely.
Contrary to what politicians wearing the mandatory stars and stripes pendant, and those chanting USA at the World Trade Center may claim, the killing of the former al-Qaeda figure head at this stage in the game is not a victory for America. It does not provide a scrap of closure to the War on Terror, and only serves to highlight its absurdity. Let the big bad wolf's death be a moment for reflection on the past ten years, which has seen a deluge of new terms enter into the America's everyday lexicon such as “blacksite,” “waterboarding,” “full body scan” and “extraordinary rendition.”
Bush was perfectly willing to evoke bin Laden as an evil, America-hating, menace to the world to justify invading Afghanistan, only to attempt to withdraw bin Laden's bearded specter when the terrorist eluded capture. Bush told the nation two days after 9/11, "The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." But by March 2002 after rejecting offers from the Taliban to hand bin Laden over, instead launching a full scale invasion of Afghanistan, giving bin Laden, through the ensuing chaos, an escape route into Pakistan, Bush changed his tune:
“We haven't heard from him in a long time. The idea of focusing on one person really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. He's just a person who's been marginalized.... I don't know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.”
Obama told the nation Sunday we “went to war against Al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.” But approximately ten years after the catalyst of 9/11 the US is mired in three wars, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where Al Qaeda is far from a relevant force. Both the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya were sworn enemies of Al Qaeda. Upon taking office, Obama sent 50,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, all the while bin Laden was living in a mansion in a wealthy suburb of Islamabad. He had, as Bush put it, been “marginalized.” Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of civilians have died as a result of our post-9/11 military escapades, far dwarfing the civilian deaths in the twin towers, not to mention the millions that have been displaced.
The US's belligerent military response to 9/11 seems to have played directly into bin Laden's hand. In a taped message from 2004 the figure head said al Qaeda's policy is to bleed “America to the point of bankruptcy." He bragged only the smallest sign of al-Qaeda anywhere in the world makes “generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without... achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations."
Osama bin Laden died so that the War on Terror may continue.
Just as businesses need to expand to survive, so it is with the Pentagon. Unlike a company that has to coax you into buying their product, the Pentagon whose budget is 13 times that of the Department of State, doesn't need a celebrity endorsement for tax payers to reach into their wallets and feed it. Nor is it accountable to its shareholders, the American public. The same goes for the CIA and other intelligence apparatuses. The reason we are told, ...is for our safety. Now that the US and its allies have a monopoly on violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan, why not expand to new theatres, perhaps Somalia.
Long accused of being soft on terror, Obama's counter-terrorism credentials have been proved. Accolades have poured into the White House from both liberals and conservatives. Even John McCain who has accused Obama of “paling around with terrorists” gave the president kudos. The killing of bin Laden was a sort of right of passage for Obama, which he passed with flying colors.
Whether or not Obama and his inner circle believe the load of bull Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the Washington Post has attributed to a senior White House official remains to be seen; that bin Laden's death “presents an opportunity for reconciliation [with the Taliban] that didn't exist before.” Chandrasekaran writes the administration is hoping to "leverage the death into a spark that ignites peace talks."
First, Bin Laden was not a Taliban leader. Second, the Taliban's principle demand has always been the complete withdrawal of US and Nato forces from Afghanistan. With the US planning to linger in Afghanistan indefinitely, the Taliban, whose key recruitment tool is the US occupation, will continue fighting indefinitely.
Those who have used counter-terrorism as an excuse for cruelty and encroachments on civil liberties rushed to baptize themselves in the dead terrorist's blood. John Yoo, author of the Justice Departments memos attempting to legalize torture wrote on the National Review website last Monday, President Obama owes bin Laden's death “to tough decisions taken by the Bush administration.” If torture was so effective why did it take nine and half years to apprehend bin Laden?
Many in Israel look at bin Laden's killing as affirmation of its attitude toward Palestine. The Jerusalem Post ran a story explaining that the raid on bin Laden's compound shows that targeted killings operations, which Israel has frequently launched into densely populated Gaza as part of its policy of ethnic cleansing since the second intifada, are legitimate. If Israel only had better intel on Hamas in 2008, the piece argues, it wouldn't have had to launch its incursion into Gaza and commit the atrocities highlighted in Goldstone Report. The chairman of Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Shaul Mofaz warned the head of Hamas's the polit-bureau recently, unless he declared his organization's commitment to the conditions set by the International Quartet, including the recognition of Israel "he would become a target for assassination in the way that Bin Laden was dealt with."
Back on the Subcontinent analysts have noted Pakistan's condemnations of the Abbotabad raid, are being made with one eye on India, fearing an incursion from their neighbor following the Mumbai massacres.
The news of bin Laden's death overshadowed reports the day before that Nato, far exceeding its UN mandate to protect civilians, was directly targeting Libyan leader Maummar Gaddafi. Reportedly three of Gaddafi's grandchildren, two of whom were under twelve, were killed in an air strike. The extralegal killing of bin Laden will serve to further encourage such acts of imperial brute force in the absence of rule of law.
The transgression of legality in killing bin Laden, terrorist numero uno, will open the floodgates to further legal transgressions by the US. Less then a week after bin Laden's corpse was chucked into the Arabian Sea, US Predator drones tried to kill radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The Obama administration has authorized the CIA and the military to assassinate Awlaki even though he is a US citizen and is outside of an armed conflict zone.
Raids like the one carried out on the bin Laden compound are a typical occurrence in Afghanistan at night, though there are usually sleeping families inside the houses, not high value terrorists. Defenders of the practice will find fodder in the example of the bin Laden raid. Ironically, had the US followed rule of law in 2001 when Washington dismissed Taliban offers to extradite him, the bloody charade of the war against terrorism could have been prevented and bin Laden would have been brought to trial.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would merely be following the US's example if he ordered Iraqi commandos to storm the Bush compound in the suburbs of Dallas and chuck the terrorist president's bullet ridden corpse into the Gulf of Mexico.
Through bin Laden's death, the War on Terror has been born again. As Bush put it, “terror is bigger than one person” Both a supposed success and a reason to fear future attacks, the death has provided new life to the national security state.
A week prior to news of bin Laden's extinction Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano unveiled a new threat category system that consisted of just two levels “elevated’’ and “imminent.’’ “Low” is not a category on Homeland's scale, an indication the national emergency has been normalized. Like the war in Afghanistan, it has no end in sight. Post 9/11 encroachments on civil liberties, including warrant-less wiretapping and airport TSA groping are permanent fixtures in American life. Now, as the National Journal reports the FBI is “back on a post-9/11 war footing” and is expanding surveillance and monitoring operations. Suspected terrorists will be arrested on charges not related to terrorism to keep them off the streets. It might be a bit too soon to warn people not to jaywalk in a Che Guevera t-shirt, but the FBI will likely be picking up Muslims and activists on shady charges in sweeping arrests.
The FBI's Muslim profiling, so obscene one California mosque had to get a restraining order against a paid informant seeking to incriminate members of the congregation, serves to justify the paranoid fears of Islamophobes everywhere. A pilot with Atlantic Southeast Airlines kicked two imams off a flight recently “because they were wearing traditional Muslim attire.” The imams were traveling from Tennessee to Charlotte to attend a conference on Islamophobia. Imam Al-Amin Abdul Latif, president of The Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York who helped orchestrate strong Muslim participation in April 9th rallies in New York against US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya was prevented from flying by American Airlines on his way to the same conference. Dehumanizing Muslims at home helps Americans stomach news of Muslim civilian deaths abroad. However the myth that Muslims are bomb-toting fundamentalist who hate democracy was exploded this February by the people of Egypt who overthrew their US sponsored dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Despite the much lauded spontaneous outpouring of patriotism in front of the White House, in Times Square, at Shea stadium; the euphoria won't last forever. Shortly after 9/11 Bush's ratings were at their highest. By the time he left office. People had witnessed the consequences of what his policies had wrought, two endless wars and a financial meltdown. His ratings were dismal. When the patriotism buzz wears-off, American's will realize bin Laden's death will not heal the economy let alone end the costly wars we are entrenched in.
On May 1st, as Navy Seals were preparing for their deadly raid, another scene was taking place around the world. The streets of Istanbul, Seoul and Rabat were full of people gathered for International Worker's Day. In New York, members of the United National Anti-War Committee took part in Union and Immigrant's Right's rallies, calling for money to be spent on “jobs and education, not war and occupation.”
Rather than with armies, generals, weapons manufacturers, Democrats and Republicans, spy agencies and mercenaries, here is where hope for peace lies; with grassroots movements mobilizing in the US and around the world to end the wars the ruling class has proved itself too glutinous to halt. Our dream is larger than protecting ourselves from terrorists, who, in their marginalized desperate way, take up arms against US terror. Our dream is for a peace based on global egalitarian cooperation and is therefore more potent than the drums of war and nationalism. Only an international anti-war movement will achieve lasting peace.