The consequences for those of us who kill and deceive ourselves that by so doing we are doing justice is more profound…
The late Howard Zinn has in his posthumously published book The Bomb talked about how we take a crime- the gas chamber…s, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nanking, and use that as a rationale to defend terror bombing of Dresden, of Hiroshima. How we conflate revenge attacks with Justice, how we forget that those condemning Hitler and Japan for their attempts at extending Empire have a very similar history and raisin d’être. And we diminish the lives of those killed in Dresden and Hiroshima who had nothing to do with the crimes of the enemy except that they were silent. But he asks whether it would be justified if American civilians were slaughtered for the crimes of My Lai, for the bombing by drone, by napalm,by white phosphorus, by cluster bombing and depleted uranium of civilians in all the conflicts post WWIi just because most Americans remained silent or even believed the lies about weapons of mass destruction, of Saddam Hussein (who we once supplied with poison gas to kill Iranians) just like the so-called Good Germans.
I shed no tears for Osama. His death appears to be the work of dedicated police style investigation, rather than the result of two wars that have killed hundreds of thousands and not made the US any more loved and respected as it endorses targeted assassinations and extraordinary rendition, using third countries like our good friends the Syrians to torture and kill where the conflict with US laws would be too obvious.
Good riddance OBL. Now when do the troops start coming home? How do we bring back the dead, our dead, the many deaths of civilians deemed expendable because of racism, or collateral damage because they unfortunately got in the way.
Now some reports from others:
ALLAN NAIRN, http://www.allannairn.com
A noted journalist, Nairn said today: “Bin Laden is dead, but the world is still governed by bin Ladens. … 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, who think it’s OK to take civilian life.” http://www.democracynow.org/2011/5/2
G. SIMON HARAK
A member of the Marquette University Jesuit Community, Harak said today: “I believe that violence breeds violence, and that this killing will not end violence, but begin a new circle of harm and retaliation. Did the killing of Saddam Hussein end the violence in Iraq? … Ezekiel 18:23 states: ‘Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?'”
Naiman is policy director of Just Foreign Policy. He just wrote the piece “The War is Over. Kiss a Nurse and Start Packing,” which states: “We got our man. Wave the flag, kiss a nurse, and start packing the equipment. It’s time to plan to bring all our boys and girls home from Afghanistan. When the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks rolls around, let the world see that we are on a clear path to bringing home our troops from Afghanistan and handing back sovereignty to the Afghan people.” http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/05/02-7
John Feffer: Dead Empire Walking
Dead Empire Walking: On Playing into Al Qaida’s Hands
We have, once again, played right into Osama bin Laden’s hands. This might seem like an odd assertion, since the al-Qaeda mastermind is finally dead at the hands of U.S. Special Forces, most heads of state have voiced their congratulations, and practically the entire U.S. citizenry is unified in celebration.
But Osama bin Laden always understood that the weak use the weapons of the powerful against them, such as U.S. airplanes against U.S. skyscrapers. The weak also lull their opponents into thinking that they have won the war when in fact they have only triumphed in a skirmish.
Martyrdom is the preeminent weapon of the weak, and bin Laden has long courted a martyr’s death. He didn’t want to end up like Saddam Hussein, who looked like a hunted animal when U.S. soldiers extracted him from his hiding hole. Bin Laden didn’t want to go on trial and be executed like a common criminal. He wanted to go out in a blaze of gunfire, the jihadi version of Butch Cassidy.
The U.S. government reports that bin Laden resisted arrest. No doubt it would have been extremely difficult to thwart his desire for martyrdom, bring him back alive, and pump him for information. Still, the value of subjecting bin Laden to the rule of law would have been incalculable. Instead, bin Laden will enter history as a legend not as a man. His quick burial at sea may well generate a wave of conspiracy theories, a “Deather” movement to parallel the Birthers. Prepare for three more decades of Osama sightings in the Muslim world that rival the once-strong U.S. tabloid obsession with Elvis.
There might also be blowback from the killing. “Al-Qaeda affiliates may speed up operations that were in the pipeline,” writes Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker. The Taliban is reportedly preparing a new set of attacks. Fresh from its recent reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas condemned the killing of an “Arab holy warrior” but hasn’t vowed anything in the way of retaliation.
But the real blowback will be much more subtle than a military tit for tat. The weak can’t afford direct confrontation. There will be legal, religious, and economic ramifications, and they will again follow bin Laden’s script, not out own. On the legal side, bin Laden’s strategy has been to corrode the machinery of the nation-state. A fervent believer in a global caliphate, bin Laden viewed sovereignty and the rule of law as obstacles in the path of establishing one world under his version of Islam. His assassination calls into question the adherence of the West to its vaunted principles of justice, much as the support for Hosni Mubarak and other Arab dictators called into question the West’s commitment to democracy.
Bin Laden’s death sends a particular message about the abuses of state authority — why is the United States in the business of targeted assassination? — that may resonate in the Islamic world. Likewise, with former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf condemning the attack as an infringement on his nation’s sovereignty, bin Laden in death has been able to drive a further wedge between Washington and Islamabad.
The religious wedge is larger still. Bin Laden, an unabashed partisan of holy war, divided the world into believers and infidels, with the latter category including many Muslims that he considered apostates. In his speech announcing the death of bin Laden, President Barack Obama was careful to “reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al-Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.”
Obama is correct, at least in terms of bin Laden’s actions and U.S. intentions. But the perceptions of the last decade’s wars are another matter entirely. Washington has waged conflict in predominantly Muslim countries. And these battles have been accompanied by a wave of Islamophobia that have swept through the United States and Europe (not to mention South Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world).
Obama ended his address with what has become a customary presidential sign-off: “May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.” If the wars we pursue aren’t crusades strictly speaking, they nevertheless approach the level of holy war when the commander-in-chief invokes God and large sections of the military view their mission as God-given.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, bin Laden understood quite well the economic implications of the battle he launched. He had witnessed the Soviet Union’s collapse, and he wanted to repeat the trick with the last empire standing. Nine years ago, in Osama bin Laden’s Secret Strategy, I wrote that al-Qaeda viewed bankruptcy as the path to ruin for the United States. “The United States may look healthy enough at the moment, with the world’s largest economy and largest military,” I wrote. “But we also shoulder nearly $6 trillion in national debt, which current military spending and tax cuts are only increasing. The war on terrorism, with no end in sight, may very well push us over the economic edge.”
Since that 2002 essay, the U.S. national debt has more than doubled. A good chunk of that money went toward the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, alongside the ballooning military budget. Many of the costs — in terms of lives ruined and opportunities missed — are only starting to hit us now. We might be already over the edge, like Wile E. Coyote spinning his legs and unaware that the ground has dropped away beneath him. Dead empire walking.
The terrible irony is that, in terms of their influence in the Muslim world, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda have been a dead end for a long time. Most strands of Islamism renounced the caliphate-through-violence strategy long ago. Modern Islamists participate in elections, support nation-states, and embrace modernity. The Arab Spring, as my colleague Phyllis Bennis points out, is only the latest example of non-violent, political efforts to transform the Middle East and North Africa. Osama bin Laden’s greatest magic trick was to persuade the United States and its allies to expend enormous sums of money to fight a small, isolated, and anachronistic force that operated on the very margins of the Muslim world.
Martyrdom, holy war, the lure of power and economic profligacy: with these weapons of the weak, al-Qaeda has drawn the United States into a conflict that has sapped our moral, political, and financial resources. We have persuaded ourselves that we’re in control, even in this last act of extrajudicial killing. But even here, bin Laden has managed to glorify himself at our expense.
These are the tools of bin Laden. We are the tools of bin Laden.
KATHY KELLY: Beyond Retaliation
This morning, a reporter called to talk about the news that the U.S. has killed Osama bin Laden. Referring to throngs of young people celebrating outside the White House, the reporter asked what Voices would say if we had a chance to speak with those young people.
We’d want to tell them about a group of people who, in November of 2001, walked from Washington, D.C. to New York City carrying a banner that said, “Our Grief is not a Cry for War.” Several of the walkers were people who had lost their loved ones in the attacks on 9/11. When the walk ended, they formed a group called “Families for Peaceful Tomorrows” to continually represent the belief that our security is not founded in violence and revenge.
Often, during that walk, participants were asked what we’d suggest as an alternative to invading Afghanistan. One response was that the U.S. and other countries could enact a criminal investigation and rely on police work and intelligence to apprehend the perpetrators of the attack. As it turns out, the U.S. discovered where Osama bin Laden was through those means and not through warfare. How have the past ten years of aerial bombardments, night raids, death squads, assassinations and drone attacks in Afghanistan benefited the U.S. people? Did the carnage and bloodshed bring the U.S. closer to discovering the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden? Have we defeated terrorism or created greater, deeper hatred toward the U.S.?
In the past, President Obama has said that “we stand on the shoulders of giants like Dr. King, yet our future progress will depend on how we prepare our next generation of leaders” (Jan. 18, 2010). In a historic speech, “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence”, King said: “We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.”
In that same speech, King called for a neighborliness that goes beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation. We think of that call in light of experiences of a 2010 Voices delegation that visited a rural village in the central highlands of Afghanistan. They sat with women who were close in age to the young people who were celebrating outside of the White House last night. Asked if they had ever heard of a time when a large passenger plane had crashed into a tall building in the United States, the young women were puzzled. They had never heard of 9/11.
They live in a country where 850 children die every day, a country which the UN has termed the worst country in the world into which a child can be born, where the average life expectancy is 42 years of age. The UN says that 7.4 million Afghans live with hunger and fear of starvation, while millions more rely on food help, and one in five children die before the age of five. Each week, the U.S. taxpayers spend two billion dollars to continue the war in Afghanistan.
Matt Daloisio, who co-coordinates the Witness Against Torture Campaign, sounded a note that we find far more authentic than triumphal celebration.
“10 years,” Matt wrote. “Over 6000 US Soldiers killed. Trillions of Dollars wasted. Hundreds of thousands of civilians killed. Tens of thousands imprisoned. Torture as part of foreign policy. And we are supposed to celebrate the murder of one person? I am not excited. I am not happy. I remain profoundly sad.”
IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR
Osama Bin Laden is Dead, What Next?
May 3, 2011, New York City
Sunday night IVAW learned with the rest of the nation that Osama Bin Laden was killed and his body captured by a team of U.S. Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In light of our resolution condemning the occupation of Afghanistan adopted in 2009, we have followed this important news closely and want to share our perspective with supporters, elected officials, policymakers, the press, and the public at large.
Like many other Americans, IVAW welcomes the news of this weakening blow to Al-Qaeda and its threat to our nation and the world. Our hearts go out to the thousands of survivors and family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks as they search for closure in this event.
As service members and veterans who have experienced the Global War on Terror firsthand, we respectfully encourage the American people to consider the killing of Bin Laden with a measure of restraint. His death is only a symbolic victory. Although there is no doubt Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, the path chosen by the Bush administration following 9/11 and continued under President Obama’s watch has cost us more than any one terrorist mastermind ever could. While it is right to remember those who died on 9/11, we should also be equally mindful of all those who have died as a result of our misguided wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The number of U.S. troops killed has topped 6,000 and estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan range in the hundreds of thousands.
The elimination of Bin Laden proves that our nation’s security issues are managed more effectively through political diplomacy and small, targeted attacks than costly mass military action. Our government has spared no expense in carrying out operations with no clear objectives or an end in sight, squandering trillions of dollars in spite of our nation’s economic crisis. Any citizen who is serious about the consequences of our foreign policy, the rule of law, or a true sense of justice needs to ask, has it been worth it? Whether you measure the tremendous costs of these wars in human lives or dollars, our position is that it has not been worth it.
The president claims that, “we can say that justice has been done.’’ But achieving real justice will not happen until the U.S. has removed all occupying forces and returned the right of self-determination to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Obama administration now has an opportunity to bring our troops home and scale back our military commitments overseas. Americans must reflect on the injustice of our own actions through violating international law, committing torture, suspending habeas corpus, and not holding our own leaders accountable.
Clearly our attempts to solve all our problems militarily have not worked. It is our sincere hope that President Obama will not conduct business as usual. While the president and his advisors will seek to capitalize politically on Bin Laden’s killing, it remains to be seen whether our foreign policy will change to reflect these new developments. Having removed Bin Laden from the equation, President Obama has lost a major source of rationalization for our continued occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. We reject any plans to extend our commitments elsewhere and want to see a hastening of the time line for withdrawal.
Share the statement with members of your community here.