The Empire Strikes Back: Bin Laden: Jeremy Scahill on Killing of Bin Laden: Obama Has “Doubled Down on Bush Administration Policy of Targeted Assassination”

INDEX (stories follow)

Blogging the Media Coverage of Death of bin Laden

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell


Headlines for May 2, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
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Blogging the Media Coverage of Death of bin Laden

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

This is a lie

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
“The U.S. special forces team that hunted down Osama bin Laden was under orders to kill the al Qaeda mastermind, not capture him, a U.S. national security official told Reuters.”  This is an obvious lie and for obvious reason. I am certain that the orders were to capture him alive: his capture alive would have been far more humiliating for him, just as the capture of Saddam.  I hate those propaganda spins after the fact.

Did Pakistani Gov’t Know Where Osama bin Laden Was Hiding?

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
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Play_paki_osama“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,” said Pakistani journalist Mosharraf Zaidi, who has been reporting in Abbottabad. “What rings even more hollow is the notion that somehow U.S. military choppers and gunships could fly into Pakistan undetected.” Pakistani writer Tariq Ali questions how bin Laden could have been living inside a fortified compound within a mile of Pakistan’s premier military academy. [includes rush transcript]

Talat Hamdani, Mother of 9/11 Victim: I Hope Death of Bin Laden Moves Country Toward Peace, Away from Revenge and Killing

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
Play_hamdaniNew York City Police Cadet Mohammed Salman Hamdani died on Sept. 11 after he raced to the Twin Towers to help survivors. He earned a mention in the USA PATRIOT Act for his bravery, yet because he was a Muslim immigrant, the New York Post and others considered him a suspect until his DNA was discovered. We speak to his mother, a member of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, about the killing of Osama bin Laden. [includes rush transcript]

This LA Times reporter does not know Pakistan

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
“Although Al Qaeda had its sympathizers in Pakistan’s volatile northwest, Bin Laden’s death is likely to be celebrated across much of the country.”

Regarding the LA Times’ report on Pakistani celebrations

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
““Now Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.”” (thanks Redouane)

Celebrating death

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
Nasir sent me this:  “For a people who constantly attacked Arabs/Somalis/Pakistanis for celebrating death, Americans are out in force celebrating this death tonight.”  That made me think.  Take George W. Bush: he is as hated among Arabs and Muslims as Bin Laden is hated in the US.  If Bush were to die, and if there are scenes of celebration among Muslims, the US news would be disgusted and guests would be invited on TV to speak about the sickness of Muslim culture.

Ex-State Department Official Matthew Hoh: With Killing of Bin Laden, Why Are 50,000 U.S. Troops Still in Afghanistan?

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
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Play_hohAfter two tours of duty in Iraq and serving in the State Department in Washington, D.C., Matthew Hoh became the United States’ senior civilian representative and political adviser in Afghanistan. He resigned five months into his contract, making him the highest-ranking U.S. government official to publicly quit over the war in Afghanistan. He joins us from Washington, D.C., to discuss whether the death of Osama bin Laden means the end of that war. “Everybody should be asking themselves today in the United States, if Osama Bin Laden was hiding in an upscale villa an hour or two drive north, northeast of Islamabad, then why did we put 50,000 troops in Afghanistan over the last two years?” says Hoh. [includes rush transcript]

Mcclatchy newspapers are lying here

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
“On Arabic television, experts were divided about the impact on the al-Qaida terrorist network. Some said the “martyrdom” of bin Laden could win new recruits and inject new life into an organization that had grown increasingly irrelevant…” Which Arabic TV stations spoke about “the martyrdom” of Bin Laden?  The writers clearly don’t know Arabic and notice that they spoke of “Arabic Television”, thinking that there is one Arabic TV station, and not more than 300.

Look at this US lawmaker

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)
“Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., a freshman lawmaker, said on Twitter: “We must be ready for retaliation from Islamic world.“” He talks like “the Islamic World” is a terrorist organization.  Wait: I bet you that he thinks that Islamic World is the name of a terrorist organization.

“One Killer Killing Another”: Journalist and Activist Allan Nairn on Obama’s Targeted Killing of Bin Laden

“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 victims. This was one killer killing another,” says Allan Nairn. “I think we need an American uprising, if we’re to put a stop to this kind of killing of innocent people. And we need an American Romero, someone like Archbishop Romero of Salvador.” [includes rush transcript]


Allan Nairn, award-winning journalist and activist.


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AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Allan Nairn into this conversation. Your response to the news and what you think this could mean? Could this mean the end of the U.S. war with Afghanistan?

ALLAN NAIRN: I don’t think it will. It should. It definitely should be an occasion for rethinking everything on a much bigger scale than Afghanistan.

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. And the bin Laden doctrine that, to take out the CIA office that was at the World Trade Center, it’s OK to blow up the whole World Trade Center, to teach Americans a lesson, it’s OK to slaughter thousands of Americans—that doctrine lives on in the American White House, in the American Pentagon. You know, every day—and in seats of authority all over the world.

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.

We’ve got to stop this practice. And Americans aren’t doing it. Egyptians, Tunisians are doing their part. They’ve risen up against the repression they face. I think we need an American uprising, if we’re to put a stop to this kind of killing of innocent people. And we need an American Romero, someone like Archbishop Romero of Salvador, who, in the face of massacres, of daily massacres of what in the end was more than 70,000 Salvadorans, stood up and said to the army of his country, “Stop the repression. Defy your orders to kill, because there’s a higher principle.” About a little more than a week ago, I was in El Salvador and visited Romero’s old home, which I had never been to before, and saw that on his bookshelf he had Why Not the Best?, a campaign book by Jimmy Carter, which he had apparently been reading. Romero wrote to Jimmy Carter in his capacity as the archbishop in 1980, asking Carter to stop supporting the Salvadoran military that was slaughtering his people. And from what I know of Romero, he probably really believed that Carter would respond. He didn’t. Carter kept sending the aid. And within weeks, Romero himself was assassinated by death squad, that had originated from U.S. backing. Writing letters didn’t work in that case. And it doesn’t work here. You know, we’ve got to put a stop to this. Bin Laden is dead. And bin-Ladenism, if you want to call it that, should die also.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this discussion. Allan Nairn, award-winning journalist. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’re going to be joined by a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. Stay with us.

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Jeremy Scahill on Killing of Bin Laden: Obama Has “Doubled Down on Bush Administration Policy of Targeted Assassination”

The manhunt for Osama bin Laden is over. Nearly 10 years after the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, U.S. forces are said to have assassinated the Saudi-born founder of al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. The U.S. operation was reportedly carried out by 25 Navy Seals under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command. At the time of his death, bin Laden was reportedly living in a heavily fortified mansion just a mile from the Pakistani army’s principal military academy. We speak with Jeremy Scahill, the national security correspondent for The Nationmagazine, who has followed the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts closely as well as reported on the covert war inside Pakistan. [includes rush transcript]


Jeremy Scahill, Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute and the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He blogs at


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AMY GOODMAN: In a televised address to the nation last night, President Barack Obama announced al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. Bin Laden was killed on Sunday in a U.S. operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, about 60 miles north of the capital, Islamabad.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

AMY GOODMAN: Osama bin Laden was shot in the head and buried at sea. The Saudi-born leader of al-Qaeda is believed to be the mastermind of the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, as well as a number of other attacks around the world.

Osama bin Laden’s death raises questions about the future of the U.S. war on terror and whether U.S. policy in the region will change. Almost 10 years ago, on October 7, 2001, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to capture bin Laden and destroy his al-Qaeda network. The war in Afghanistan has since become the longest in U.S. history and has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. For years, the U.S. has also waged a secret war inside Pakistan.

Despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today the war on terror will continue.

PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD: Can I say, too, about the death of Osama bin Laden, that whilst al-Qaeda has been hurt today, al-Qaeda is not finished. Our war against terrorism must continue. We continue to be engaged in Afghanistan so that that country does not again become a haven for terrorists. That work will need to continue. That work has already cost Australian lives. But that work is vital, and we will continue the mission in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the death of Osama bin Laden, we’re joined by a number of guests.

We’ll be speaking with Robert Fisk on the phone in Beirut. Robert Fisk, the longtime Middle East correspondent of The Independent newspaper in London, he was the first Western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden.

We’re also joined in New York by Jeremy Scahill, Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He blogs at

We’re also joined by Allan Nairn, an award-winning investigative journalist and activist.

In London, we’re joined by Tariq Ali, the well-known author, Pakistani-born commentator.

We’re going to start with Jeremy Scahill. Jeremy, tell us what you understand—you have been following JSOC for a long time now—what you understand happened yesterday and in the last months?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, in a way, this operation in Pakistan was the culmination of the life’s work of General Stanley McChrystal, who headed the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, and was the man tasked by the Bush administration with leading a global assassination campaign of people that the administration determined to be high-value targets or terrorist threats or militant threats to the United States. The current commander of JSOC is Admiral William McRaven, who himself is a former Navy Seal. And this really is the most elite force within the U.S. military.

The individuals who we believe actually killed Osama bin Laden are reportedly members of Navy Seal Team Six, also known as the Development Group. And those are probably the most elite forces in the world. General Barry McCaffrey said these are the most dangerous people on planet earth. This operation was carried out by a drone that was overhead, 25 Seals, and then shooters that allegedly stormed this compound. The role of JSOC within the broader U.S. so-called war on terror has been a surgical strike force.

So I think you have the one story playing out, which is how this happened, and it does sound like there was some incredible detective work that took place in tracking this courier, who was Osama bin Laden’s go-to to communicate with the outside world. For five years, they were reportedly tracking the developments at this compound. Interestingly, this compound is a stone’s throw away from a Pakistani military academy. And just days ago, General Kayani, the head of Pakistan’s armed forces, actually was basically a block away from Osama bin Laden, if all of these reports are true.

On the other side of this, though, I think there’s another reaction. I found it quite disgusting to see people chanting, like 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.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk, Jeremy, about what you understand did take place in this—not place in the frontier—


AMY GOODMAN:—on the border, the tribal lands between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but in a mansion in a city of 500,000 next to a military academy?

JEREMY SCAHILL: This is a very big problem for Pakistan’s government, because had Osama bin Laden been captured in an area that the Pakistani government didn’t have control of, there would have been a very different narrative that would have unfolded. You already see right-wing commentators, Bush—former Bush officials, really ratcheting up their rhetoric about Pakistan. And the fact that he was captured in what was essentially a town equivalent to Vale, Colorado, a vacation town, really shows that he must have had some sort of protection from the Pakistani state in order to live for so long, at least five years, it seems, in this location, rather than being in a cave somewhere.

The way that this operation went down, if in fact it is confirmed that it was the Joint Special Operations Command coming in from Afghanistan, goes back to an agreement that General McChrystal brokered with then-President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan that allowed what was called a “hot pursuit” clause, which authorized U.S. Special Operations forces to go into Pakistan from Afghanistan if they were in pursuit of Osama bin Laden or other al-Qaeda leaders. And the agreement was that the U.S. could do those operations as long as the Pakistani government could then deny it. And so, it seems as though this operation was, at least in part, launched from Afghanistan into Pakistan, President Obama chairing five National Security Council meetings about this specific operation.

So, I think that, you know, there’s going to be a lot of celebrating within the Special Ops community for having taken down the man that was identified as the number one target of this operation. And it shows that President Obama has really continued and doubled down on the Bush administration policy of targeted assassination leading the way in terms of America’s response to al-Qaeda and to people it designates as so-called terrorists.

AMY GOODMAN: And the news of how Osama bin Laden died?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, that’s interesting. Allan and I were talking before the show about this, and I’d be interested in hearing what he has to say. The phrasing that President Obama used was very interesting. I mean, we’ll have to see before, I think, we give any detailed commentary on it. They said there was a firefight there. They said someone used a woman as a human shield at some point during the operation. It sounds like Osama bin Laden was shot in the head. Navy Seals are the most highly trained forces within the U.S. military. It wouldn’t be surprising that they could sniper shoot him from a distance and hit him dead between his eyes. Maybe something else went down. I don’t—we don’t know what happened inside of that compound, but it does sound like he was shot directly in the head.

AMY GOODMAN: And buried at sea.

JEREMY SCAHILL: And then—they say buried at sea. I’m not sure exactly what that means, if they took him down deep into the sea and buried him or if they just dumped his body. I mean, who—we don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and come back, and we’ll be joined by Talat Hamdani. Talat Hamdani lost her son, 9/11. She is the mother of Mohammed Salman Hamdani. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’ll also be joined by Matthew Hoh, highest-level diplomat to have quit amidst the war in Afghanistan. This is Democracy Now!Back in a minute.

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Chris Hedges Speaks on Osama bin Laden’s Death

Posted on May 1, 2011


Chris Hedges made these remarks about Osama bin Laden’s death at a Truthdig fundraising eventin Los Angeles on Sunday evening.

I know that because of this announcement, that reportedly Osama bin Laden was killed, Bob wanted me to say a few words about it … about al-Qaida. I spent a year of my life covering al-Qaida for The New York Times. It was the work in which I, and other investigative reporters, won the Pulitzer Prize. And I spent seven years of my life in the Middle East. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I’m an Arabic speaker. And when someone came over and told Jean and me the news, my stomach sank. I’m not in any way naïve about what al-Qaida is. It’s an organization that terrifies me. I know it intimately.

But I’m also intimately familiar with the collective humiliation that we have imposed on the Muslim world. The expansion of military occupation that took place throughout, in particular the Arab world, following 9/11—and that this presence of American imperial bases, dotted, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Doha—is one that has done more to engender hatred and acts of terror than anything ever orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.

And the killing of bin Laden, who has absolutely no operational role in al-Qaida—that’s clear—he’s kind of a spiritual mentor, a kind of guide … he functions in many of the ways that Hitler functioned for the Nazi Party. We were just talking with Warren about Kershaw’s great biography of Hitler, which I read a few months ago, where you hold up a particular ideological ideal and strive for it. That was bin Laden’s role. But all actual acts of terror, which he may have signed off on, he no way planned.

I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the whole rise of al-Qaida is that when Saddam Hussein … I covered the first Gulf War, went into Kuwait with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was in Basra during the Shiite uprising until I was captured and taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard. I like to say I was embedded with the Iraqi Republican Guard. Within that initial assault and occupation of Kuwait, bin Laden appealed to the Saudi government to come back and help organize the defense of his country. And he was turned down. And American troops came in and implanted themselves on Muslim soil.

When I was in New York, as some of you were, on 9/11, I was in Times Square when the second plane hit. I walked into The New York Times, I stuffed notebooks in my pocket and walked down the West Side Highway and was at Ground Zero four hours later. I was there when Building 7 collapsed. And I watched as a nation drank deep from that very dark elixir of American nationalism … the flip side of nationalism is always racism, it’s about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other.

And it’s about forgetting that terrorism is a tactic. 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.

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. And the disease of empire, the disease of nationalism … these of course are mirrored in the anarchic violence of these groups, but one that locks us in a kind of frightening death spiral. So while I certainly fear al-Qaida, I know its intentions. I know how it works. I spent months of my life reconstructing every step Mohamed Atta took. While I don’t in any way minimize their danger, I despair. I despair that we as a country, as Nietzsche understood, have become the monster that we are attempting to fight.

Thank you.

[Readers comments are available at


AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Bin Laden (and his sponsors): any political significance?

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by (As’ad AbuKhalil)

The question remains whether there is any political significance to his death.  It is clear that Al-Qa`idah has largely been put out of commission since the US invasion of Afghanistan.  It is clear that Bin Laden, and even maybe Al-Dhawahiri, don’t have operational links with their followers.  It is clear that many of Bin Laden’s lieutenants were either captured or killed and that he lost the nucleus of the organization.  It is also clear that a small (terrorist in this case) organization can inflict a lot of harm on civilians, if that is what it wants to do.  But it is also clear that the danger of Al-Qa`idah after Sep. 11 was transferred to copy cats: groups and gangs that don’t have direct links with Bin Laden and his lieutenants but who are inspired by the deeds of the mother organization, so to speak.  But what is not yet acknowledged here in the US is that Bin Laden is a product of horrific US policies in the Cold War: of their alliance with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  The people in Pakistan and Afghanistan would be relieved today: not because they hated Bin Laden (many do sympathize with him only to spite the US), but because scores of Afghans and Pakistanis have been killed over the years during the campaign to get and kill Bin Laden.  Remember that time in late 2001 when the US incinerated a convoy there because “a tall dark man” was seen getting into one of the cars.  The US intelligence analyst on the scene assumed that there were no tall people other Bin Laden.   But the factors that produced Bin Laden and Al-Qa`idah are still there: the US is still very tempted to arm and fund fanatical groups if they think it is politically convenient for US “national security interests.”  Look at that lousy Libyan Transitional Council: there are fanatics in the ranks and I assume that we will hear from some of them, especially once they declare the victory of their “holy cause.”  The coverage on US TV news was celebratory:  I bet that Americans don’t know that this man and his lieutenants once shared a cause with US covert operations against the Soviet Union.  Of course, as is the case in such affairs, the US news media focus on the skills and heroism of US special forces and intelligence agents.  For weeks we now will be served dishes of reports about the competence of US special teams.  Only later will some one reveal (as was the case in the capture of Saddam Husayn) that there was no military skill in the operation: that someone came forward to net the $25 million for Bin Laden.  But that will come later.  The disturbing part of all this was the coverage of Saudi news channel Al-Arabiyyah (news station of King Fahd’s brother-in-law): the coverage was somber with a tinge of sadness.  They had a Saudi “expert” on extremist movements and he came on and said that Bin Laden fought back ferociously and that he resisted before being killed.  This is like how Saddamists were so embarrassed how their leader was captured and they created stories about how he did not resist or die.   How did the Saudi expert know that? It seems that the Bin Ladenites will now be busy inventing a story of heroism for Bin Laden, just as they invented a bogus story about his heroism in Afghanistan.  Bin Laden won’t be missed (or should not be missed): not in the East and not in the West.  And that idiot Isma`il Haniyyah of Hamas is only confirming Western suspicions and Zionist allegations that all Islamists are alike.  This will be his own doing: he just rendered a great service for Zionist propaganda.  His remark will now be available in 34 languages and Israeli occupation embassies will circulate special brochures containing his lousy remarks in which he paid tribute to Bin Laden.  Expect a book or two to be published with titles like: Hamas and Bin Laden or the Unholy Alliance between Hamas and Al-Qa`idah, etc.  But Hamas deserves what its get: the lousy Fath organization is now replaced with a lousy branch of the lousy Muslim Brotherhood.  On Aljazeera: the coverage is rather less somber than Al-Arabiyyah but they had Saudi journalist (oh, yes.  Forgot to tell you. Ever since Qatar and Saudi Arabia entered into the Arab counter-revolution alliance Saudi propagandists are now invited on Aljazeera), Jamal Khashuqji (who edited Al-Watan newspaper and now will be directing a new news channel owned by yet another oil prince–Al-Walid bin Talal in this case).  But the anchor did not ask Khashuqji (who now poses as one of many Wahhabi “liberals”) about his PERSONAL CONNECTION WITH BIN LADEN.  This guest once fought with Bin Laden and worshiped him for years.  And then the anchor asked him this question: he asked how Bin Laden turned to violence against civilians when he was not like that before.  What was that? When was Bin Laden opposed to violence?  When he recruited (on behalf of US and Saudi covert operations) an army of Islamsit fanatics, crazies, and terrorists?  Bin Laden made life more difficult for all Muslims (and for all if you consider the travel effects of Sep. 11):  my mother hates him for what he did to the image of Muslims worldwide, not to mention his callous justifications of the murder of civilians (Muslims including).  US is desperate for a victory and this one will be a chance, although the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are going terribly for the US.  Obama yesterday basically signed the death sentence of the Pakistani president for thanking him for his role.  How dumb is that? Even if he thought to falsely claim that the US did not violate Pakistani sovereignty near the capital of Pakistan.  Public opinion surveys will soon give a tremendous boost to Obama, who may have increased his chances for re-election.  I mean, no one in the Republican camp can now accuse him of pacifism or of reluctance to bomb and kill.  Obama has proven that he can outdo Bush, in wars and bombings and killing, etc.  Tell that to those who voted for him.  On the Muslim side, I can report to you that wild conspiracy theories are already circulating on Twitter and Facebook and Arab websites: it will be like the conspiracy theories about Sep. 11.  People are saying that either he was not killed, or that the US had him for a long time, or that he was dead even on Sep. 11.  Those unfounded conspiracy theories trouble me: because we–as leftists–need to distinguish between crazy and non-crazy conspiracy theories.  So in sum, not much will change in the world after this announcement because Al-Qa`idah has been largely weakened since Sep. 11.  Ayman Adh-Dhawhiri has no chance of reviving the fortunes of Al-Qa`idah: he not only has to protect himself but he has the charisma of a cucumber and the speaking skills of Sa`d Hariri (and he is as boring as the latter).

The death of a master signifier

from Jews sans frontieres by Gabriel
“Osama Bin Laden,” the master signifier of the US war on terror, is dead. The frail proper body that used to be attached to that signifier was assassinated in an imperial US military operation in a foreign country, Pakistan. That body is not important. The Master Signifer Osama bin Laden had only a passing and insignificant, literally, relation to that body. Rather, It represented the Middle Eastern subject, the rebellious native, the child who rejected the authority of the father, to America the Beautiful.

The operation was carried out among a people who despises the US for decades of misery that the US inflicted of them. It was the very kind of operation that convinced a much young Osama Bin Laden that killing lots of Americans is the only way to go. He was wrong. There are better ways. And his idea of liberty was kooky. But that is as much as one can say against him. The number of people he killed is pathetically small by the standards of US presidents. If Bin Laden merited a bullet, then Emperor Obama deserves to be quartered and drowned. As for Bush and Blair, if we set to punish them honestly we would need the sadistic creativity of the Olympian Gods. There is no human punishment that would be horrible enough to match their culpability.

Nevertheless, the death of a Master Signifier is a cause of celebration. It is appropriate that it happened in such close proximity to the Wedding of the Century, an opulent spectacle of violence in the name of the Holy right to violence, matching an opulent spectacle of looted wealth celebrating its God given right to loot. Death and Marriage, as Freud might have hummed one spring afternoon, go together like horse and carriage. The death of the master signifier puts into play the knowledge of God’s love for his people. It is not, of course, “America” that knows. America knows nothing at all. Except that it knows that the Middle East knows it for it. On the occasion of his visit to Bin Laden’s territory, Bernard Henri Levy already explained how the knowledge of race and the knowledge of God’s election exchange fluids.

“The Taliban weren’t just defeated, they were defeated without a fight. …the image of these defeated fighters, lionized by the Arab street from Baghdad to Damascus, the image of these salahudins who were supposed to !bring America to its knees, and who, at the first shot, fled like chickens, could only astound those who identified with them.”

Out of the labor carried out by this Arab knowledge of America emerges what Jacques Lacan calls a surplus of “joy”. The people of the US are jubilant. So I hear. I am not sure if that covers also the people whose houses were foreclosed in the last three years. But it is possible that they too are jubilant today. It is Purim in America today. The evil Haman is dead. Millions of his kins have been murdered in advance.

Only a doubting Thomas would fail to see here the ultimate proof that God loves America, England, and, of course, the Queen.

Military Intelligence Analyst Joshua Foust: Death of Bin Laden Will Not Have Enormous Impact on Operations of Al-Qaeda Affiliates Worldwide

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
Play_foustIn addition to Afghanistan, the United States is fighting al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. We discuss the impact of Osama bin Laden’s death on al-Qaeda across the globe with Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. “From an operational standpoint, Osama bin Laden doesn’t maintain very tight operational control over the different al-Qaeda franchises that are out there, including in Yemen, including in Somalia, and other places as well. So, this is mostly a symbolic victory,” says Foust. [includes rush transcript]

Obama and the End of Al-Qaeda

from Informed Comment by Juan
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An American president, himself the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, has taken down notorious terrorist Usama Bin Laden. Despite being a Christian, Obama, it seems to me, had a personal stake in destroying someone who had defamed the religion of his birth father and his relatives. His 2007-2008 presidential campaign was in part about the need of the US to refocus on the threat from al-Qaeda. He said that the Bush administration had taken its eye off the ball by running off to Iraq to pursue an illegal war and neglecting the eastern front, from which the US had been attacked, and where riposting was legitimate in international law. Obama began threatening to act unilaterally against al-Qaeda in Pakistan in August 2007, during the early period of the Democratic primary.

Ironically, Obama had to admit that Pakistani intelligence helped the US develop the lead that allowed the US to close in on Bin Laden. So the operation was not unilateral, and young candidate Obama was too over-confident. The US story that the Pakistanis were not given prior notice of the operation is contradicted by the Pakistani news channel Geo, which says that Pakistani troops and plainsclothesmen helped cordon off the compound in Abbotabad. CNN is pointing out that US helicopters could not have flown so far into Pakistan from Afghanistan without tripping Pakistani radar. My guess is that the US agreed to shield the government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asaf Ali Zardari from al-Qaeda reprisals by putting out the story that the operation against Bin Laden was solely a US one. And it may be that suspect elements of the Pakistani elite, such as the Inter-Services Intelligence, were kept out the the loop because it was feared they might have ties to Bin Laden and might tip him off.

Usama Bin Laden was a violent product of the Cold War and the Age of Dictators in the Greater Middle East. He passed from the scene at a time when the dictators are falling or trying to avoid falling in the wake of a startling set of largely peaceful mass movements demanding greater democracy and greater social equity. Bin Laden dismissed parliamentary democracy, for which so many Tunisians and Egyptians yearn, as a man-made and fallible system of government, and advocated a return to the medieval Muslim caliphate (a combination of pope and emperor) instead. Only a tiny fringe of Muslims wants such a theocratic dictatorship. The masses who rose up this spring mainly spoke of “nation,” the “people,” “liberty” and “democracy,” all keywords toward which Bin Laden was utterly dismissive. The notorious terrorist turned to techniques of fear-mongering and mass murder to attain his goals in the belief that these methods were the only means by which the Secret Police States of the greater Middle East could be overturned.

Dr Wahid Abd-al-Majid, an adviser at the Al-Ahram Center for Political Studies, spoke to al-Arabiya on April 15 about al-Qaeda no. 2 leader (and now no. 1) Ayman al-Zawahiri’s dismissive statement that all the Egyptian uprising had produced was an untrustworthy military junta. Since Egypt is moving toward parliamentary elections, al-Zawahiri’s description is a caricature. Abd al-Majid, said, “Al-Zawahiri wanted to declare a stance on what is happening in Egypt, especially when he saw the end of the road for Al-Qa’ida and religious violence, or violence that hides behind religion, in Egypt, because what the Egyptians accomplished peacefully negates any need or justification for violence in Egypt. Al-Zawahiri dreamt of being the one who topples President Husni Mubarak, only for the president to be toppled by the youth in a peaceful and democratic revolution that has absolutely no connection to Al-Qa’ida’s long-held claims.” (USG Open Source Center translation).

The son of a Yemeni immigrant to Saudi Arabia who went from rags to riches by doing construction and engineering work for the Saudi royal family, Usama Bin Laden grew up one of dozens of sons of a billionaire, in an absolute monarchy which maintains that the holy Qur’an itself is its only constitution. It wasn’t a system that dealt well with rebelliousness or dissent.

Unlike most of the Bin Ladens, who are worldly business-people (a niece, Wafa, posed provocatively for GQ) Usama was known as a serious and religious young man. At university in Jeddah he probably came under the influence of Abdullah Azzam, a radical Muslim fundamentalist of Palestinian heritage.

The Palestine issue helped radicalize Bin Laden. He and his circle in Afghanistan were obsessed with the Israeli occupation of Islam’s third holiest site, Jerusalem, and gave one another sermons about what they saw as a modern crusade against Muslims in that city. The perfidy of successive British governments in conquering Palestine, agreeing to its becoming a Class A League of Nations Mandate (i.e. a nation-state in training), but at the same time giving Palestine away to the international Zionist movement, had resulted in the end in the ethnic cleansing of most Palestinians and their reduction to the status of stateless refugees. But the religious Usama seemed to care most of all about the 1967 Israeli military occupation of all of Jerusalem, including the Muslim holy site of the Dome of the Rock. Although Israel may have been a democracy for Israelis, it was a foreign military occupying power in the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and ruled there with an iron fist.

In 1978, young officers made a Communist coup in Afghanistan. By fall of 1979 the enterprise had turned unstable because of faction-fighting among the officers. In December of 1979 Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev, perhaps baited by the Carter administration, sent in Soviet troops and began a brutal 8-year occupation of among the least developed and most poverty-stricken countries in the world.

The Reagan administration and the Democratic Congress took the small Carter administration program that supported a Muslim insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan and vastly expanded it, ultimately to the tune of billions of dollars. Reagan also twisted the arm of Saudi King Fahd to match US expenditures. Seven major Afghan guerrilla groups were fostered and given CIA training in camps. The Soviets fought back viciously. In that decade, perhaps a million Afghans were killed, 3 million were displaced to Pakistan, 2 million were displaced to Iran, and 2 million were displaced inside Afghanistan. In a country of, at that time, perhaps 15 million persons. It was Apocalypse Now, Kabul version. The two opponents were not attractive. The Communist regime was a cruel dictatorship. The Mujahidin were a mix of tribal and religious forces, but some groups were radical fundamentalists, as with the Hizb-i Islami or Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, the most bloodthirsty of the Mujahidin. He got a lion’s share of the CIA money (he is today a die-hard opponent of the US whose men have killed many US troops in Afghanistan).

When Reagan convinced King Fahd to help get up a covert paramilitary to fight the Soviets (Reagan really liked private, unaccountable militias; he also backed them in Central America), Fahd had his ministers look around for a fundraiser who could get money from private sources in Saudi Arabia for the Arab volunteers to fight in Afghanistan. Usama Bin Laden was chosen, being a well-known socialite who also had a serious and religious side. Bin Laden jetted back and forth between the mosques of Saudi Arabia and the the Pakistani city of Peshawar, his headquarters in the struggle against the Soviets. The “Arab Afghans” who gathered around him may not have gotten direct CIA training for the most part, though some likely did, but they learned everything they needed to know about setting up cells and carrying out covert operations from the Afghans who had been through the CIA schools.

The Soviets completely withdrew from Afghanistan in late 1988 through early 1989. Soon thereafter, the Soviet bloc began collapsing.

Bin Laden was left without a task there in Afghanistan, and he returned to Jedda in Saudi Arabia. He gave a guest sermon at his mosque on the first Palestinian Intifada or uprising, and already had begun turning on his former ally, the United States, whom he blamed for enabling Israeli repression of the Palestinians. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Bin Laden suggested to King Fahd that he be allowed to gather together his old gang of Arab Afghans to push Saddam back out. King Fahd wisely rejected the idea of having a bunch of scruffy Mujahidin crawling all over his country. The crisis had been provoked by a Baathist president-for-life, Saddam Hussein, another dictator acting arbitrarily. That Fahd instead brought in non-Muslim Westerners to do the job stuck in Bin Laden’s craw. A couple of years later he went to the Sudan and began his career as a terrorist. Then the US pressured Sudan to expel him, and he went to Afghanistan. He initially hooked up with his old Mujahidin buddies, but he was introduced to Mulla Omar, leader of the Taliban, and ultimately became very close to him.

They were all dictatorships– the Soviet Union, the Communist government of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Sudan, and the Taliban. Usama learned to take the law into his own hands because he had no other way to effect change. He wanted to see the region’s dictatorship overthrown in favor of his renewed Islamic Caliphate. It was a crackpot, fringe, pipe dream, but he brought to the aspiration all the experiences and training he and his men had learned during the Reagan Jihad against the Soviets. Then he and his number two man, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, came to the conclusion that the reason they could not overthrow the governments of Egypt (Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship) and Saudi Arabia and so forth was that these were backed by the United States. They decided it had been a mistake to hit the “near enemy” first. They decided to hit the “far enemy” on American soil. Bin Laden thought that if only he could entice the US into the Middle East, he could do to it what he thought he had done to the Soviet Union.

Hence the horrific attacks on the US of September 11, 2001.

It was those attacks that created Informed Comment. I started it in spring of 2002 initially to cover al-Qaeda and to present analysis about how to defeat it. Like all Americans, I was personally devastated by September 11. I was depressed for a year. I felt it in distinctive ways because I had lived nearly 10 years in the Greater Middle East. Most of that time I was a student or, later on, academic researcher. But although I studied history, I was living in the present. I had been in Egypt in the late 1970s when Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad began becoming notorious. I lived in Pakistan off and on in the early 1980s and went up to Peshawar and talked with Mujahidin.

I supported the first phase of the Afghanistan War, which involved a light Western footprint in that country. There were 40 al-Qaeda training camps, which produced thousands of potential terrorists, and if they had not been destroyed they would have gone on manufacturing threats to the US. I discovered that there was a lot of good information on the Arabic internet about al-Qaeda, and I paraphrased the reports I thought significant. I began being invited to private security conferences in Washington, sponsored by think tanks at the request of government agencies, where the audience was typically inter-agency. There, I presented my analyses of al-Qaeda along with other academics and security experts. I hoped that the insights might be useful to State Department, Pentagon, CIA, DIA and other officials on the front lines of dismantling al-Qaeda. I had opposed the Vietnam War, something that had been painful for my father, who was a 20-year man in the army. But if the US government could benefit from my studies of al-Qaeda and other radical fringe movements trying to hurt Americans, I was just delighted.

(Just a note: I often challenged Washington orthodoxies, the honoraria were small, and I was only invited a few times a year, so the suggestion of some of my detractors that I sold out by doing these presentations is frankly silly. I just want my government to be as informed as it can be, and I’ll tell them the same things I tell the peace groups who also invite me to speak. If I had wanted to sell out, I could have formed a consultancy and purveyed the party line and made big bucks).

I was deeply dismayed when it became apparent that the Bush administration intended to use September 11 as a pretext to launch an illegal invasion of Iraq. I thought it was most unwise, and would be seen as an act of neo-imperialism and resisted. I told friends that if the UN Security Council voted against it, and Bush proceeded, I’d be out in the streets protesting. But then the UNSC never really was given a chance to vote, and Bush ran off to war. I prefer peace to war, but am not a pacifist. I don’t believe the use of military force is always wrong or counter-productive. I am from an army family after all. But I do believe that wars should be like abortion: rare and legal. The UN was established after the horrors of the Axis in WW II in an attempt to deploy collective security to stop the practice of aggressive wars of conquest and annexation. President Dwight Eisenhower invoked the UN Charter when he made Britain, France and Israel withdraw from Egypt in 1956-1957. By waging a war that was neither in self-defense nor authorized by the UNSC, in contravention of the UN Charter (a treaty to which the US is signatory), W. and Dick Cheney were throwing away the achievement of the founders of the UN, and returning us to the international jungle, where the strong fall upon the weak with no framework of law.

I was also dismayed by the propagandistic way the White House promoted its war on and then occupation of Iraq. They only had two speeds, progress and slow progress. A big bombing that killed hundreds was “slow progress.” Fantastic historical analogies were trotted out. The reality was obscured. Since I know Arabic, I read the multiplying Iraqi newspapers on the web, watched Arabic satellite t.v., developed correspondents in Iraq, and tried to describe the situation more realistically at this blog. Interestingly, I still got invited to Washington to speak to audiences of security and intelligence personnel. Then-senator Joe Biden asked me to testify on Iraq before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I even got invited to share my (pessimistic) views with the British foreign ministry, the French foreign ministry, the Japanese Institute of Middle East Economies, etc., etc. Not to mention a lot of correspondence with people in similar institutions in other countries.

What pained me most of all, aside from the sheer scale of destruction in Iraq set off by Bush’s illegal and ill-considered adventurism, was that the Iraq War clearly gave al-Qaeda an opening to grow and expand and recruit. I think if Bush had gone after Bin Laden as single-mindedly as Obama has, he would have gotten him, and could have rolled up al-Qaeda in 2002 or 2003. Instead, Bush’s occupation of a major Arab Muslim country kept a hornet’s nest buzzing against the US, Britain and other allies.

Now that Obama has eliminated the monster Usama Bin Laden and vindicated the capability of the United States to visit retribution on its dire enemies, he can do one other great good for this country abroad. He can get us out of Iraq altogether. The US military presence there is the fruit of a poisonous tree. It will always provoke Iraqi Muslim activists, whether Sunni or Shiite or secular nationalist. And it angers the whole Arab world.

The Arab Spring has demonstrated that the Arab masses yearn for liberty, not thuggish repression, for life, not death and destruction, for parliamentary democracy, not theocratic dictatorship. Bin Laden was already a dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War and the age of dictators in which a dissident such as he had no place in society and was shunted off to distant, frontier killing fields. The new generation of young Arabs in Egypt and Tunisia has a shot at a decent life. Obama has put the US on the right side of history in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya (where I see crowds for the first time in my life waving American flags). People might want a little help from a distance, but they don’t want to see Western troops deployed in fighting units on their soil.

If Obama can get us out of Iraq, and if he can use his good offices to keep the pressure on the Egyptian military to lighten up, and if he can support the likely UN declaration of a Palestinian state in September, the US will be in the most favorable position in the Arab world it has had since 1956. And he would go down in history as one of the great presidents. If he tries to stay in Iraq and he takes a stand against Palestine, he risks provoking further anti-American violence. He can be not just the president who killed Bin Laden, but the president who killed the pretexts for radical violence against the US. He can promote the waving of the American flag in major Arab cities. And that would be a defeat and humiliation for Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda more profound than any they could have dreamed.

Bin Laden is Dead, Long Live Bin Laden

No, I haven’t become an Al Qaeda fan and I’m not drinking to the health of bin Laden’s successor.  My point is thatkilling one man, no matter how symbolic his life or death might be to world terrorism and the fight against it, won’t change much in the long run.  Undoubtedly, there is a new bin Laden pre-designated by his movement to take his place.  There may even be a set of pre-planned terror attacks prepared for just this eventuality as vengeance for the death of their leader.  While I’m no expert in Al Qaeda, bin Laden had to have been so isolated I don’t see how he could’ve been a key operational or even inspirational figure to Al Qaeda.  His death will likely not slow down or change much the radical Islamist agenda.

The root causes of this movement must be addressed to end its potency for a small cadre of the world’s Muslims.  The U.S. must leave Afghanistan and Iraq.  We must lead–or if not lead–get out of the way of an international campaign to pressure Israel to settle its conflict with the Palestinians.  We must get on the side of the Arab spring and stop supporting the potentates and Old Geezers of the autocracies.

I don’t think it’s that difficult ultimately for western nations like ours to get right with the Arab and Muslim world.  Despite the Al Qaeda anti-western mantra, there is no innate Arab/Muslim hate for the west.  But it is shedding the illusions that have led us to support the Shahs, Mubaraks, Salehs, and Abdullahs that seems to be difficult for our president at this time.  If we embrace the movement toward freedom exemplified by the martyrs of Daraa and Misurata, ultimately the bin Ladens will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

To do this, we will also have to recalibrate our relationship with Israel and our former knee-jerk support for its far-right governments.  There is little doubt that Barack Obama hates Bibi Netanyahu.  But disliking a leader is not the same as compelling him to do something you know he must do in order to bring peace to a region desperately crying out for it.  The truth is that while Obama may’ve achieved something that eluded two previous presidents, this is nothing compared to the heavy lifting he will have to do to truly undermine the attraction radical Islam holds for Al Qaeda and its admirers.

Recognize a Palestinian state come September in the UN General Assembly.  This will go farther than killing 10 bin Ladens in bringing credibility to the U.S. role in the Middle East.

I didn’t realize how much of a disconnect there is between my thinking about this and the general jubilationdescribed in this passage:

The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered outside the White House, in Times Square and at the Ground Zero site, waving American flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” In New York City, crowds sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The author of the NY Times article I quoted above then continues with yet another vast overstatement:

Bin Laden’s demise is a defining moment in the American-led fight against terrorism…

It certainly is not a defining moment.  It’s a moment that, in the long run, means very little.  It’s the equivalent of a small victory that is part of a very long, complicated campaign.  I can’t begin to say how wrong-hearded this attitude is.  What will they say after the next terror attack?  Of course they’ll say we have to kill more of ‘em.  That’s the answer.

It was always going to be tough to defeat Barack Obama in the 2012 election.  That just became that much harder.  And the current Republican field can’t give much succor to the country’s Republicans.  The names Tweedledee and Tweedledum were made for these bozos with the chief clown among them, Donald Trump (at whom Obama took some good whacks during the Correspondents Dinner yesterday night).  Security is always a weak point for Democrats.  Considering Obama got done what neither Clinton nor Bush could before him, his security cred is sky-high and he’ll be able to milk this during the campaign.  Keep in mind that I don’t think Obama’s policies in that part of the world are effective and drone attacks and assassinations are no substitute for having a real substantive policy of addressing the Muslim world.  But he has undoubtedly achieved a coup that eluded many before him.

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Glenn Greenwald

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011 10:30 ET

Killing of bin Laden: What are the consequences?

Killing of bin Laden: What are the consequences?

Crowds gathers outside the White House in Washington early Monday, May 2.

(updated below)

The killing of Osama bin Laden is one of those events which, especially in the immediate aftermath, is not susceptible to reasoned discussion. It’s already a Litmus Test event: all Decent People — by definition — express unadulterated ecstacy at his death, and all Good Americans chant “USA! USA!” in a celebration of this proof of our national greatness and Goodness (and that of our President). Nothing that deviates from that emotional script will be heard, other than by those on the lookout for heretics to hold up and punish. Prematurely interrupting a national emotional consensus with unwanted rational truths accomplishes nothing but harming the heretic (ask Bill Maher about how that works).

I’d have strongly preferred that Osama bin Laden be captured rather than killed so that he could be tried for his crimes and punished in accordance with due process (and to obtain presumably ample intelligence). But if he in fact used force to resist capture, then the U.S. military was entitled to use force against him, the way American police routinely do against suspects who use violence to resist capture. But those are legalities and they will be ignored even more so than usual. The 9/11 attack was a heinous and wanton slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians, and it’s understandable that people are reacting with glee over the death of the person responsible for it. I personally don’t derive joy or an impulse to chant boastfully at the news that someone just got two bullets put in their skull — no matter who that someone is — but that reaction is inevitable: it’s the classic case of raucously cheering in a movie theater when the dastardly villain finally gets his due.

But beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden’s head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we’ve started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the altar of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?

Those are rhetorical questions. None of those things will happen. If anything, I can much more easily envision the reverse. Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden — and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders — can easily rejuvenate that war love. One can already detect the stench of that in how Pakistan is being talked about: did they harbor bin Laden as it seems and, if so, what price should they pay? We’re feeling good and strong about ourselves again — and righteous — and that’s often the fertile ground for more, not less, aggression.

And then there’s the notion that America has once again proved its greatness and preeminence by killing bin Laden. Americans are marching in the street celebrating with a sense of national pride. When is the last time that happened? It seems telling that hunting someone down and killing them is one of the few things that still produce these feelings of nationalistic unity. I got on an airplane last night before the news of bin Laden’s killing was known and had actually intended to make this point with regard to our killing of Gadaffi’s son in Libya — a mere 25 years after President Reagan bombed Libya and killed Gadaffi’s infant daughter. That is something the U.S. has always done well and is one of the few things it still does well. This is how President Obama put it in last night’s announcement:

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Does hunting down Osama bin Laden and putting bullets in his skull really “remind us that we can do whatever we set our mind to”? Is that really “the story of our history”? That seems to set the bar rather low in terms of national achievement and character.

In sum, a murderous religious extremist was killed. The U.S. has erupted in a collective orgy of national pride and renewed faith in the efficacy and righteousness of military force. Other than that, the repercussions are likely to be far greater in terms of domestic politics — it’s going to be a huge boost to Obama’s re-election prospects and will be exploited for that end — than anything else.

UPDATERecall what happened in 2003 when Howard Dean interrupted the national celebratory ritual triggered by Saddam Hussein’s capture when he suggested that that event would likely not make us safer.  He was demonized by political leaders in both parties, with Joe Lieberman finally equating him with Saddam by accusing Dean of being in a “spider hole of denial.”  That will be the same demonizing reaction targeted at anyone who deviates from today’s ritualistic script.

Meanwhile, here is the reaction to today’s events from Emily Miller ofThe Washington Times Editorial Page:

Those primitive, bloodthirsty Muslim fanatics sure do love to glorify death and violence.

This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Background & Analysis, Bin Laden, Counterinsurgency, Events, Imperialism, Imperialist Interference & Views, Military, Obama. Bookmark the permalink.

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