INDEX (stories follow)
Crooks, thieves, swindlers, embezzlers are all invited: let the theft by the Libyan Transitional Council begin
- Pakistan Military Threatens to Review U.S. Ties
- 8 Killed in U.S. Drone Attack in Pakistan
- U.S.: Bin Laden Plotted Rail Attack on 9/11 Anniversary
- Obama Visits Ground Zero, Firefighters
- U.N.: Libyan Food System Faces Collapse
- International Loans Approved for Libyan Rebels
- Syrian Forces Fire on Protesters After Mass Arrests
- Vermont House Approves Single-Payer Healthcare Bill
- N.H. Lawmakers Advance Anti-Union Bill
- House OKs Resumption of Offshore Drilling Leases
- SEC Subpoenas JPMorgan in Mortgage Probe
- Obama Urges Activism on Immigration Reform
- Mexicans Stage Marches to Protest Drug War
- Scientists Detail Global Warming Dangers to Sea Levels
- Arizona School Board Postpones Ethnic Studies Vote
- CUNY Trustees Deny Honorary Degree to Playwright over Israel-Palestine Views
Indian chief of staff VK Singh provoked a small crisis when he maintained that India had the capability to go in after Lashkar-e Tayyiba figures.
India is spoiling to kill or capture the leadership in Pakistani Punjab of the Lashkar-e Tayyiba or Righteous Army, the terrorist group that was behind the destruction at Mumbai in late 2008. A raid like the American one might be a way for New Delhi to bring the LeT leadership to justice.
Captured documents from Bin Laden’s compound show that al-Qaeda was engaged in some thinking about hitting Western rail lines on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. These plans were not operational, but given what happened in Madrid, are still scary.
It turns out that the US military has to share the humiliation of Bin Laden’s having been right under their noses in Abbotabad. State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks confirm that there were 100 US military trainers at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbotabad sometime in or after 2008. This large US presence just around the corner from “Waziristan House” where Bin Laden was staying, raises questions about whether the Pakistani military necessarily could have known about Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. They US trainers did not.
There are persistent reports of intercepted al-Qaeda phone calls as part of the story.
Najam Sethi on Geo TV, “Aapas Ki Baat”, May 5, 2011:
‘Sethi says that the ISI intercepted a telephone conversation somewhere in 2009. Sethi adds that the conversation, which was in Arabic language, was translated in English and handed over to the CIA. He further says that the call was made from Nowshera to Saudi Arabia and the subject of the call was financial matters.
He says that the caller will deactivate the SIM after every call he made to Saudi Arabia and thus he activated and deactivated his SIM at least six times over the following nine months. Sethi says: “The last call the SIM was used for was made from Usama Bin Ladin’s compound. The ISI was constantly providing the record of conversations to the CIA during that whereas and it was this intelligence sharing that led the CIA to Usama Bin Ladin’s compound in Abbottabad.
Now the question is that if ISI is deliberately trying to protect Usama Bin Ladin, why it has shared this information with the United States.” ‘
Aljazeera English has video:
Crooks, thieves, swindlers, embezzlers are all invited: let the theft by the Libyan Transitional Council begin
The killing of Usama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qa‘ida Central, this week in Pakistan has opened the door to intense speculation about the future of the militant organization and the transnational jihadi-takfiri trend that it represents. A great deal of attention has been paid to who the next leader of al-Qaeda Central, its next public face, will be. Bin Laden’s killing, while certainly a major loss to al-Qaeda Central and its regional affiliates, does not sound the death knell of the transnational trend known as the jihadi-takfiri (those who view Muslim holy war [jihad] as a pillar of the faith and who lightly excommunicate [takfir] and attack other Muslims who disagree with them). While the importance of his killing should be recognized, it is critically important to not exaggerate its likely impact.
A number of analysts have claimed that al-Qaeda Central and its militant call for Muslim action have been made irrelevant with the advent of the popular anti-regime uprisings across the Arab world. While not entirely incorrect, this claim is overly centered on the Arab world and ignores other regions of the Muslim world, such as South and Southwest Asia, where elements of al-Qaeda Central’s message continue to resonate with segments of the population. Though these segments are clearly a small minority, their potential negative influence is vastly greater than their actual numbers.
It is important to understand the multifaceted jihadi-takfiri message. The youth, mostly men but some women, who join al-Qaeda Central and other Muslim militant organizations cite an array of reasons for their decision to engage in violence. In their “martyrdom” wills and last testaments, either on film or in writing, they list a large number of grievances. Though they may view bin Laden as a heroic symbol and inspiration, these youth list other reasons for their decision to fight to the death.
These reasons include the U.S. military wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of Muslim civilians in drone and other types of U.S. military strikes, the occupation and siege of the Palestinian Territories, total U.S. political and military support for the Israeli state, American practices of torture, the humiliation of Muslims around the world, U.S. and European support for Arab and Muslim autocratic governments, war crimes committed by individual or small groups of U.S. military personnel.
Bin Laden’s killing will almost certainly not address these issues in the minds of the youth who support al-Qaeda Central or similar movements. Thus, the Saudi militant’s death will most likely not end the attractiveness of the transnational jihadi-takfiri trend that he represents. While it is true that the “Arab Spring” has been a significant setback for al-Qaeda Central and its Arab regional affiliates, it is critically important to remember that the transnational militant trend they represent are not limited to them. The future of this trend depends, in large part, to how the U.S. and European governments together with their allies around the world react to the historic events in the Arab world, conduct the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and interact with the populations of the Muslim world.
Regional militant movements such as the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban), and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan maintain their own independent networks, leadership structures, and set of country and region-specific goals, thus they are less likely than al-Qaeda Central and its regional affiliates to be negatively impacted by bin Laden’s killing. While these movements maintain relations or alliances with al-Qaeda Central they are not dependent on the largely Arab militant organization for their survival and maintain their own military capabilities.
In fact, in recent years al-Qaeda Central has become increasingly reliant on the military strength of its regional allies such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Many of the goals of the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, and the Pakistani Taliban are independent of al-Qaeda Central and are unlikely to be affected by Bin Laden’s death and any turmoil that may result within al-Qaeda Central’s ranks. Chief among their raisons d’être include the continued U.S. and NATO military mission in Afghanistan and the extensive U.S. military campaign in Pakistan that is exemplified in the public eye by the extensive use of drone missile strikes that have killed a number of senior al-Qaeda Central, Pakistani Taliban, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders along with scores of Pakistani civilians. Estimates of the total number of people, militants and non-militants, killed indrone strikes range between 1,459 and 2,319.
Bin Laden is clearly a central and symbolic figure for al-Qaeda Central and the transnational jihadi-takfiri trend that it represents. However, it is critical not to exaggerate the impact of his killing. Non-Arab jihadi-insurgent organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and even al-Qaeda Central’s regional affiliates in North Africa, the western Sahel, Yemen, and Iraq are less likely than al-Qaeda Central itself to be strongly and adversely affected by the Saudi militant’s death. Though there are early reports that bin Laden may have continued to play a role in al-Qaeda Central operations, the extent of his operational importance to the organization remains unclear.
It should also be recognized that since September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda Central and its regional affiliates have cultivated an influential cadre of charismatic leaders and ideologues such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, ‘Atiyyatullah Abi ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Libi, Khalid bin ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Husaynan, and Anwar al-‘Awlaqi who have and will likely continue to serve as capable public voices of the transnational jihadi-takfiri trend. Country and region-specific insurgent movements such as the Afghan Taliban will continue their insurgencies as long as the raisons d’être remain. In short, careful perspective is needed in evaluating the effects of bin Laden’s death on the transnational jihadi-takfiri trend represented by al-Qaeda Central, which is not synonymous with more regional Islamist insurgencies such as that of the Afghan Taliban.
Christopher Anzalone is a doctoral student in the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University.
[Note to TomDispatch Readers: To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview accompanying my post below in which I discuss covert war and the killing of Osama bin Laden, click here, or download it to your iPod here. Those writing in to TomDispatch please note that I will probably be away Friday and Saturday. Tom]
As everybody not blind, deaf, and dumb knows by now, Osama bin Laden has been eliminated. Literally. By Navy Seals. Or as one of a crowd of revelers who appeared in front of the White House Sunday night put it on an impromptu sign riffing on The Wizard of Oz: “Ding, Dong, Bin Laden Is Dead.”
And wouldn’t it be easy if he had indeed been the Wicked Witch of the West and all we needed to do was click those ruby slippers three times, say “there’s no place like home,” and be back in Kansas. Or if this were V-J day and a sailor’s kiss said it all.
Unfortunately, in every way that matters for Americans, it’s an illusion that Osama bin Laden is dead. In every way that matters, he will fight on, barring a major Obama administration policy shift in Afghanistan, and it’s we who will ensure that he remains on the battlefield that George W. Bush’s administration once so grandiosely labeled the Global War on Terror.
Admittedly, the Arab world had largely left bin Laden in the dust even before he took that bullet to the head. There, the focus was on the Arab Spring, the massive, ongoing, largely nonviolent protests that have shaken the region and its autocrats to their roots. In that part of the world, his death is, as Tony Karon of Time Magazine has written, “little more than a historical footnote,” and his dreams are now essentially meaningless.
Consider it an insult to irony, but the world bin Laden really changed forever wasn’t in the Greater Middle East. It was here. Cheer his death, bury him at sea, don’t release any photos, and he’ll still carry on as a ghost as long as Washington continues to fight its deadly, disastrous wars in his old neighborhood.
If analogies to The Wizard of Oz were in order, bin Laden might better be compared to that film’s wizard rather than the wicked witch. After all, he was, in a sense, a small man behind a vast screen on which his frail frame took on, in the U.S., the hulking proportions of a supervillain, if not a rival superpower. In actuality, al-Qaeda, his organization, was, at best, a ragtag crew that, even in its heyday, even before it was embattled and on the run, had the most limited of operational capabilities. Yes, it could mount spectacular and spectacularly murderous actions, but only one of them every year or two.
Bin Laden was never “Hitler,” nor were his henchmen the Nazis, nor did they add up to Stalin and his minions, though sometimes they were billed as such. The nearest thing al-Qaeda had to a state was the impoverished, ravaged, Taliban-controlled part of Afghanistan where some of its “camps” were once sheltered. Even the money available to Bin Laden, while significant, wasn’t much to brag about, not on a superpower scale anyway. The 9/11 attacks were estimated to cost $400,000 to $500,000, which in superpower terms was pure chump change.
Despite the apocalyptic look of the destruction bin Laden’s followers caused in New York and at the Pentagon, he and his crew of killers represented a relatively modest, distinctly non-world-ending challenge to the U.S. And had the Bush administration focused the same energies on hunting him down that it put into invading and occupying Afghanistan and then Iraq, can there be any question that almost 10 years wouldn’t have passed before he died or, as will now never happen, was brought to trial?
It was our misfortune and Osama bin Laden’s good luck that Washington’s dreams were not those of a global policeman intent on bringing a criminal operation to justice, but of an imperial power whose leaders wanted to lock the oil heartlands of the planet into a Pax Americana for decades to come. So if you’re writing bin Laden’s obituary right now, describe him as a wizard who used the 9/11 attacks to magnify his meager powers many times over.
After all, while he only had the ability to launch major operations every couple of years, Washington — with almost unlimited amounts of money, weapons, and troops at its command — was capable of launching operations every day. In a sense, after 9/11, Bin Laden commanded Washington by taking possession of its deepest fears and desires, the way a bot takes over a computer, and turning them to his own ends.
It was he, thanks to 9/11, who insured that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan would be put into motion. It was he, thanks to 9/11, who also insured that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be launched. It was he, thanks to 9/11, who brought America’s Afghan war to Pakistan, and American aircraft, bombs, and missiles to Somalia andYemen to fight that Global War on Terror. And for the last near-decade, he did all this the way a Tai Chi master fights: using not his own minimal strength, but our massive destructive power to create the sort of mayhem in which he undoubtedly imagined that an organization like his could thrive.
Don’t be surprised, then, that in these last months or even years bin Laden seems to have been sequestered in a walled compound in a resort area just north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, doing next to nothing. Think of him as practicing the Tao of Terrorism. In fact, the less he did, the fewer operations he was capable of launching, the more the American military did for him in creating what collapsing Chinese dynasties used to call “chaos under heaven.”
Dead and Alive
As is now obvious, bin Laden’s greatest wizardry was performed on us, not on the Arab world, where the movements he spawned from Yemen to North Africa have proven remarkably peripheral and unimportant. He helped open us up to all the nightmares we could visit upon ourselves (and others) — from torture and the creation of an offshore archipelago of injustice to the locking downof our own American world, where we were to cower in terror, while lashing out militarily.
In many ways, he broke us not on 9/11 but in the months and years after. As a result, if we don’t have the sense to follow Senator Aiken’s advice, the wars we continue to fight with disastrous results will prove to be his monument, and our imperial graveyard (as Afghanistan has been for more than one empire in the past).
At a moment when the media and celebratory American crowds are suddenly bullish on U.S. military operations, we still have almost 100,000 American troops, 50,000 allied troops, startling numbers of armed mercenaries, and at least 400 military bases in Afghanistan almost 10 years on. All of this as part of an endless war against one man and his organization which, according to the CIA director, is supposed to have only 50 to 100 operatives in that country.
Now, he’s officially under the waves. In the Middle East, his idea of an all-encompassing future “caliphate” was the most ephemeral of fantasies. In a sense, though, his dominion was always here. He was our excuse and our demon. He possessed us.
When the celebrations and partying over his death fade, as they will no less quickly than did those for Britain’s royal wedding, we’ll once again be left with the tattered American world bin Laden willed us, and it will be easy to see just how paltry a thing this “victory,” his killing, is almost 10 years later.
For all the print devoted to the operation that took him out, all the talking heads chattering away, all the hosannas being lavished on American special ops forces, the president, his planners, and various intelligence outfits, this is hardly a glorious American moment. If anything, we should probably be in mourning for what we buried long before we had bin Laden’s body, for what we allowed him (and our own imperial greed) to goad us into doing to ourselves, and what, in the course of that, we did, in the name of fighting him, to others.
Those chants of “USA! USA!” on the announcement of his death were but faint echoes of the ones at Ground Zero on September 14, 2001, when President George W. Bush picked up a bullhornand promised “the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” That would be the beginning of a brief few years of soaring American hubris and fantasies of domination wilder than those of any caliphate-obsessed Islamic fundamentalist terrorist, and soon enough they would leave us high and dry in our present world of dismal unemployment figures, rotting infrastructure, rising gas prices, troubled treasury, and a people on the edge.
Unless we set aside the special ops assaults and the drone wars and take a chance, unless we’re willing to follow the example of all those nonviolent demonstrators across the Greater Middle East and begin a genuine and speedy withdrawal from the Af/Pak theater of operations, Osama bin Laden will never die.
On September 17, 2001, President Bush was asked whether he wanted bin Laden dead. He replied: “There’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said ‘wanted dead or alive.’” Dead or alive. Now, it turns out that there was a third option. Dead and alive.
The chance exists to put a stake through the heart of Osama bin Laden’s American legacy. After all, the man who officially started it all is theoretically gone. We could declare victory, Toto, and head for home. But why do I think that, on this score, the malign wizard is likely to win?
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books). To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses covert war and the killing of Osama bin Laden, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt