I have listened with incredulity to the celebrations and claims that justice has been done. What did Barack Obama accomplish by killing Osama bin Laden? To say that justice has been done is to smugly ignore all the reasons the man had a following. Muslims have legitimate grievances against the corporate empire. President Obama thinks killing in the name of crushing al Qaeda is justified because they are at war with the corporate empire. Who has killed more innocent civilians in that war? Ah, that question is not up for discussion, because the answer does not speak well for US pretensions to the moral high ground.
As usual, whatever the empire does in what it calls self-defense is automatically moral and justified, whereas whatever an enemy does in response is automatically immoral and unjustifiable. This double standard may seem perfectly logical to apologists for the empire, but it cannot change the fact that this adventure violated Pakistani sovereignty and international law. Obama said during his triumphal announcement:
…we must also 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. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.
It is amazing how US politicians can say such things with a straight face. Is USA not directly responsible for over a million dead Iraqis, most of them civilians? If Afghanistan were not so sparsely populated, its death toll would probably be comparable. Rewriting history is a common practice of politicians. Obama may not want people to remember this, from one of his debates with John McCain:
Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. Here’s what I said.
And if John wants to disagree with this, he can let me know, that, if the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out.
The preliminary news reports state that Pakistan was not even informed of the plan. People may think this is nitpicking, or that informing Pakistan would have put the plan at risk, since bin Laden obviously had friends there and might have been tipped off, but Obama had made that qualification for a reason. If Pakistan were unable or unwilling to act, there might be a case that invading its territory is not a violation of international law. Otherwise there can be no case; the drone strikes and this operation were aggressive acts against a sovereign nation, extrajudicial killings without a trial that are supposedly acts of self-defense.
It might be arguable that this operation was self-defense, if it really would bring an end to the war on terror, but all it has done is make a martyr of bin Laden. A leaderless group that wants revenge for the death of their martyred leader may be far more dangerous than before. Bin Laden may end up being seen in retrospect as a restraining figure on the mayhem that is now likely to break out. Under his leadership, most of the attacks were planned and coordinated. Without a leader, al Qaeda may feel it is open season to attack Western targets in myriads of ways that do not require planning or coordination. Needless to say, negotiating an end to the conflict has been made well-nigh impossible. People may think it was impossible before, but if USA had given a hearing to the legitimate grievances of Muslims, and been willing to negotiate in good faith to deal with those grievances, there could have been a chance. Bin Laden used to be an ally, and if he could have been satisfied that USA was willing to change its ways, he could have persuaded his followers to put an end to this war. Now there is nobody of his stature to play that role.
Congratulations, President Obama. The war on terror was already unwinnable; now it may well be impossible to negotiate an end to it. The empire will fall, and by that time, history may not agree with his assessment that this was a good day for USA, or the world. Revenge may feel good, but it rarely if ever helps bring an end to a war. Why would the President not seize this moment to declare victory and an end to the war on terror? Because he recognizes the threat has not been lessened. What he refuses to recognize is that the threat will never be lessened by military means, so if this could not be an opportunity to end the war on terror, there will never be a better one. It is impossible for military might to crush a resistance movement with legitimate grievances, because the actions taken to crush it constantly create more enemies and fiercer enmity.
Obama hopes this killing will intimidate and demoralize these enemies. This is a peculiar failing of reasoning based on the fragile male ego, as if this great victory will teach these enemies a lesson about what will happen to those who dare mess with USA. Fear does not quell the will to exact revenge. There is plenty of racist reasoning as well swirling around the rationale of the war on terror. Kola Boof, a Sudanese womanist who claims to have been a mistress of Osama bin Laden, told an amazing tale of how her story was disbelieved and attacked by whites.
In 2002 when the London Guardian newspaper outed my forced sexual relationship with terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the American media initially had no problem with revelations that Somi kept an Egyptian-Sudanese mistress in Morocco in 1996. My birth name, Naima Bint Harith, summoned visions of an Arab-raised aristocrat who they assumed would look like Cher. When they found out I was not only Black—but looked fully Black—and that I’d been adopted and raised by Black Americans in the United States and returned as an adult to North Africa as a model-actress, they immediately announced that I was less attractive than Prince Charles’ mistress Camilla Parker Bowles or President Clinton’s mistress Monica Lewinsky and that it couldn’t possibly be true.
Though I was featured in a two-part interview with MSNBC where I was billed as “Former Mistress of Osama Bin Laden,” and not alleged-former mistress, and was allowed to tell my story in my own words—Peter Bergen, supposedly the world’s preeminent Bin Laden expert, insisted I was making up the story and other American experts claimed that the billionaire “bin ladin” family had an upper class etiquette that would not allow an “overtly religious non-sexual” Arab Muslim Osama to have a Black mistress (yet two of Somi’s twenty-five children are black and his Syrian grandmother would be considered a Black woman in the United States). Connie Chung and her producers at CNN asked my lawyer point blank, “Why would a man of Bin Laden’s wealth and stature have a Black mistress?”
It was not without reason that bin Laden compared the war on terror to a Christian crusade. USA has no interest in understanding why he and his followers are willing to risk their lives to fight the empire. In the judgment of the empire, they are savages that must be crushed. There is no lack of racism underlying this war on terror. As half black, perhaps the President should know better, but whatever wisdom his mixed heritage may confer on him, he has suppressed it so well it might as well not exist.
Another example of racism was the claim that bin Laden was a coward, hiding behind one of his wives as a human shield. Reuters reported the White House has backed away from that story. One might wonder what was the purpose of spreading such a rumor. The spin machine never misses a chance to cast the enemies of empire as barbaric monsters.
Bin Laden resisted capture, using a woman thought to be one of his wives as a human shield as he fired back, several officials told reporters. Ultimately, he was shot in the head above the left eye and died almost immediately. (Reuters news service later reported that the White House was backing away from the story, with an unidentified official saying the woman was not his wife and was not used as a shield.)