Like most of us, I’ve been reading responses to the killing of Osama Bin Laden by order of President Obama to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the black ops forces that ultimately took his life. I found the following four comments especially compelling and thought-provoking. Below are excerpts, but, if you have time, I encourage reading the entire post using the links provided:
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.
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.
From Matthew Hoh, ex-State Department official, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and the director of the “Afghanistan Study Group. Hoh has served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He is interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!
What I think this means for the United States is, this gives closure on 9/11. Ten years after that horrible event, we finally have some degree of closure. We’ve the bogeyman, if you will, who caused all this. So, I think this gives the American public closure on 9/11. And what that—what I hope that translates into is provides some backbone for members of Congress who do not want to engage on the war in Afghanistan. I think 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? I think we have to have a real serious conversation on where our war on terror has taken this country, and I think we need to reflect on the real threat. As Josh just stated, Osama bin Laden was more of a figurehead or a spiritual leader than any kind of operational leader. And if we have—so we need to understand al-Qaeda as they exist, as some form of a syndicate that operates through individuals and small cells worldwide that won’t be affected by putting hundreds of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan, but is affected by good intelligence work, good police work, and good work by our Special Operations forces in conjunction with foreign governments. So I think this is a very good time for some real somber and rational reflection on the last 10 years.
From Tom Hayden, author, activist, and contributor to the Nation magazine. Hayden has played an active role in American politics and history for over three decades, beginning with the student, civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. The following excerpt is from the Nation:
If bin Laden is gone, and his network heavily damaged, what is left of the terrorist threat to our national security that justifies so many trillions of dollars and costs in thousands of lives? Because of a fabricated fear of bin Laden, we invaded Iraq. The invasion of Afghanistan was to deny sanctuaries to bin Laden and Al Qaeda. In response, Al Qaeda moved into Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed tonight. So why are the Taliban in Afghanistan a threat to the security of the United States with bin Laden gone? Surely there are terrorist cells with lethal capacity scattered around the world, surely there might be revenge attacks, but there is hardly a centralized conspiratorial threat that justifies the deployment of hundreds of thousands of American troops.
Now we shall learn whether there is another agenda that keeps 150,000 American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.