Wednesday, May 04, 2011

American Empire and the Killing of Osama bin Laden

I’m not sure the killing of Osama bin Laden was a good thing.  I find the acts he’s said to have masterminded to be horrific.  I also recognize that in some cases killing is necessary and even produces positive results, such as the necessary killing of someone to protect the lives of others.  So I neither have sympathy for the guy nor am I a pacifist.  But my gut reaction on the evening I learned bin Laden had been killed was disgust at the celebrations and concern for what his killing might actually mean for the future of my nation’s “War on Terrror.”

What bothered me most about the celebrations was the inappropriate, and mostly childish, acting out.  The images I saw, particularly outside the White House, of an overwhelmingly young, white crowd waving American flags around as if they were at a pep rally; and the fact that the corporate media and most politicians saw these celebrations as appropriate and even moving, made me fear more for the future than a living bin Laden ever did.  They demonstrated a boost to American nationalism - at least that’s the way it appeared that evening and in the days following - the kind of sentiment that fuels the killing of millions around the world by American imperialism.

And the high-fives were bipartisan.  Some Democrats have been trying to recover their manhood ever since Michael Dukakis rode that tank back in 1988, and this supposed victory by a Democratic president certainly helped.  The chest thumping from these liberals (usually men, usually white - see Chris Mathews or Ed Schultz from liberal network MSNBC), with their inferiority complexes, was intense after the targeted killing of bin Laden.  

What will the opposition do?  The chance that Republicans will cede that ground to the Democrats, cut defense spending and focus on domestic issues, is slim to none.  It is far more likely they will find a way to outdo their corporate-funded counterparts.  Boots on the ground in Libya?  Maybe take on North Korea?  Definitely no draw down in our current escapades though.

No doubt some would relish that, but I’m not as concerned with those folks.  They are a lost cause, at least for now.

There is another group of people, some political allies, who argue that celebration is wrong, but the world is a better place without bin Laden.  Maybe.  We would absolutely have been better off had we never trained and funded him and his Mujahideen decades ago, chasing other demons in the region; but had bin Laden just rotted away in hiding while Arab revolutions made him more and more irrelevant, I would not have cared; and maybe that would have been better.  Better because of the real possibility that this killing will embolden American imperialism and fuel an expansion of the “War on Terror.”

It didn’t take long after bin Laden was shot and dumped in the ocean for both Republicans and Democrats to start the saber rattling about Pakistan - a nuclear power mind you.  It didn’t take long for right-wingers to call the killing a vindication of water boarding.  It didn’t take long for the FBI to announce it was stepping up its counter-terrorism efforts in case a “lone wolf” decided to seek revenge or strike out of frustration.

Then there is the problem of how he was killed.  There is good reason to question whether the action was legal and whether there was ever an intent to capture Bin Laden as opposed to merely execute him on the spot.  For those good people who were uneasy about the celebrations but who nonetheless think bin Laden’s killing was positive, the precedent of his killing (as we continue to cobble together facts and clarify the initial story told by official sources) should be cause of serious concern.  Why wouldn’t the U.S. use his killing as a perfectly good justification for other targeted executions?  Why not go after Ahmadinejad in Iran or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela?

If there was solid evidence that bin Laden’s death would lead to less war or less terrorism, maybe even a little less human suffering, I might be more hopeful.  But since when has a victory by a brutal empire ever led to a pulling back or a humble reexamination of foreign policy?  The only time that ever happened in the United States was following a powerful anti-war movement and a military defeat in Southeast Asia.  But the hawks regrouped and American Empire is back out on multiple battlefields.  I just don’t think a perceived victory in their War of Terror is going to make them reconsider their plans.