President Obama dramatically informed the nation last night that Osama Bin Laden had been murdered by American mercenaries. He didn’t say it quite that way, but that’s how it went down. Obama, a former law professor, proclaimed that “justice has been done”. There was no capture, trial, nor judgment. According to reports, there was just summary execution, followed by burial at sea. And Obama calls that justice? Is that what he was teaching those constitutional law freshman at Chicago?
Of course, the blood-thirsty masses rejoiced as if this were some sort of victory for the US, from the New York Times:
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.” Throughout downtown Washington, drivers honked horns deep into the night.
This has quite a political sheen to it. Last week Obama releases his birth certificate to prove his bona fides as a citizen; this week, he launches a raid to assassinate a resident in an erstwhile sovereign nation that he knows will bring him accolades from the crowd that doubted his birth certificate. Are his poll numbers really that bad?
No surprise here, the Texas Ranger-wannabe previous President W Bush had nothing but good things to say about the execution:
“this momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.”
But does it mark a victory for America? Will it enhance America’s peace and security? Has justice been done? Of course not. This is not justice, it is retribution. It made a martyr out of what had become only a figurehead to Al Qaeda, thereby energizing a movement that had every reason to die. Radical Islam was being crowded out by its mainstream cousins fomenting revolts across Arabia. Now Al Qaeda has a renewed purpose–its own retribution for this execution-style slaying of its symbolic leader. If the aim was enhancing America’s peace and security, doing this–in this manner–did not help in the least.
If instead, the aim was to score political points with a blood-thirsty mob, then it was exceedingly effective. If instead, the aim was to multiply the danger posed by what had become a loose-knit, rag-tag terrorist organization, then too, it was exceedingly effective. If instead, the aim was to revivify what had become a moribund foe, it was, again, exceedingly effective. If instead, the aim was to ultimately create the continued justification for barbaric behavior by these uber-militarized United States of America, it was exceedingly effective on that accord as well. Don’t listen to words in discerning intent. Listen to actions and their results, which in this case tells that the killing was a politically-motivated assassination intended to revive Al Qaeda in order to justify our continued imperialistic imperatives in the Near and Middle East.
Both Obama and his predecessor have proclaimed themselves Christian. Yet one of Christ’s most remarkable teachings was to abolish the Old Testament “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth” justice. He said that “if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). What neither Obama, nor Bush, nor very many of the proclaimed Christians quite get, is how this apparently meek stance against physical violence is actually a place of redeeming power. When the other cheek is turned, the impetus for action is back on the attacker. What seems like humiliation is actually exerting a powerful level of control over the attacker through tapping the ultimate source of all power–control over one’s own actions and emotions.
The gravest injury the US could have inflicted on Al Qaeda would have been to ignore them, and most of all, to ignore their symbolic leader. As incredibly successful as were the 9-11 attacks (considering their simplicity), they were nothing more signficant to the existential continuation of the US than the bite of a flea is to a lion. Yet the US, indulging its emotions as is the province of only the fantastically rich, allowed the attack to drag it into a decade-old war with no end in sight. It allowed the attack to provoke the US into killing the symbolic leader of the movement, just as the movement was about die of its own accord. It allowed the attack to provoke the US into baring its teeth and claws against Pakistan, a putative ally. It’s as if the flea that bit the lion transmitted a terrible, festering disease that constantly nibbled away the edges of its soul. In a robust ethical system, the right thing is also the smart thing. If these Christian presidents understood only a little bit of the claimed basis for their ethics, they could maybe occasionally stumble upon doing the smart thing. As it stands, their decisions regarding Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been both strategically stupid and morally wrong.
Bin Laden’s body was purportedly buried at sea in order to prevent the outrage that would have accompanied its mishandling, or so the US security services say. It also conveniently prevents anyone from disproving that Bin Laden was the one actually murdered. It certainly doesn’t curtail the enhancement to martyrdom that the execution provided to Mr. Bin Laden.
Alas, this is just another disgusting and disturbing episode in the four hundred year history of British cum American imperialism. In this little corner of the empire, the US took over in Iraq where the British left off, leading to US military forces occupying Saudi Arabia; which in turn, led to the attacks on 9-11; in turn leading to the war and occupation of Afghanistan, and now finally, a rendition, but only of a body, out of Pakistan.
Albert Jay Nock was right. Mankind is not capable of civilization. We have ever been and will always be a barbaric species. That the barbarity is now more frequently accomplished at the collective, rather than the individual level, makes it no less repugnant, nor any less indicative of the depravity beating in the heart of the human animal.