Monday, May 2, 2011

The death of Osama bin Laden

So, after nearly ten years, Osama bin Laden is finally dead. An elite team of Navy Seals, apparently, attacked bin Laden's compound, killing him and grabbing the body.

He hadn't been living in a cave, after all. He was in Abbottabad, only 62 miles from Pakistan's capitol, in a mansion, just a few hundred yards from the Pakistan Military Academy.

So why couldn't we have done this in the first place? Note that Barack Obama didn't declare war on Pakistan. We didn't invade the country, getting mired in another endless war. No, we just took out the man we were after.

Better yet, why didn't we consider 9/11 to be a criminal act, just like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995? When Timothy McVeigh attacked us, President Clinton didn't declare war on Christianity. He didn't invade Canada. It was a criminal act, so we went after the criminals responsible. And we got them.

But in 2001, we had right-wing Republican loons in the White House. Chickenhawks nearly to a man (and woman), they were eager to wage war - sorry, eager to watch someone else wage war on their behalf. President Bush was eager to play Commander-in-Chief, and he even got to play with real soldiers! What fun!

So instead of treating this as a crime, they decided to wage war. And instead of finding and taking out Osama bin Laden, they invaded Afghanistan. Nearly ten years later, America is still stuck there. Well, we broke it, so we own it, huh?

Afghanistan wasn't our responsibility until we conquered it. But now we've given those people hope. Now, we've got little girls going to school - and continuing to go to school even after getting acid thrown in their faces! What do we tell them, "Oops, my bad"?

Of course, waging war didn't get us any closer to killing or capturing Osama bin Laden, which was, you know, supposedly the whole point, to get the guy responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Still, we had the opportunity to really make a difference. The Taliban was in a shambles, and we had the people of Afghanistan behind us. It was still a bad idea, but we really could have won this thing.

But after the initial excitement, Afghanistan turned out to be boring. We couldn't even use our fancy high-tech weapons, so what good was it? And nation-building is a lot less fun than nation-destroying, at least for right-wing Chickenhawks. So they ignored Afghanistan, turning their attention to something much more fun.

Iraq did have good targets for our high-tech weapons. Plus, even better, it had oil! Ooo, how exciting was that? Of course, Iraq didn't have anything to do with 9/11, even remotely (note that the attacks were actually planned and carried out by Saudi Arabians). Iraq hadn't attacked us, and it was no threat to us at all. In fact, Saddam Hussein was actually the sworn enemy of al Qaeda.

Oh, but all that lovely, lovely oil! This war would "pay for itself." Really, how can you possibly turn down a free war? And this would be lots more fun than that boring Afghanistan! There'd be all these cool explosions. And Bush would be able to prance around in a flight suit under a "Mission Accomplished" banner. Heck, he'd be almost certain to get re-elected (and if not, well, there's always the Supreme Court).

And so Republican chickenhawks took us into another war, this one not even remotely connected to killing or capturing Osama bin Laden. And all this "free war" cost us was the lives of thousands of young American soldiers, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars. And that's just so far.

Meanwhile, ignoring Afghanistan turned around our victory there. Starving Afghanistan, in order to send troops and equipment into Iraq, let the Taliban regroup. And the Afghans have long since wearied of unending war. Well, we let an opportunity drift away, and it's never coming back. We blew it.

And none of this got us any closer to getting Osama bin Laden. Remember? That was supposed to be the whole point. Yeah, we captured and killed Saddam Hussein, but he never attacked us. He was never any threat to us. And he certainly had nothing to do with 9/11. Furthermore, removing Saddam Hussein was probably the biggest gift we could ever have given to Iran. Remember them? The religious nuts in charge of that country don't like us, either.

All this was easily as big a failure of right-wing Republican policies as causing the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. And it was an even bigger failure than cutting taxes on the rich (which was also supposed to "pay for itself") to give us record-breaking budget deficits. The others were big, but this was a huge, huge blunder.

Well, after eight years of complete and utter disaster, with basically every Republican policy demonstrably proven to be an abject failure, George W. Bush finally left office, turning all of their horrible messes over to Barack Obama and the Democrats to clean up.

Oh, but Obama is a scary, scary guy. Just look at him. He doesn't look like any of our other presidents. He's one of "them," not one of "us." He's not a "real American." He probably wasn't even born here, or maybe he was one of those "anchor babies," destined to tear us down from the inside. I mean, just look at him. Does he look like a real American? His birth certificate is probably a forgery. And he's probably a secret Muslim. For God's sake, just look at him!

And those Democrats are all pansies, anyway. They're all socialists, communists, even liberals! They'll just immediately surrender everything in our beloved "war on terror." They'll appease the terrorists. Heck, they'll probably run away screaming like little girls. They'll turn the whole country over to Sharia law - or, worse yet, to "the blacks."

Er, but this socialist, Muslim, illegal alien President has just killed Osama bin Laden. You still remember bin Laden, right? Perhaps 9/11 rings a bell? Admittedly, Obama did it in a really pansy way, without even nuking Pakistan. But still...

No, this won't stop anything. I've already seen the right-wing conspiracy theorists working on it. You see, Osama bin Laden isn't really dead. He's probably sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom right this minute. That's why they got rid of the body, so no one would know the truth.

Heh, heh. I'm not kidding. I've already seen comments suggesting these things (well, not the Lincoln bedroom part, but give it time). The fact is, Obama could put bin Laden's head on a pike and stick it on the White House lawn, and it still wouldn't stop the loons. The only way Barack Obama is going to be accepted by Tea Party types is if he paints himself white, changes his name to "Pat Boone" (or maybe "Reince Priebus"?), joins the GOP, and gets a job at Fox "News."

Still, for the handful of us Americans who still seem to be sane, can we just think about this for a minute? I'm very happy we got Osama bin Laden. And no, he's not burning in hell, he's just dead. But that's good enough. Or if it isn't, it's all we're going to get.

But can we just stop to think about how we blew this in 2001? Can we acknowledge what a huge mistake it was to go to war because of the criminal act of a handful of religious nuts? Can we finally recognize that that didn't even get us what we supposedly wanted, the capture or death of this particular criminal? And can we see what a mess it did give us, a mess we're still struggling to contain?

From the very beginning, we made the completely wrong response to 9/11. Our mistakes have given us nothing but grief. Can we at least acknowledge that now, while we're still patting ourselves on the back? Please?


Anthony G Williams said...

I agree with you completely, Bill. I recall posting on a discussion forum, when Bush was planning the attack on Afghanistan, that the right response would be an intelligence-led special forces operation to kill OBL and clean up the terrorist training camps. No good ever came of invading Afghanistan, as the Russians discovered most recently.

Then when Bush was planning to invade Iraq I had a much longer string of objections which I also posted (on a US forum which didn't have much sympathy for my views!):

1. Saddam was no threat to US or UK interests, only to his immediate neighbours.

2. Iraq was being monitored closely anyway, with US planes frequently overflying it.

3. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 or other Islamist terrorist attacks - he was hated by the Islamists for his secular policies.

4. Attacking Iraq was unjustified because the UN operation to search for WMDs had not completed its work - and hadn't discovered any so far.

5. Attacking Iraq would lose a huge amount of the international sympathy and support that the USA had gained after 9/11.

6. Attacking Iraq would take the USA's attention away from Afghanistan, whereas we should be trying to support and build up that country.

Unfortunately, the last two points have proved to be all too true. What a mess!

WCG said...

Tony, you're absolutely right. Even if you bought the official explanation of why we were attacking Iraq, that he had weapons of mass destruction, the UN was still investigating that.

So why not let them continue? After all, we were already fighting one war. Why not finish that one first, and let the UN continue with what it was doing in Iraq? And our "no fly" zone was already established there anyway. So why the rush?

Even at the time, it just seemed insane to me. And yes, so it's proved to be.

But even crazier than that, the right-wing Republicans who made all these horrific mistakes seem to be back on top politically again. We Americans seem to be getting dumber by the day.

Yeah, maybe we can't remember the Great Depression - maybe we slept through that in school. But we can't even remember the Bush administration? That's just completely nuts.

Anonymous said...

If a non-American attack US, he has to be killed.
If american attacked others, they were just mistakes and needs to be criticized.

What a bloody hypocrisy everywhere!

Muslim thinks that they have superior faith and americans are Kafir.

Americans think that only Americans life value more than anyone else.

What a bloody hypocrisy everywhere!

Anonymous said...

G.W Bush should also bi killed by raid and he should be dumped into ocean.

That's how to deliver justice to the people in general.

WCG said...

Nonsense, Anonymous. Yes, there's hypocrisy everywhere. Welcome to the human species! But it's also false to paint everyone with the same brush.

Osama bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and his organization has continued to kill innocent people - not all of them Americans, by any means - ever since. He had to be stopped, one way or another.

But you might have heard of Timothy McVeigh, who killed hundreds of innocent people in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995? He was an American, but it wasn't considered just a "mistake." And he was indeed executed for the crime.

Sometimes, Americans kill civilians in Afghanistan by mistake. That's war. It's always happened and it always will. It's certainly not something to shrug off, but it's still far different than deliberate murder. When Americans do that, it is addressed as a very serious crime.

There are plenty of real matters you can criticize, since there's no shortage of shameful incidents. But claiming that both sides are the same just trivializes the worst crimes.

Al-Qaeda deliberately targets innocent civilians. American military forces try to avoid killing innocent civilians, not always successfully. If you can't see the difference in that, there's no hope for you.

Re. your George W. Bush comment, that's so idiotic, I won't even waste my time replying (and this is from a guy who thinks Bush should probably be in jail right now).