So I promised on Twitter that I would comment on the big news from the weekend. Which, on the off-chance that you somehow missed it, is that after almost 10 years we finally managed to track down and murder Osama bin Laden. When President Obama made his announcement there was lots of images in the news of people around the country celebrating in the streets and chanting USA USA USA, including among the Arab population in Dearborn, Michigan.
I’m still not sure what it was we were supposed to be celebrating.
Sure a bad man who was, at least indirectly, responsible for the deaths of lots of Americans was finally assassinated. Many people said, including the President, that “justice had finally be served.” I disagree. Justice would’ve been to have captured him alive and put him on trial in New York City. Killing him is simple vengeance and vengeance is not something that should be celebrated. He wasn’t on the same scale as Hitler or Stalin, though you would be forgiven for thinking so given the reaction to his death.
It would’ve helped if this could have occurred 10 years ago. Say within months of the launch of the military campaign on Afghanistan. That was, after all, our reason for invading that country and starting that war to begin with. Or at least that’s what we were told at the time. Instead of quick and meaningful justice, Osama would be allowed to live free for another 10 years while he did everything he could to contribute to America’s downfall. He knew he couldn’t defeat us militarily and that was never his plan. Instead his goal was to do to us what he had done to the Soviets: Bleed us dry. And the Bush Administration was only too happy to help him with that plan.
President Bush, who had promised to hunt down and bring in Osama dead or alive, quickly lost interest in the whole pursuit of justice thing when he saw an opportunity to start another war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no immediate threat to the United States. Osama must’ve been very pleased with that decision. Not only did it take the heat off of him, but it helped him to realize his goals. He couldn’t have planned for a better way to drag America down. On top of providing Osama with an easy means of instigating trouble and forcing Americans to spend billions in Iraq, it also guaranteed that the effort in Afghanistan would be neglected prolonging the amount of time and money that would have to be spent there as well. We made it cheap and easy for Osama to weaken us and left him free to make new attempts at blowing shit up that would seem to be failures, but in reality forced us to add new layers of pointless security theater that cost billions to maintain while providing no real protection.
Remember the Republican’s oft repeated talking point that they “hate us for our freedoms”? If that’s true then why did we so readily give so many of those freedoms up as a result? Between the Bush warrantless wiretapping laws that can’t be challenged because of the “risk” to national security to the stupid bans on liquids and fingernail clippers on airplanes to the degrading naked body scanners or public molestation policies that are still in place under Obama. All of this despite the fact that the average American is still 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane. We are far less free today than we were on September 11th, 2001. And to what end? There hasn’t been a single terrorist plot that was foiled by these new security systems. All of the plots that were intercepted since 2001 used traditional intelligence gathering systems.
Worse than the loss of our freedoms is the loss of our national values. America had been a leader in the condemnation and prohibition of the use of torture only to decide that torture was exactly what we needed to prosecute the wars we had “preemptively” started. Not one scrap of useful information has ever been gleaned under the Bush torture programs, but that hasn’t stopped some folks for arguing for their continuance even today. In fact there is a false claim by those on the Right that torture provided the information needed for the death of Osama. A claim that is patently false. Those on the Right like to claim that waterboarding is no worse than the hazing that goes on in college fraternities even while those, on the Right or Left, who have undergone the technique to prove it’s “no big deal” come out of with their minds changed. It’s torture plain and simple.
Ten years on from 9/11 and we’re more polarized and divided than ever after having squandered a great deal of global good will that was given to us in the immediate aftermath of that terrible day. Our international reputation is heavily damaged and our credibility has never been more in question. We’ve been suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression and yet our spending on the Military is beyond consideration in the moves to reign in the mounting national debt. Sure, we’re not completely bankrupt just yet (at least not financially), but tell me how many of Osama’s goals weren’t realized, often by our own hands?
But hey, at least we killed him, right?