Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Honoring a Fallen Enemy: on the Death of Osama Bin Laden

On the day of my 46th birthday Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by a team of Navy SEALs. My wife and I were both in New York on the morning of September 11, 2001: for months afterward we lived with the stench from the smoking charnel pit that used to be the World Trade Center.  I would be remiss if I did not say something about the man who had such an impact on our city.

I shed no tears for bin Laden's death: he has left behind many others who will mourn for him.  I will not chide those who took to the streets or to the Internet to celebrate his demise: there is no shame in celebrating a hard-won victory in a long and bloody war.  Instead I offer Osama bin Laden the tribute due to any valiant enemy who died fighting for his cause.

This may seem distasteful, unpatriotic, even blasphemous.  But if you see bin Laden as a monster who has finally been slain, you are likely to believe this fairy tale has come to its happy ending.  In recognizing his accomplishments, you will see the mark he has left on our country and our culture - a mark which is far deeper and uglier than the open sore which remains at Ground Zero.

In September of 2002 bin Laden issued a letter to America which explained his motivations quite clearly.
The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq. These tax dollars are given to Israel for it to continue to attack us and penetrate our lands. So the American people are the ones who fund the attacks against us, and they are the ones who oversee the expenditure of these monies in the way they wish, through their elected candidates.
We have supported and continue to support some of the world's most repressive dictators in the name of "national security." American-made tanks and machine guns have been used against peaceful Bahraini protestors.  Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, perhaps as many as 900,000, have been killed and countless more injured thanks to our efforts to free them from a dictator we once provided with funding and weaponry. We supported Hosni Mubarak's repressive kleptocracy and the murderous Shah of Iran because we feared the rise of a freely-elected Islamic government.

After the September 11 attacks, we openly admitted to using waterboarding and other forms of torture and declared that we need not follow the Geneva convention when dealing with terrorists. Our Patriot Act created a "surveillance society" and cast aside long-cherished protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.  In the name of protecting ourselves against another 9/11, we began harassing "eco-terrorists" and left-wing websites.  And we increased our support of brutal dictators throughout Central Asia and the Middle East, thereby garnering the resentment of their subjects for generations to come.

It is comforting to think bin Laden and his compatriots hated us because they hate our ideals of freedom. The uncomfortable truth is that they hate us because we have betrayed those ideals in our foreign and domestic policy.  And until we recognize that, we can only expect more Osama bin Ladens to follow. Only when we have extricated ourselves from the various wars and reaffirmed our commitment to true liberty and freedom will we have a chance of defeating him and the movement he spawned.

You are beyond my judgment now, Osama. You are gone to a place where my scorn and my praise are equally meaningless.  It is for the Gods to determine whether you are to be elevated or damned: I leave that judgment to Them.  Much as I may loathe your version of Sharia, I cannot dispute your success in promoting it. All I can do is hope that one day we can heal the injuries you inflicted on me, on my country and on my world.


nutty professor said...

Sometimes I wonder if the Haitian loa, particularly those who are mythologized as resistance warriors and heroes from one of the most devastatingly violent of revolutionary wars, would be conceived as terrorists by others in another place and time. How might the gods judge those most "valiant enemies?"

Kenaz Filan said...

The Haitian revolutionaries were definitely the al-Qaeda of their day. Slaveholders throughout the New World lived in fear and trembling of a similar uprising and demonized Haitians as bloodthirsty savages.

A good/evil view of history is seductive, especially when you put yourself on the good side. It's especially tempting in a situation like 9/11 where a lot of innocent people wound up dead thanks to a hostile ideology. But it only serves to muddy the waters and keep us from avoiding repeat performances.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me that feels slightly uncomfortable about a man being murdered in cold blood in front of his wife and then his body tipped into the sea, with not the merest even suggestion of a court trial to determine his guilt, let alone a decent funeral, and all to get a president, whose ratings are slumping, in with a better chance of re-election? His murder will not stop Al Queda, the design of which is purpose built to survive the death of any one person. Instead, they have made Bin Laden a martyr, and there will be many many angry young men out to avenge his martyrdom.

Anonymous said...

Ishtar Babilu Dingir Ishtar Babilu Dingir
Ishtar Babilu Dingir

There is such a thing as the Geneva Convention ~ and this is not about whether or not Bin Laden would have honoured the Geneva Convention because this is not about who he is or was, but about who we are. Every man is entitled to the rule of the law and a fair trial ~ otherwise we will quickly descend to the barbaric. Today they're topping Bin Laden, but tomorrow, it could be you.

Senko said...

A most excellent reflection indeed!



Lonnie said...

That is an excellent reflection, Kenaz. It can be difficult to speak the truth, especially when events like this fire up a sense of nationalism in people. You have my respect for bravely stating the unpopular view.

Eldritch said...

This a terrible and a naive entry in an otherwise excellent blog. The idea that A-Q was simply a reaction to US foreign policy and alleged atrocities against Muslims is absurd; if that were the case why were over 80% of A-Q's victims Muslim? Why do they support Indonesia on the Timor question? Like most saudis A-Q and bin laden didn't care about Palestine, according to Arafat they "never tried to help us" saudis generally look down on palestinians.

" Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, perhaps as many as 900,000"

Utter nonsense, Fred Kaplan - a critic of the war - debunked 100,000 plus numbers, wikileaks shows that the total civilians killed by all sides is under 67,000. Most Afghanistan civilians were killed by the taliban and the US saved the hazaras from genocide; which brings to mind a question, if these guys are just stewing with Chomskyite rage why the program of a genocide for a peaceful minority? That doesn't fit in with counterpunch rants so its ignored.


"The story went on to point out that the Taliban was culpable for "more than three-fourths of all civilian casualties"


" The policy of the Taliban is to
exterminate the Hazaras"

Maulawi Mohammed Hanif, Taliban
Announcing their policy to a crowd of 300
people summoned to a mosque [after killing
15,000 Hazaras people in a day]

"It is comforting to think bin Laden and his compatriots hated us because they hate our ideals of freedom."

It's more accurate to say that A-Q hates us because the US is a main obstacle to a wahabbi caliphate.

"The uncomfortable truth is that they hate us because we have betrayed those ideals in our foreign and domestic policy."

As I have shown that simply isn't true and your comment implies they love those ideals, very repulsive.


Eldritch said...

Also the idea that Hatian revolutionaries are the equivalent of A-Q is simply an insult; the differences couldn't be anymore vast, they fought against slavery, A-Q fought for slavery.

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