Barbarians (Osama bin Laden is dead, take 1)

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

It’s so hard to separate all of the threads in the warp and weft of history. A Saudi prince is reared in the lap of luxury. At first, he is fiercely nationalistic but also proud of his people and his religion and his culture. This pride is easily manipulated to draw him into battle in a foreign country to battle the communist foe in the employ of the capitalist one.

Years later, he will take up arms against his former employer for the crime of building bases in his homeland. He was purported to have used his formidable financial resources to fund attacks against this same former employer but, with time, any attack against this employer was pinned on the prince and he was only too happy to add fuel to the fire and take the blame. It built his power and his myth, which were clearly not unimportant to him.

It was strange that he should have so much money yet still choose to pull the levers of an international terror organization from a cave, but that was the story he promulgated and which was entered into the book of history. Despite being loosely organized at best, ever-greater attacks were ascribed to his organization and it was even given a name by his enemy, which he happily accepted. He reveled in the fact that he was seen to be at the center of a web of terrorist influence that spanned the globe. That he did this from a shattered country with 18-century technology seemed hardly feasible but that hindered the myth not in the least.

He organized and funded a lucky-punch attack on his former employer, which caused a tremendous amount of psychic damage to a society completely unaccustomed to such pain and which reacted poorly to it. The reaction was swift and merciless with vast numbers of troops and enormous treasure bent to the purported capture of the prince.

Despite no clear goal, the war escalated and drifted to other countries and the prince was never captured. The former employer drained much of its military might and treasure—and all of its goodwill—in this seemingly fruitless endeavor, which the prince quickly claimed to have been his goal all along.

And now, long after anyone stopped caring about the prince and long after anyone could have reasonably claimed that he had any influence on world events anymore—simply because the concept had become just too laughable for enough people to swallow—he has been not only captured but killed.

So there was room for only one more headline in the prince’s life: his death. And, as luck would have it, it was the president of the former employer—himself recently proven to actually be a citizen and capable of holding the office which he had inhabited for over two years—who would be able to claim credit for the kill. All of the emotion and pain of those days just after the inconceivable attack came crashing back and was quickly channeled into a glorification of the prince’s death which doubtless would have pleased him. He would likely have grinned to see his enemy reduced not only in military might or treasure but also in morality, finally showing itself to be just as barbaric as the prince himself. The enemy was not only killing—it had been doing so unconscionably for decades—but now openly reveled in it, just as it accused its enemies of doing. This is, of course, wrong, because it is not the prince who controls the book of history but the victor.

This is part of the story of Osama bin Laden and the Global War on Terror and the war against Islam and the story of the beleaguered West defending itself against the privations of Jihadist warriors bent on its destruction.

Bin Laden has, apparently, been killed by a Navy Seal team which penetrated deep into Pakistan to find him and kill him. The official statement said there was a firefight and that he was killed but did not mention that capture was the goal: assassination was quite clearly the goal. His body was photographed and the body dumped at sea. The official reason for doing this was to prevent his followers from establishing a pilgrimage site at his place of burial.

He was never tried, no evidence was ever brought against him (there were his unofficial confessions perhaps). He was extrajudicially killed and his body was unceremoniously dumped into the ocean, likely against the wishes of his family and the tenets of his religion.

The U.S. is so far off the reservation on this one that it can’t even see the Geneva Conventions from where it is. Were the tables turned and a U.S. Citizen treated in this way, there would be yet another global jihad declared against the Muslim world until the desire for revenge had been sated. Such hypocrisy is, as ever, invisible to almost all.

That this all happened under Barack Obama, the supposed scholar of a president, the left-leaning socialist peacenik of a president, is all the more indicative that there is really no hope for the U.S. to ever again earn its reputation for being the good guy. Those paying attention would say that Guantànamo or near-constant drone attacks had already obviated that outcome and they would be right. That Americans celebrate bin Laden’s death and castigate fellow citizens that fail to is likewise depressing, though hardly surprising. “With us or against us” was not a Bush invention; it’s a succinct description of the level of intellectualism in America.

As to whether the whole story is true? Should we believe the U.S. government when it says it captured, killed and disposed of bin Laden? As an anonymous Moroccan posted: “Do you think there was ever really a real person named Osama Bin Laden?” One single person who embodied so much evil—an evil that could so easily be extinguished? One single organization to which so much evil is so easily ascribed?

It is always hard to doubt that which you want so desperately to believe. But it’s also very easy to dismiss a doubter as a conspiracy theorist. The evidence—or lack thereof—must be the guiding principle here. Below is the text of a comment I wrote in response to this argument.

There’s a lot of room between swallowing the news wholesale—much in evidence on this greatest of all days. *cough*—and birther-level paranoia. Alas for the US, history – for those who choose to learn it or remember it – has not earned it a free pass in such situations. The Gulf of Tonkin, recently proven to have been faked, is just one situation in which believing the US side of the story ended in horror. There are doubtless many others laying a few decades and an FOA request away in our future.

That’s why I feel that a healthy skepticism is called for. The current story of “we got ‘im, here’s a blurry picture and oh BTW we dumped the body at sea so there would be no pilgrimage site” would be shaky even if the – well I was going to say the Pope, but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish – at any rate, imagine if there were some entity that could be trusted with that story; the U.S. administration is not that entity.

I would have thought that the pilgrimage site would have been a perfect honeypot for picking up Al Qaeda lackies. So we’re expected to believe that the U.S. killed bin Laden but thought it better to avoid luring Al Qaeda members into the open? While at the same time leaving the door open to doubt among even those who are aching for a reason to believe the administration? Could they really be that incompetent? Maybe I’m missing something though, I haven’t really given it much thought.

There is also the uncomfortable issue of what this says about the sense of justice of a nation – as represented by a Constitutional lawyer of a President – defined as seeking and destroying foreign nationals in other foreign countries and then dumping the body, all without a trial or presentation of evidence (or consideration of burial preference). I know that this is highly controversial as regards bin Laden because everyone just KNOWS he’s guilty, but that’s not how we – the non-barbarians for those in the audience who’ve lost the thread – are supposed to do things. We’re not supposed to celebrate extrajudicial murder because we’re supposed to be the good guys.

This is not to say that I’m naive enough to have expected anything different, but only to note that I’m still sometimes shocked at the sheer gusto with which we gallop down the primrose path.