Obama and the End of Al-Qaeda

An American president, himself the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, has taken down notorious terrorist Usama Bin Laden. Despite being a Christian, Obama, it seems to me, had a personal stake in destroying someone who had defamed the religion of his birth father and his relatives. His 2007-2008 presidential campaign was in part about the need of the US to refocus on the threat from al-Qaeda. He said that the Bush administration had taken its eye off the ball by running off to Iraq to pursue an illegal war and neglecting the eastern front, from which the US had been attacked, and where riposting was legitimate in international law. Obama began threatening to act unilaterally against al-Qaeda in Pakistan in August 2007, during the early period of the Democratic primary.

Ironically, Obama had to admit that Pakistani intelligence helped the US develop the lead that allowed the US to close in on Bin Laden. So the operation was not unilateral, and young candidate Obama was too over-confident. The US story that the Pakistanis were not given prior notice of the operation is contradicted by the Pakistani news channel Geo, which says that Pakistani troops and plainsclothesmen helped cordon off the compound in Abbotabad. CNN is pointing out that US helicopters could not have flown so far into Pakistan from Afghanistan without tripping Pakistani radar. My guess is that the US agreed to shield the government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asaf Ali Zardari from al-Qaeda reprisals by putting out the story that the operation against Bin Laden was solely a US one. And it may be that suspect elements of the Pakistani elite, such as the Inter-Services Intelligence, were kept out the the loop because it was feared they might have ties to Bin Laden and might tip him off.

Usama Bin Laden was a violent product of the Cold War and the Age of Dictators in the Greater Middle East. He passed from the scene at a time when the dictators are falling or trying to avoid falling in the wake of a startling set of largely peaceful mass movements demanding greater democracy and greater social equity. Bin Laden dismissed parliamentary democracy, for which so many Tunisians and Egyptians yearn, as a man-made and fallible system of government, and advocated a return to the medieval Muslim caliphate (a combination of pope and emperor) instead. Only a tiny fringe of Muslims wants such a theocratic dictatorship. The masses who rose up this spring mainly spoke of “nation,” the “people,” “liberty” and “democracy,” all keywords toward which Bin Laden was utterly dismissive. The notorious terrorist turned to techniques of fear-mongering and mass murder to attain his goals in the belief that these methods were the only means by which the Secret Police States of the greater Middle East could be overturned.

Dr Wahid Abd-al-Majid, an adviser at the Al-Ahram Center for Political Studies, spoke to al-Arabiya on April 15 about al-Qaeda no. 2 leader (and now no. 1) Ayman al-Zawahiri’s dismissive statement that all the Egyptian uprising had produced was an untrustworthy military junta. Since Egypt is moving toward parliamentary elections, al-Zawahiri’s description is a caricature. Abd al-Majid, said, “Al-Zawahiri wanted to declare a stance on what is happening in Egypt, especially when he saw the end of the road for Al-Qa’ida and religious violence, or violence that hides behind religion, in Egypt, because what the Egyptians accomplished peacefully negates any need or justification for violence in Egypt. Al-Zawahiri dreamt of being the one who topples President Husni Mubarak, only for the president to be toppled by the youth in a peaceful and democratic revolution that has absolutely no connection to Al-Qa’ida’s long-held claims.” (USG Open Source Center translation).

The son of a Yemeni immigrant to Saudi Arabia who went from rags to riches by doing construction and engineering work for the Saudi royal family, Usama Bin Laden grew up one of dozens of sons of a billionaire, in an absolute monarchy which maintains that the holy Qur’an itself is its only constitution. It wasn’t a system that dealt well with rebelliousness or dissent.

Unlike most of the Bin Ladens, who are worldly business-people (a niece, Wafa, posed provocatively for GQ) Usama was known as a serious and religious young man. At university in Jeddah he probably came under the influence of Abdullah Azzam, a radical Muslim fundamentalist of Palestinian heritage.

The Palestine issue helped radicalize Bin Laden. He and his circle in Afghanistan were obsessed with the Israeli occupation of Islam’s third holiest site, Jerusalem, and gave one another sermons about what they saw as a modern crusade against Muslims in that city. The perfidy of successive British governments in conquering Palestine, agreeing to its becoming a Class A League of Nations Mandate (i.e. a nation-state in training), but at the same time giving Palestine away to the international Zionist movement, had resulted in the end in the ethnic cleansing of most Palestinians and their reduction to the status of stateless refugees. But the religious Usama seemed to care most of all about the 1967 Israeli military occupation of all of Jerusalem, including the Muslim holy site of the Dome of the Rock. Although Israel may have been a democracy for Israelis, it was a foreign military occupying power in the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and ruled there with an iron fist.

In 1978, young officers made a Communist coup in Afghanistan. By fall of 1979 the enterprise had turned unstable because of faction-fighting among the officers. In December of 1979 Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev, perhaps baited by the Carter administration, sent in Soviet troops and began a brutal 8-year occupation of among the least developed and most poverty-stricken countries in the world.

The Reagan administration and the Democratic Congress took the small Carter administration program that supported a Muslim insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan and vastly expanded it, ultimately to the tune of billions of dollars. Reagan also twisted the arm of Saudi King Fahd to match US expenditures. Seven major Afghan guerrilla groups were fostered and given CIA training in camps. The Soviets fought back viciously. In that decade, perhaps a million Afghans were killed, 3 million were displaced to Pakistan, 2 million were displaced to Iran, and 2 million were displaced inside Afghanistan. In a country of, at that time, perhaps 15 million persons. It was Apocalypse Now, Kabul version. The two opponents were not attractive. The Communist regime was a cruel dictatorship. The Mujahidin were a mix of tribal and religious forces, but some groups were radical fundamentalists, as with the Hizb-i Islami or Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, the most bloodthirsty of the Mujahidin. He got a lion’s share of the CIA money (he is today a die-hard opponent of the US whose men have killed many US troops in Afghanistan).

When Reagan convinced King Fahd to help get up a covert paramilitary to fight the Soviets (Reagan really liked private, unaccountable militias; he also backed them in Central America), Fahd had his ministers look around for a fundraiser who could get money from private sources in Saudi Arabia for the Arab volunteers to fight in Afghanistan. Usama Bin Laden was chosen, being a well-known socialite who also had a serious and religious side. Bin Laden jetted back and forth between the mosques of Saudi Arabia and the the Pakistani city of Peshawar, his headquarters in the struggle against the Soviets. The “Arab Afghans” who gathered around him may not have gotten direct CIA training for the most part, though some likely did, but they learned everything they needed to know about setting up cells and carrying out covert operations from the Afghans who had been through the CIA schools.

The Soviets completely withdrew from Afghanistan in late 1988 through early 1989. Soon thereafter, the Soviet bloc began collapsing.

Bin Laden was left without a task there in Afghanistan, and he returned to Jedda in Saudi Arabia. He gave a guest sermon at his mosque on the first Palestinian Intifada or uprising, and already had begun turning on his former ally, the United States, whom he blamed for enabling Israeli repression of the Palestinians. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Bin Laden suggested to King Fahd that he be allowed to gather together his old gang of Arab Afghans to push Saddam back out. King Fahd wisely rejected the idea of having a bunch of scruffy Mujahidin crawling all over his country. The crisis had been provoked by a Baathist president-for-life, Saddam Hussein, another dictator acting arbitrarily. That Fahd instead brought in non-Muslim Westerners to do the job stuck in Bin Laden’s craw. A couple of years later he went to the Sudan and began his career as a terrorist. Then the US pressured Sudan to expel him, and he went to Afghanistan. He initially hooked up with his old Mujahidin buddies, but he was introduced to Mulla Omar, leader of the Taliban, and ultimately became very close to him.

They were all dictatorships– the Soviet Union, the Communist government of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Sudan, and the Taliban. Usama learned to take the law into his own hands because he had no other way to effect change. He wanted to see the region’s dictatorship overthrown in favor of his renewed Islamic Caliphate. It was a crackpot, fringe, pipe dream, but he brought to the aspiration all the experiences and training he and his men had learned during the Reagan Jihad against the Soviets. Then he and his number two man, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, came to the conclusion that the reason they could not overthrow the governments of Egypt (Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship) and Saudi Arabia and so forth was that these were backed by the United States. They decided it had been a mistake to hit the “near enemy” first. They decided to hit the “far enemy” on American soil. Bin Laden thought that if only he could entice the US into the Middle East, he could do to it what he thought he had done to the Soviet Union.

Hence the horrific attacks on the US of September 11, 2001.

It was those attacks that created Informed Comment. I started it in spring of 2002 initially to cover al-Qaeda and to present analysis about how to defeat it. Like all Americans, I was personally devastated by September 11. I was depressed for a year. I felt it in distinctive ways because I had lived nearly 10 years in the Greater Middle East. Most of that time I was a student or, later on, academic researcher. But although I studied history, I was living in the present. I had been in Egypt in the late 1970s when Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad began becoming notorious. I lived in Pakistan off and on in the early 1980s and went up to Peshawar and talked with Mujahidin.

I supported the first phase of the Afghanistan War, which involved a light Western footprint in that country. There were 40 al-Qaeda training camps, which produced thousands of potential terrorists, and if they had not been destroyed they would have gone on manufacturing threats to the US. I discovered that there was a lot of good information on the Arabic internet about al-Qaeda, and I paraphrased the reports I thought significant. I began being invited to private security conferences in Washington, sponsored by think tanks at the request of government agencies, where the audience was typically inter-agency. There, I presented my analyses of al-Qaeda along with other academics and security experts. I hoped that the insights might be useful to State Department, Pentagon, CIA, DIA and other officials on the front lines of dismantling al-Qaeda. I had opposed the Vietnam War, something that had been painful for my father, who was a 20-year man in the army. But if the US government could benefit from my studies of al-Qaeda and other radical fringe movements trying to hurt Americans, I was just delighted.

(Just a note: I often challenged Washington orthodoxies, the honoraria were small, and I was only invited a few times a year, so the suggestion of some of my detractors that I sold out by doing these presentations is frankly silly. I just want my government to be as informed as it can be, and I’ll tell them the same things I tell the peace groups who also invite me to speak. If I had wanted to sell out, I could have formed a consultancy and purveyed the party line and made big bucks).

I was deeply dismayed when it became apparent that the Bush administration intended to use September 11 as a pretext to launch an illegal invasion of Iraq. I thought it was most unwise, and would be seen as an act of neo-imperialism and resisted. I told friends that if the UN Security Council voted against it, and Bush proceeded, I’d be out in the streets protesting. But then the UNSC never really was given a chance to vote, and Bush ran off to war. I prefer peace to war, but am not a pacifist. I don’t believe the use of military force is always wrong or counter-productive. I am from an army family after all. But I do believe that wars should be like abortion: rare and legal. The UN was established after the horrors of the Axis in WW II in an attempt to deploy collective security to stop the practice of aggressive wars of conquest and annexation. President Dwight Eisenhower invoked the UN Charter when he made Britain, France and Israel withdraw from Egypt in 1956-1957. By waging a war that was neither in self-defense nor authorized by the UNSC, in contravention of the UN Charter (a treaty to which the US is signatory), W. and Dick Cheney were throwing away the achievement of the founders of the UN, and returning us to the international jungle, where the strong fall upon the weak with no framework of law.

I was also dismayed by the propagandistic way the White House promoted its war on and then occupation of Iraq. They only had two speeds, progress and slow progress. A big bombing that killed hundreds was “slow progress.” Fantastic historical analogies were trotted out. The reality was obscured. Since I know Arabic, I read the multiplying Iraqi newspapers on the web, watched Arabic satellite t.v., developed correspondents in Iraq, and tried to describe the situation more realistically at this blog. Interestingly, I still got invited to Washington to speak to audiences of security and intelligence personnel. Then-senator Joe Biden asked me to testify on Iraq before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I even got invited to share my (pessimistic) views with the British foreign ministry, the French foreign ministry, the Japanese Institute of Middle East Economies, etc., etc. Not to mention a lot of correspondence with people in similar institutions in other countries.

What pained me most of all, aside from the sheer scale of destruction in Iraq set off by Bush’s illegal and ill-considered adventurism, was that the Iraq War clearly gave al-Qaeda an opening to grow and expand and recruit. I think if Bush had gone after Bin Laden as single-mindedly as Obama has, he would have gotten him, and could have rolled up al-Qaeda in 2002 or 2003. Instead, Bush’s occupation of a major Arab Muslim country kept a hornet’s nest buzzing against the US, Britain and other allies.

Now that Obama has eliminated the monster Usama Bin Laden and vindicated the capability of the United States to visit retribution on its dire enemies, he can do one other great good for this country abroad. He can get us out of Iraq altogether. The US military presence there is the fruit of a poisonous tree. It will always provoke Iraqi Muslim activists, whether Sunni or Shiite or secular nationalist. And it angers the whole Arab world.

The Arab Spring has demonstrated that the Arab masses yearn for liberty, not thuggish repression, for life, not death and destruction, for parliamentary democracy, not theocratic dictatorship. Bin Laden was already a dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War and the age of dictators in which a dissident such as he had no place in society and was shunted off to distant, frontier killing fields. The new generation of young Arabs in Egypt and Tunisia has a shot at a decent life. Obama has put the US on the right side of history in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya (where I see crowds for the first time in my life waving American flags). People might want a little help from a distance, but they don’t want to see Western troops deployed in fighting units on their soil.

If Obama can get us out of Iraq, and if he can use his good offices to keep the pressure on the Egyptian military to lighten up, and if he can support the likely UN declaration of a Palestinian state in September, the US will be in the most favorable position in the Arab world it has had since 1956. And he would go down in history as one of the great presidents. If he tries to stay in Iraq and he takes a stand against Palestine, he risks provoking further anti-American violence. He can be not just the president who killed Bin Laden, but the president who killed the pretexts for radical violence against the US. He can promote the waving of the American flag in major Arab cities. And that would be a defeat and humiliation for Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda more profound than any they could have dreamed.

103 Responses

  1. How about bringing to justice those who think that the death of 500,000+ Iraqis was a price worth paying?

    • Saddam Hussein has been brought to justice. Between the Iran-Iraq War, starving his people in the face of U.N. sanctions, and causing the U.S. to invade, he’s killed at least double that number.

      • Kip, William,

        Yonatan was not talking about Saddam but about the death toll in Iraq as a result of Gulf War I, the sanctions regime which resembled a medeivel siege, and the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. The latter 2 are directly the responsibility of the war party (the US and its clients). Two senior UN figures who were responsible for distributing aid in Iraq – Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck – resigned over what Halliday referred to as ‘genocide masquerading as policy’ (e.g. the sanctions regime).

        Its typical of people to try and fob off all responsibility of mass murder on tyrants that we initially supported with arms and diplomatic cover, and nobody does not recognize the horrific things that Saddam Hussein did (mostly with full US support in the 1980s). But to try and argue that the US/UK bear no responsibility for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis takes remarkable hubris. I’ll bet you two blame Viet Nam and Cambodia for the hundreds of thousands who were killed by US bombs in the 1960s and 1970s. At what point do you recognize the abhorrant, self-centred expansionist policies of the US for what they really are? That successive US governments have pursued policies aimed at (1) subjegating resources and assets of other countries, (2) nullification of alternatives to the free-market absolutist models of the Washington Consensus, and (3) outright expansionism? Policies in which there has been an industrial-sized body count?

        • Of course I know he meant the U.S. Government, Jeff, and my response counters his perception that we are to blame. The mess that resulted from Saddam’s rule was what brought on the suffering in Iraq. That was my point. It was Saddam who was ultimately responsible, and he was brought to justice for his acts, which included cruelty, much killing of his own people, perversion of the Oil-for-Food program that would have mitigated the sanctions on the Iraqi public, and any number of other perversions.

        • What sanctions thatlimited the amount of wheat Iraq could import, as well preventing the import of vaccines to Iraq.

        • I beg to differ, William. The fact is that the US/UK war party intentionally targeted the civilian infrastructure of Iraq in Gulf War I and then collectively punished the people for not disposing of the tyrant. The very fact that Halliday and von Sponeck were hypercritical of western policy and resigned on the basis of it should say it all. Both claimed that the regime pretty much complied with the distribution of goods, and this made the people of Iraq more dependent on him. But to argue that the US and UK are not culpable for the mass death under the sanctions regime shows a complete ignorance of history. Furthermore, Iraq had to fit three criteria for the second (and illegal) invasion. First, it had to be worth the trouble. Second it had to be defenseless. And third, there had to be way of portraying it is an imminent threat to the west. Nir Rosen, an historian with vast experience in the Middle East, described Iraq in 2008 as “destroyed, never to rise gain”. He went on to say that the situation in the country after being flattened by US bombs was worse than after it was sacked by the Mongols in the 13th century. More than half a million dead, 4 million internally displaced refugees. What a shining example of ‘humanitarian imperialism’, to coin the phrase of Belgian historian Jean Bricmont.

          Moreover, Saddam Hussein only became a “new Hitler” after he disobeyed – or perhaps misread – orders from Washington. For the previous decade, the US had cozied up to him, in full knowledge of his crimes. My bet is that the US would still be supporting SH had he not become uppity and unreliable from Washington’s perspective. Not much has changed – the US routinely supports despots and mass murderers as long as they remain compliant. Right now they are warming up again to Islam Karimov, the Uzbek leader who allegedly boils his political opponents to death. The list is long – Montt, Batista, Somosza, Mbutu, Suharto, Pinochet, Marcos and others in hall of infamy.

  2. Wonderful reflection, Juan, on the death of Bin-Landen, the history leading up to the event, and the possibilities for the future. Thanks!

  3. It would have been much more desirable to arrest Bin Laden and put him on trial.
    This is the rule of law. Without laws we are no better than the Bin Laden’s and terrorists.

    • Yes, it would’ve been better to arrest him, but it’s hard to arrest someone when they’re shooting back at you.

      • Kip, the reports that he shot back were apparently inaccurate early info; the latest and accurate info is that the operation was aimed more at kill than capture, and that Osama bin Laden neither reached for nor fired a gun.

        Chip Pitts

      • Why would you want to capture him? For a trial that would satisfy no one and only enhance the mythology?

        A stroke of brilliance I think to have the man simply vanish. No shrine, no endless media storm to elevate the myth during a trial. Nothing left but whispers and shadows. Machiavelli would be putting that one into the book.

        As for the claims that it enhances is stature as a martyr? Seriously? Those disposed to embrace this position would insist upon it regardless of the circumstances of death or capture. The lack of physical point of pilgrimage however, leaves no point to prostrate ones self upon the alter of revenge absent a long and swim to an ambiguous location.

    • What an excellent idea! We could have read him his Miranda rights and lawyered him up with a good defense, as if he had only committed armed robbery against a seven-eleven convenience store, rather than having committed the acts of war against the U.S. and around the world that he actually did. The fact is, he resisted and was rightly killed. And even if he had been captured, a military tribunal would have been the only appropriate venue for a trial. Fortunately, he was killed and buried at sea to avoid the spectacle of terrorists and various ideological perverts worshiping him as a martyr in U.S. custody. Good riddance.

      • Turns out the fact wasn’t that after all, William: he didn’t resist. And the burial at sea of course prompts much skepticism and actually enhances rather than diminishes the chances of his being deemed a martyr. But I don’t suppose that changes your view . . .

        • As the operational leader of an enemy in an ongoing conflict, Bin Laden was a legitimate target for kill or capture at any time. This was a military rather than police action, and the US had no obligation to negotiate a peaceful surrender prior to firing upon Bin Laden.

          link to csmonitor.com

          As for future conspiracy woo, there are photos, video, and DNA results, not that that will deter the woo-inclined.

          As for martyrdom, whatever. Burial at sea removes the possibility of a shrine being created of the gravesite. More the better.

        • Chiop,
          How is it that you know the facts? Are you giving us inside information or were you there?

        • Of course it does not change my view, Chip, because your statement does not match the facts. He not only reached for a weapon, but he (cowardly) used a woman as a shield.
          And there is no doubt that a land-based burial would have created a physical point of martyrdom, something the sea will not.

    • Do you have any idea what kind of risk we would have been putting not only ourselves but also Bin Laden at if we put him on trial. We would have had to put the security level at who knows what level and at the same time we would have to find a place to Put Bin laden probably some disclosed area and not tell anybody and that would have cost us a fortune. And then it would have cost us millions of dollars to put him on trial. A trial would have been a disaster, I’m not one for a lot of violence and killing but this was our only option.

      • The real reason they didn’t want to put OBL on trial is that he would have been in a position to cough up all of the ways in which the US supported him in the early days with the Mujahadeen; what an embarrassment that would have been. The CIA funneled millions of dollars to the radical islamist fighters who were fighting Russian soldiers in Afghanistan. The US and UK have had a habit of supporting radical islamists when it has suited their foreign policy agendas. British historian Mark Curtis details this in his latest book, “Secret Affairs”. The picture is an ugly one.

        Journalist Allan Nairn’s interview on Democracy Now yesterday is also informative. He says it bluntly when he states that a ‘bigger killer has just killed a smaller killer’. He then discusses the US support for death squads in El Salvador and how then President Carter refused to support Archbishop Romero who was calling for peaceful change. We all know what happened to him, or should. What I find from reading comments from many defenders of US actions is a collective amnesia for historical events.

    • When Obama came into office, he argued forcefully for closing Guantánamo and moving the trials to Constitutional Article 3 courts. Between the aggressive venality of the Repubes and the grotesque wimpiness of the Dems, he got nowhere.

      I suspect if he had succeeded, we’d have had a few high-profile trials by now, reestablishing American moral superiority and serving as a show of both fairness and strength. After all, it worked well at Nürenberg.

      In that case, the order might well have been, “If you possibly can, bring him back alive. We want the propaganda effect of the trial.”

      But in view of the mess we have in our political system today, the order was probably, “If you can find the smallest excuse to execute him, do so immediately. We’d rather announce a body than have the Repubes arguing for months that the trial should have been in Guantánamo (if it were in the US) or that it should have been in the mainland (if it were in Guantánamo).”

    • Actually he was following the law. When it comes to terrorism on a global scale, you get no trial… you get no lawyer.

      Source: link to southasia.oneworld.net

      (The article is about bypassing fair trial due to terrorism is not the right choice. Read through, it states that’s what the United Nations does to this day.)

  4. Yay. Ten years, a trillion dollars, and countless hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed, the cycle of violence started well before Osama sent round for another spin. Can we finally end our various occupations and cut the military budget now?

  5. I just wanted to thank you for your coverage of the Middle East. I deployed to Iraq three times, and your trenchant commentary would clear away the veil of jingoism and ignorance if it were more frequently heard in the mass media.

    On another note, while Bin Laden’s end was an inevitable consequence of 9-11, I feel there is something… off-kilter about celebrating. It is a solemn occasion and would be better marked by a sober speech – not quite Gettysburg perhaps, but where is Lincoln when you need him?

    Best,

    Sam

    • Thank you for your service, Sam. Also, agreed on the solemnity of this occasion and so thank you for your wise comments.

      • “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” — Martin Luther King, Jr

      • Taking my tax dollars, and in return killing innocent people and endangering my family with the possible blowback is just not a service. I don’t feel served by such action. I don’t ask for it. I’m not mailing an extra check to Washington as a tip to express my gratitude. If you want to serve humanity, there are many wiser career moves than joining the death machine — and as a bonus you get to stay alive and have your services appreciated. Therefore I will not call what the Department of War does “service” or the people who do it “service men and women” or the committees that purport to oversee what they actually rubberstamp “armed services” committees.

        By David Swanson (order his book here)

  6. Prof. Cole,

    Will you kindly address the most important question presently on the minds of all thinking people — and certain to be put to President Obama — as to why bin Laden was buried at sea? I’m sure we all would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you very much.

    • To have buried him on land would have provided a “shrine” (so to speak) for every terrorist and would-be terrorist. Better to bury him at sea so there is no trace left of him for the ideologically perverted to worship at.

      • Do you really think that it will be that hard to come up with alternative physical places to serve as “shrines” (including the compound location where he lived, etc etc)? Doesn’t that explanation for the burial at sea strike you as “fishy” — along with the absurdly inaccurate claim that it was in accordance with “Islamic tradition”?

        • Whatever “shrine” the religiously and ideologically perverted may construct, it will certainly not have the impact of one that would have marked the actual burial site. As to whether or not his burial at sea was strictly in accordance with “Islamic tradition,” it hardly matters. The important thing is he’s done with.

    • On NPR I heard that Saudi Arabia (possibly among other countries) refused to take back his body.

      Plus the US wouldn’t benefit from a grave that would have become a martyr’s shrine. So that likely played a part.

      The corpse was put in a weighted body bag after having been washed (per Muslim custom) and dropped in the water.

      I, too, would’ve preferred a trial.

  7. In December of 1979 Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev, perhaps baited by the Carter administration, sent in Soviet troops and began a brutal 8-year occupation of among the least developed and most poverty-stricken countries in the world.

    In 2002 the US administration sent in US troops and began an ongoing brutal occupation of among the least developed and most poverty-stricken countries in the world.

    The US occupation is ongoing and is about two things: surrounding Russia and China with US bases, and oil.

    The USSR left, the USA has not.

  8. His father was an atheist, and his mother was an agnostic. Islam and Christianity are two religions which are not based on culture. We don’t inherit them.

  9. WA!!!…Well, after all that Juan, you can no longer deny you post opinions.

  10. Hear! Hear! So well put! Thank-you for your continued devotion to peace, justice, truth and freedom — all of those things which young arabs are sshouting for around the world at the present time. My grandfather would admire the heartening and clever observations and opinions you have put here. Keep it up!!!

  11. Why on earth would non-U.S. people in other countries want to wave U.S. flags anyway? May they have peace and freedom, which they will only ever achieve by waving their own flags.

    • By the way, I want to add that your more personal account of events is moving. May the U.S. recognize Palestine!

  12. Bin Laden purported to be a great Islamic warrior, and exhorted thousands of Muslims on to martrydom. But rather than die a self-respecting death in a martrydom operation, he hid himself, Cheney-like, from danger for ten years. And we learn that a woman was being used as a shield in his defense.

    Let us pray that this quickly leads to the rollup of Al Zawahir, an exit from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an end to this pathetic, warped episode in our history.

    • Was a woman used as a human shield?
      I have heard that this MAY have been the case.
      It may also be that an umbrella was used as a shield.

  13. One thing I do not get: buried at sea? How many theories will that give rise to? Did they get a photo?

    • From the DoD press conference earlier today:

      SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: The justification for burial at sea is when there is no land alternative. And as — according to Islamic teachings and practice, deceased must be buried with proper procedures within 24 hours. And that was the basis for that decision.

      Q: Why was that — (off mic) — following exactly? Did you not want him to become — did you — obviously, one fear must have been that wherever he was buried would become a place that would attract militants or some other concern.

      SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: There was no available alternative in terms of a country that was willing to accept the body, and we took pains to ensure that we were compliant with Muslim tradition and law, and sought to dispose of the body, using the appropriate procedures and rituals, within 24 hours.

      • I don’t know where the DOD gets their Islamic information, but burial at sea is only when someone dies far from land and there is no other choice. Even then, they’re put in the sea with the expectation that the body might evntually wash up on shore and be buried correctly (facing Makkah). Taking the body in a helicopter to the sea and then dumping it with weights is in no way following Islamic burial practices.

        I’m also curious about the ‘words’ said over him, which were apparently from a chaplain and then translated into Arabic. If someone is considered a martyr, they’re not washed, and there’s no funeral prayer said over them. If not, there is a specified funeral prayer. Did some chaplain just make up some words?

        • “There was no available alternative in terms of a country that was willing to accept the body”

          perhaps you missed the above part.

          no

          other

          option

          who said this coward should be considered a martyr?!

  14. So, this is the end to Afghanistan occupation and Pakistan daily violations? Or was Bin Laden just a sideshow in the imperial narrative?

  15. Knowing now that Bin Laden was living in a very large compound so close to a Pakistani military academy, it is clear that Pakistan knew about his whereabouts.

    I suspect Americans will in the coming days rightly demand punishment and/or severing of ties with Pakistan.

    • The US isn’t free to “punish” Pakistan at all since it needs Pakistan’s cooperation to wage the war in Afghanistan and there are no signs that the US is ready to give up on that imperial enterprise. The US has never been able to really control Pakistan and certainly can’t now. It has to make the best of it and take what Pakistan gives it.

      • A country that certainly had official elements protecting Usama bin Laden, as Pakistan certainly did, has no claim to “Counter Sueing” america for mounting a raid to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist. Your statement lacks intellectual credibility, Sef.

  16. Professor Cole,

    Thanks for these insights. I can’t tell you how much, in general, I appreciate your thoughtful analysis of Middle East politics. It really helps me sift through the mainstream news and all the stuff that is out there these days. One quick question: Why is Fox News (and others) reporting that Bin Laden was killed one week ago? I have heard/read this a few places and am a bit confused by it.

    Thanks!

  17. Thank you Professor Cole, thank you, for your clarity and completeness in this most interesting and trying time.

  18. Dr. Cole,

    Thanks, as always, for your perspective on these vital matters of state. Seeing the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer this morning with its news of Bin Laden’s death, the very first place I looked for quality analysis was your site. Needless to say, you didn’t disappoint.

  19. Odd to think the death of bin Laden will be the end of al-Qaeda. Was the death of Jesus the end of Christianity? Or the death of Marx the end of Communism? I suspect the death of bin Laden will reinvigorate al-Qaeda, since the movement is the cutting edge of anti-Western imperialism and that movement isn’t finished yet at all.

    • Nobody thinks that the death of bin Laden will be “the end of al-Queda” but one thing is for sure, the death of bin Laden means the end of bin Laden and that’s good enough for me on a rainy day a decade after 9-11.

    • Once you were right – AQ was on the cutting edge of anti-imperialism only because bin Laden, the Saudi regime, the Pakistani dictatorship, and many other right-wing powers around the world collaborated with Reagan to destroy alternatives on the Left to Western capitalism. Reagan never understood that the unnatural evils of imported capitalism would not be abolished by the fall of communism, so people would turn to the next most powerful challenger, but bin Laden understood it.

      Which allowed him to get away with presenting a very bad alternative indeed. His ideology was contaminated by the Wahhabist sellout to Saud feudalism before it ever fired a shot in anger. The Sauds are ideologically the worst of all worlds, hypocrites about Islam, capitalism, and Israel, and his solution was to accuse them of being too liberal.

      Saudi backing of the petrodollar and the far right enabled insane extremism to infect America via its wealthy sponsors, and gave us a world in which we could truly say this prayer:
      “There is no god but money, and Reagan is his prophet.”

      But this war of right-wing “civilizations” was not the only alternative, and as US hubris and overstretch allowed first Latin America, then Central Asia, now perhaps North Africa, to slip from Wall Street’s reach, we have to ask who is the leading movement against capitalist imperialism today? How about the Bolivian anarchist Indians, who have encouraged mass actions all the way up to the Zapatistas in Mexico? How about the stirrings of labor in China, and its intellectuals’ renewed discussion of the meaning of socialism?

      Even the Islamist movements whose followers are concentrated in the hell-slums of modern globalization have to deal with modernity and the issue of economic justice. Three billion people crammed in there, too many to shoot, making all our stuff with technologies few of us understand. The cities, after 5000 years, are still the vanguard of civilization against a newly-barbarized capitalism extending from Wahhabi palaces to teabagger exurbs. That’s the real war, and the US has already lost it.

      • Ah yes, Diogeron, Capitalism is the enemy of the people. What an insightful revelation! Your screed reads like a 1955 editorial in the Daily Worker. (Remember the Communist Party newspaper of the 1950s?) Obviously, the people of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have advanced far beyond your limited vision. They experienced Socialism and Communism and rejected it. I doubt that you have ever lived under such a system. How grand it is to live in a free, capitalist society and condemn it at the same time. One is reminded of the old line that “Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.”

  20. Hey, I just wanted to leave my comments on bin Laden’s death. First of all, this is not necessarily a good thing for the United States. Al-Qaeda today has evolved far beyond a structured hierarchy with bin Laden at the top. It is more an idea than anything, a transnational organization with thousands of cells organized by jihadist forums and the like. Bin Laden is just a figurehead today, and since 9/11 with the destruction of the Taliban and the loss of an al-Qaeda base the organization has morphed into this decentralized beast we now face.

    The reason this may not be good is because it will simply add fuel to the jihadist fire. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have gone after bin Laden, but the fact that everyone I know is running around thinking we scored some great victory is ridiculous, in my opinion. It’s out intervention in the Middle East that bin Laden was trying to provoke with 9/11, and he got exactly what he wanted – a tangled mess of US occupations that have helped spawn thousands, maybe millions of jihadists – al-Zarqawi’s branch of al-Qaeda, for instance, would not have been possible without the Iraq War.

    But anyway, with regards to your post, I just wanted to point out that a Muslim Caliphate is not really his priority, as you claim. Rather than try to make the whole argument myself I thought this abstract would sum it up better:

    “According to the American President George Bush’s administration, the establishment of a global Caliphate is a key al-Qaeda goal. This article focuses primarily on the statements of Ayman az-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, with their public words traced throughout the last three decades, from Egypt to Afghanistan, to Sudan, back to Afghanistan and through the various conflicts that have happened since they have been on the run post 9/11. By highlighting the changing strategy of their discourse according to the events around them and internationally, it is shown that far from being a critical part of al-Qaeda ideology as some would have the public believe, the Caliphate plays a minor role in their objectives and rhetoric, used primarily as a motivational and instrumental tool in uniting the ummah in its efforts to expel foreign forces from what it considers to be occupied lands.”[ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

    Pankhurst, Reza. Political Theology. Oct 2010, Vol. 11, Issue 4, p530-552.

    You should be careful when stating bin Laden’s goals, because his rhetoric often did not align with his actual agenda, which was ultimately to replace the Saudi state with an Islamic state. You are not far off the mark, but the fact that he recognized the legitimacy of the Afghan state as well as Palestine, as well as the possibility of a Saudi Islamic state, shows that he believes in the legitimacy of individual Islamic states and is (or was) not a pan-Islamic visionary like people make him out to be.

  21. “He can be not just the president who killed Bin Laden, but the president who killed the pretexts for radical violence against the US.”

    That won’t happen as long as the US continues to bomb Pakistan with drones, or as long as the US continues to bomb Libya. That won’t happen as long as the US supports the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, or as long as they demonize Iran. Nor will it happen as long as the US subverts democracy in Palestine, and continues its support of Israel.

    The US is far too embedded in the Middle East as an imperialist power. Killing Osama Bin Laden does virtually nothing to change that.

    By the way Juan, this is two days in a row that you are celebrating the death of US “enemies”. I wonder when Americans will learn that violence just breeds more violence?

    • “as long as the US continues to bomb Libya”

      How would abandoning the libyan people to gadaffis rule be a good thing.

      “That won’t happen as long as the US supports the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, or as long as they demonize Iran.”

      The problem is when they stop supporting saudi arabia and start supporting iran people will just flip youre complaint around.

      Personally i think they should have open relations with both for sanctions tend to just hurt the people of certain nations while it doing very little to change the government or alter the way it behaves.

  22. The best I´ve read so far about the dead of Bin Laden, a sad product of a sick period of human history….

    However, I would like to hear your views about the situation of Pakistan, where Al Qaeda will likely strike first in revenge and where the position of the ISI and other institutions continues to be tricky, in the light of the location of Bin Laden´s final hideout….

  23. “Obama … can do one other great good for this country abroad. He can get us out of Iraq altogether.”

    Dear Prof. Cole,
    In the past, you have been expressed great confidence that the US presence in Iraq would essentially end in December, as per the signed agreement with the Iraqi. Are you now having doubts?

    If the US does leave, and I think it will, then it will be because the Iraqis insist on it, and not because of Obama’s leadership. His administration and the Pentagon are now pressing the Iraqis to extend the US presence to allow some 20,000 troops to stay. Whatever his personal views may be, Obama is acting in this matter much as G.W. Bush would have.

  24. You left out two things the U.S. can also do to improve our image – get out of Afghanistan (and stop ‘droning’ the Pakistanis) and become an impartial broker between the Israelis and Palestinians. The killing of Bin Laden is small potatoes compared to these other issues on the Arab street.

  25. Thanks for this and all your work. You’ve been the sane voice we could turn to, helping us see through walls of disinformation.
    PS. May we all, east west north south, be protected from Theocracy.

  26. Prof. Cole:

    Fantastic retro-spective on the rise and fall of not the most influencial, but easily the most consequential man of our young century.

    You noted that CNN stated that U.S. helicopters would not have the range to reach Abbottabad unless they originated from Pakistan. That does not appear to be the case.
    link to en.wikipedia.org +

    The combat radius for a Blackhawk helicopter is about 368 miles with auxillary fuel tanks, which put Abbottabad within striking distacne from the Afghan border. That being said, I don’t think the military has confirmed what helicopters were used in the operation. When/if they do, it will be quite simple to determine the operational range.

    Of course this does not account for the plainclothes agents who allegedly cordoned off the target compound.

    • I did not say that they did not have the range. I said that they would have likely lit up Pakistani radar; this has already happened several times during US hot pursuit of Taliban over the border into Pakistan.

      • Col Pat Lang (link to turcopolier.typepad.com) has the same conclusion about Pakistan knowing about this operation:

        “…Any notion that some portion of Pakistan’s military and security institutions did not know of UBL’s long term presence in the suburbs of Islamabad is just silly. Abbotabad is the home of Pakistan’s West Point. Many retired officers live in the town. We are to believe that the Pakistan equivalent of the FBI did not take an interest in this big compound with no telecommunications connectivity? We are supposed to believe that? … ”

        link to turcopolier.typepad.com

      • They were using the PaveHawks (modified Blackhawks), which will fly low enough to avoid radar (the main benefit of helicopters), and could also probably spoof Pakistani IFF signals if necessary. During a hot pursuit, staying below the radar is not a priority of the chasing forces (when they’re going into theoretically friendly territory), but in an operation as such, it would be of the utmost importance.

        I’m guessing, based on Pakistan’s nebulous history of helping Bin Laden, that they only gave the Pakistanis the heads up after they had hit the compound, to stop any retaliatory strike.

  27. “It will always provoke Iraqi Muslim activists, whether Sunni or Shiite or secular nationalist.”. Secular Muslims, sounds funny. Not to mention non-Muslims which were left out.

    • @David – Saddam Hussein was a Muslim secular nationalist, Nasser was a Muslim secular …., Kamal Attaturk was a Muslim secu …., Yassar Arafat was a Muslim … Qaddafi is a ….

  28. Why can’t we as a nation pull out of all wars and do a little nation building at home?

  29. “By waging a war that was neither in self-defense nor authorized by the UNSC, in contravention of the UN Charter (a treaty to which the US is signatory), W. and Dick Cheney were throwing away the achievement of the founders of the UN, and returning us to the international jungle, where the strong fall upon the weak with no framework of law.”

    Yes, indeed they were. I think it’s worth noting that this process began formally in the 1980s when the Reagan administration declared that the United States would no longer recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which is the legal arm of the UN.

    This occurred as Nicaragua brought a case to the court against the United States in 1984 for its support of the Contra guerrillas. When the court agreed to hear the case over the protests of the Reagan administration, the US government ended its recognition of the court. Obama could send a signal that the US was truly willing to abide by international law by reversing this decision. Paying the reparations that were awarded to Nicaragua would be another good signal.

  30. Juan, Thanks for laying it all out, I wish you were the President. Because Obama has no interest in getting us out of Iraq or anywhere else. Obama carries water for the military industrial complex. His only interest is doing what his minders request. I can only see American militarism continuing until the nation collapses from the excess. America has turned the corner and there is no peace in out future. The military will rule until the end of the empire.

  31. Thank you as always, Professor Cole. I do wish this could mean the end of the war in and occupation of Afghanistan, and an end to bombing in Pakistan.

  32. Bottom line is Bin laden was never the leader of a real Islamic movement and had no real popularity. He was fringe as they come. Had America assasinated a figure like Khomeini in the 80s, a real Muslim leader heading a real Islamic state with hundreds of millions of followers, hell would break loose.

  33. The “taking out” of bin-Laden, whose role has diminished in significance with the spreading of the “Arab Spring,” will have a minor effect on the continued “war on terrorism.” Bin-Laden’s role had shrunken to that of financier, while Ayman al-Zawahiri had taken on the strategic role of selecting targets and issuing videos and press releases. The war will continue, with Zawarhiri being substituted as the primary target, now that bin-Laden has been liquidated.

    The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has degenerated into a “one to the exclusion of the other” proposition with the fractious Hamas-Fatah agreement already starting to unravel. Every effort to create a “two-state” solution, from the 2000 Barak government proposal, to the 2008 Olmert proposal, both rejected by Palestinians, has been a missed opportunity. The framework of a final status agreement, which has been documented by al-Jazeera in “The Palestine Papers,”is known and shows that agreement is possible through the narrowing of differences. If that progress is abandoned, the militarily superior Israelis will crush Gaza in a repeat of “Operation Cast Lead” and continue the occupation of the West Bank. But Israel will not want to continue the occupation into perpetuity and will seek a “modus vivendi” when Palestinians are ready. Eventually, but not in the short run, democracy will prevail in the Palestinian territories and a unified democratic and secular Palestinian polity will make the necessary compromises to achieve statehood. It may take years to create a stable democratic Palestinian consensus, before the conflict is finally resolved, but it will happen.

  34. Thank you, Mr. Cole, for your words, wisdom, and courage to continue to inform our world’s leaders. If only we could all, always, be this informed about the topics we dare to debate. History is invaluable…We shouldn’t be so foolish to make declarative statements about complex subjects we don’t understand. This is why I value education and am an educator. I also wish that all journalism was as thoughtful as yours. Thank you, again.

  35. Given that Osama bin Laden apparently didn’t resist by firing in defense (or offense), as originally reported, or even attempting to do so, it seems to me that killing him without attempting to access the treasure trove intelligence he undoubtedly retained in his head was a major strategic blunder. Especially when combined with the shady burial at sea and the likelihood that his death will enshrine him as an untouchable martyr with supercharged ability to enhance the proliferation and recruitment for al Qaeda offshoots.

  36. in minutes, my situation doesn’t allow for more,

    medieval, an ego-trip, political scores, bombastic operation, arrest was possible, opacity after the facts, there was intelligence and Pakistani collaboration, what about getting out of Afghanistan if then Osama was the main reason to get involved. the simple mindedness of good and bad, the insistence on “imperial” attitude, invincibility, holding the sole rights to justice, the pomp, the bluntness of the bigger American public taking to the surroundings of the white house, being American first, not world citizens, thus educated. these are things that haphazardly spring to mind.

    technically: an arrest was possible to intent, it would have laid a claim to superiority, now the whole op. looks like exorcism, exhorting fears of the devil, the wooden stake.

    more on the technical side: compliments should be paid to the ultimate underdog, Osama was us subordinate elite turned insubordinate. in a position of meager resources, as misconceived as his ideas were, for the buck he achieved more then either Reagan or Bush and including Obama. he eluded U.S. intelligence for more then years, a feat only superior-ed by the round out impossible feat of driving us planes into the us heartland. by all technical standards, the operation was unique. a most worthy adversary.

    on ethics: the us standards and worldviews, as put into practice weighted against the Osama misconceptions carry the weight of deep, intentional flaws, a corruption of most of the elites. humility got another beating. long-term, inclusive, principled, planetary thinking made a show of weak.

  37. Lovely analysis. I like it, but I need to extend on a couple of points brought up in the comments:

    1. Obama’s father may have been an atheist ex-Muslim, but there isn’t a lot of doubt that Obama does have some sympathy to Muslims, and at least is more familiar with how discourse works in the Muslim world. This at least he has an advantage over the Clueless White Men who were his predecessors.

    2. While Osama’s death would have impacted Al-Qaeda’s operations and tactics by not one bit — after all, Al-Qaeda is decentralized and can still operate without its figureheads — Osama’s death means that America has a narrow window of goodwill that they can exploit to hit Al-Qaeda where they’d hurt the most: in attracting new recruits and maintaining it’s ideological raison d’être — as the resistance movement to American neo-Imperialism. If the American can cripple that, Al-Qaeda is finished.

    It is most definitely interesting times up ahead.

  38. @William, it should be beyond obvious that the burial at sea – which most certainly was NOT in accordance with “Islamic tradition” — by no means precludes the “physical point of martyrdom” that you reference. There are many possible options for such a physical point, including th site of the compound, etc etc.

  39. @Ray, among the many benefits of capturing vs killing him would be (beyond vital intelligence gathering) demonstrating that the US again adheres to the rule of law, as opposed to the rule of force favored by terrorists. Sanctioning a policy of assassination, instead, only helps lead to a truly Hobbesian war of all against all, which again favors force instead of reason and law. The benefits of proving the facts in court, under adversarial standards and testing evidence, shares with the scientific method the possibility of advancing knowledge and repudiating the rumors, conspiracies, and suspicion that will inevitably proliferate based on the way this operation was conducted.

  40. Dear Mr. Cole and readers,

    I have written a response to the death of bin Laden for my own website, the Inductive, which references this “obituary”. I’m wondering if I am correct in my assertion that here “bin Laden is characterized as an anachronistic and disconnected figure mistakenly created by time and circumstance and then rejected by same”. There is more on the death of Osama bin Laden and metanarrative at: link to theinductive.com

  41. Good recap, Juan. Seems such an incredible waste that it took 10 years: link to hammernews.blogspot.com

    The successful raid on OBL brings many emotions- the damn Pakistani ISI (and govrnmt?) were protecting him for years, keeping this incredible secret against the 50-65% of Pakis who would have gladly killed him themselves for the many terrorist attacks he carried out in Pakistan. With a large Paki military compound only a km away and a $25 million reward out for him, that is absolutely amazing! Obama’s extraordinary patience in waiting since last August is incredible- given OBL’s uncanny evasiveness, but there was another family of doubles reportedly living there; and secretly invading “allies” is dangerous stuff, not the least cause they can, uh, shoot you down.

    I think it is too bad he wasn’t taken alive, rotting in an American prison forever would evaporate his cultish superman status and reduce him to an ordinary man, and it’s the one thing bastards all over the world fear above all. Now he become myth and martyr. [On the other hand, holding him could provoke more grizzly hostage spectacles]. Worse, disposing of him at sea will fuel endless conspiracy theories that he is NOT dead- where is the proof video now? When monsters are killed, they must be displayed- Mussolini, Pol Pot, Escobar, Ceausescu; or people will never really believe or overcome the fear. The fact that Hitler wasn’t fueled Nazi groups for decades. OBL wasn’t a dummy- I wouldn’t be surprised if he created a banked “They say I’m dead, but it’s a lie!” video with something current then woven in. Frankly I couldn’t care less about honoring Muslim 24hr burial traditions- this wasn’t a military leader- but a soft-spoken megalomaniacal killer who targeted innocents because of his twisted notions of Islamic purity. Or we could have kept his head for future reference (displayed on the Mall?). Note a 40 minute firefight for SEALS is a long time- maybe much of that was searching for documents.

    I warned 12 days after 9-11 that the cure was part of the problem:
    “…- in fact Pakistan is probably a greater source of terrorism than Afghanistan itself, with 120 training camps for mujahadeen (most for the conflict with India), a huge and uncontrolled criminal element, an unstable government of limited support, a definite radical anti-American element, and most terrifyingly- nuclear weapons. In fact many Taliban themselves were trained and supported by Pakistan; the anti-Taliban Afghans considered them a foreign invasion. Recently assassinated Ahmed Massoud claimed Pakistan sent thousands of Army troops to help the Taliban attack his Northern Alliance.”

    My connections with 9-11 were many: from supposed to fly over Central Park at 5:30pm on 911, to feeling a huge attack was coming 2 months earlier just from accumulated Palestinian rage, to suffering a direct attack on my airline ticket business, to running into 2 of the hijackers in the Ft. Lauderdale public library 5 months earlier (I believe), to exploring the sealed to press ruins secretly for 2 hours in Dec 2001. If you really want to relive that day, find the incredible French documentary of firefighters shown once in US TV and disappeared, that shows the command center INSIDE the ground floor of WTC2 as WTC1 is hit by the second plane, or the horrific explosions from the roof above as jumpers slammed into it at 150mph.
    link to hammernews.blogspot.com

    It’s hard to really celebrate- the waste, the destruction, the evaporation of American principles has been so extreme, in the insanely named “War on Terror”. If the Repubs hadn’t jimmied up Monica in the first of their 3 great treasons (w Bush election theft + Iraq Invasion), I believe Clinton would have sent commandos to wipe out OBL + his training camps in Afghanistan after the 1998 African US Embassy bombings. Bush’s election + the Iraq Invasion + maybe 2008 meltdown wouldn’t have happened. If only retarded Rummy had sent 2000 Rangers into Tora Bora rather than hew to his smarter faster lighter military theories, Qaida may not have metastasized into the world.

    Coupled with the devastating attack on Khaddafi’s home, airliners better give Libya a 150 mile berth for a while; but hopefully the death of OBL will coordinately with the Arab Spring, be the death knell of Islamic radicals, who may fade to relative irrelevance. Arab rage was always fueled by their powerlessness against their dictators- now they have worlds to build and promises to keep. As NYT Roger Cohen says: “Bin Laden’s rose-tinged caliphate was the solace of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the desperate. A young guy with a job, a vote and prospects does not need virgins in paradise”. And America can finally retire the somehow un-American breast-beating victimhood that 9-11 engendered.

    If Obama is smart, he would take this chance to ease Patriot Act outrages, stop continuing torture, rescind onerous restrictions on foreign students who go to China instead, and close Guantanamo- screw Congress- he has the power. It’s tempting to say this guarantees BO’s reelection, but Bush 1 achieved a great victory in the Gulf War at this time in the election cycle, then lost in 1992 due to economic factors. Repub lunatics will keep hacking away at the Other with every tool they can find, and the US/World economy could easily tank again.

    But in Bush’s vicious manipulation of 911, he let the Islamo-radicals succeed- they provoked Bush into his criminal invasion of Iraq (classic great power reckless overreaction) and bled us of $3 trillion and 50,000 soldiers (inc. wounded); they changed us forever, allowed our fear and paranoia to overcome our good sense, turned Americans into torturers, upending our most cherished beliefs, and the massive security apparatus created will eventually and inevitably be used against us- imagine what a Prez Palin or Trump would do with it. The survival of the American Experiment is not guaranteed, and we still struggle against domestic extremist forces far more dangerous than anything external.

    MH’s 9-11 + Security articles
    I saw this on unrestricted 460 channel satellite TV, and it’s been fascinating flipping through 20 different countries’ news channels coverage- the most striking thing is the English versions are 90% identical. Al-Jazeera Intern. is totally professional- and has an excellent documentary on the Egyptian uprising.

    Michael Hammerschlag’s (Hammernews.com) articles have appeared in the NYT, International Herald Tribune, Seattle Times, Providence Journal; Moscow News, Tribune, + Guardian, Kiev Weekly. He has spent over 5 years reporting from Ukraine and Russia.

    posted by Michael Hammerschlag @ 12:49 PM 0 comments

  42. Given that Obama’s father was really a secularist, contra both right-wing wingnuts and the claim of Cole that he was a Muslim, I don’t think Obama had any special ax-grinding interest in nailing bin Laden.

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