R. Rose
May 6, 2011
Obama gets Osama, but…

The international news scene is preoccupied with the story surrounding the killing of the so-called ‘’World’s Most Wanted Man”, Osama Bin Laden, by a specialised US military/intelligence team last Sunday. There has been widespread rejoicing in the United States, given Bin Laden’s designation as the architect of the horrific 9/11 tragedy which resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 American citizens, as well as persons of other nationalities.{{more}} Generally, Bin Laden’s demise has been welcomed in much of the rest of the world as well. His al Qaeda network has gained notoriety for its deadly attacks, not only in the USA, but also in the United Kingdom, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

At the same time, the spectacular nature of the al Qaeda operations, its supposed justification being based in opposition to US hegemony, discrimination against Muslims and Zionist crimes against the Palestinian people, earned al Qaeda its own admirers, especially among young Muslims. But the gruesome nature of its attacks, the fact that it is not the architects of imperialist policy, but innocent civilians who seemed always to be the victims, has caused world opinion to be overwhelmingly hostile to Bin Laden and whatever causes he represented. No Zionist leader, no Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld, no rapacious banker or oil magnate perished in this supposed ‘Jihad’.

In addition, poor countries like ours were forced to bear the burdens of security concerns not of our own creation. International terrorism brought in its wake a series of regulations and security demands, which were not only costly, but diverted scarce resources away from pressing needs. We cannot afford to ignore port or airport stipulations which are costly, but which, if not addressed, would leave one’s country subject to international isolation. The personal inconveniences we all must undergo are another aspect of the negative effects of international terrorism.

For all these reasons, the majority of the world’s citizens had little sympathy for Bin Laden and his group, and were prepared to ignore basic legalities and human rights considerations in the desire to be rid of those “terrorists”. The international media would have played its part in so shaping world opinion with a clever mixture of fact, fiction and manipulation of public opinion. Most of us had settled for Bin Laden “dead or alive”, the exact circumstances being irrelevant.

Such was the background to the daring operation to “GET HIM”. So many contradictions have cropped up in media reports that one has to pause before making definitive judgements. We are so elated over the news of the extinction of this threat that all legal niceties and principles are thrown out of the window. For sure, if Osama is responsible, according to his claims, for the murder of so many citizens of the world, he could not expect, nor deserve any mercy. Yet we pride ourselves on having different values and principles. So, if Bin Laden was cold-bloodedly shot, unarmed, how do we square this with the hallowed principle of a man being “innocent until proven guilty”? Why were such experienced military operators not able to take him alive and bring him to the justice that we so revere? Do we not claim that justice is the same “for all”?

The questions multiply the more we think of the situation. Was there a conscious decision to ensure that Osama should not live beyond the operation, based on the embarrassing situations of the Guantanamo detainees and others such as Milosevic? As a creature of US imperialism itself, trained, armed and financed by the US in his earlier anti-Russian stages, were there secrets that he could not be allowed to disclose? Did he have stories to tell about 9/11 that would be uncomfortable for some?

Too early for answers perhaps. But there are more mysteries. The biggest of these revolves around the USA/Pakistan relationship. This was a highly sensitive military operation conducted on Pakistani soil, without even informing the host country. What does this say for the principle of respect for the sovereignty of nations? We justify it by saying that the Pakistani military and intelligence services could not be trusted. That may well be the truth, since it seems that not even their cricketers are trusted worldwide today. But, if it is right and proper for the USA to flagrantly ignore Pakistan’s sovereign rights to apprehend and kill a terrorist, what would have been our reaction if CUBA had sent an elite squad into Miami to apprehend and kill the equally murderous terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, self-confessed architect of the heinous bombing off Barbados in 1976, which took the lives of so many young, Caribbean people?

President Obama is being hailed for his decisiveness in the current situation. What would we say about any of the Castro brothers in such a scenario? Would they have been heroes or considered terrorist villains? What are the principles on which we base our value judgements? Are American lives more valuable than those of Cubans or Guyanese citizens?

Make no mistake, the world is probably a better place without those who extol the ideas of the reckless eradication of innocent human beings, supposedly on the grounds of some real grievances. I shall not mourn for the likes of Osama. Indeed, developments in the Middle East have already exposed the bankruptcy of his violent philosophy. There is no substitute for mass struggle for the preservation of fundamental human rights. President Obama himself was caught between a rock and a real hard place in his choices. George Bush could let Bin Laden off at Tora Bora to pursue Saddam and Iraq’s oil, to rake in millions for the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rapacious crew, but only let Obama say no to the slaughter of Bin Laden. It would have been “treason”, for after all, did he not have to produce a birth certificate to justify his legitimacy to be the “Leader of the Free World”? He did what two terms of George Bush failed to accomplish, not only in ridding the world of the myth of Bin Laden, but in helping the US economy on its road to recovery. Having got rid of Osama, it is now his task to extricate the USA from the burden of its weekly US$ 2 billion expenditure in Afghanistan.

But the road is a rocky one, and principles violated in some circumstances make it difficult to uphold in others. Bin Laden is gone but….

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.