The Death of Osama Bin Laden; what does it mean? 050811
A Fringe Analysis
When it was released that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, many news outlets showed people in the street acting as though some sports team had scored a victory. Obama and politicos of every kind made hay with the news, each struggling toward the top of the dog pile of “heroes” on Bin Laden’s body.
On Main Street, though, most people are a little more thoughtful.
Some remember the ‘80s when Ronald Reagan praised Bin Laden and his fighters as “the new minutemen.” Bin Laden was carrying out a plan to rid Islamic nations of the influence of the Western world, particularly Afghanistan, where he engaged the Soviet Union in a relentless war of attrition where, as with American troops, heavily armed and supplied soldiers struggled in intense heat and soilless moonscapes against people who were born to the land and had a fierce belief in God in their hearts. The war drained the giant nation, which, in addition to other social and economic problems, found itself spread too thin militarily.
Unfortunately, Bin Laden was still being a minuteman when he decided that U.S. intervention in Islamic countries was part of the problem. He launched a series of bombings against the U.S. culminating in the attack on the skyline of New York.
But, taking Bin Laden out of context to give the witless a “we won” buzz, or to make political schemers seem more leader-like both aggrandizes Bin Laden, and diminishes the situation.
Osama Bin Laden, reportedly a six foot four, 52 year old with bad kidneys, was from a wealthy Saudi family. His mother was married to his father a relatively short time (his tenth wife) and Osama himself was not wealthy. He had been receiving 7 million dollars a year, but when he caused trouble in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government pressured his family into cutting him off. He was religiously trained, a training he took to with a passion most would agree qualified him as “devout”.
George W. Bush told America “they hate us because of our freedoms”. This gross oversimplification is probably what he understood of the full situation. What Bush called “our freedoms” are the elements of the modern world that all traditional people mistrust. A reliance on government instead of God, an expectation of capitalist expansion, the use of alcohol, sexual equality, tolerance for infidelity, homosexuality and a cultural embracing of lascivious and permissive behavior. With the exception of capitalist expansion and booze, that list could fairly well describe the values of the Republican Party.
It isn’t hard to see how Bin Laden could be seen as a patriot and even a crusader. History isn’t short of Middle Eastern misery from the West, including the French and Brits in the 20th Century as well Europe as the 11-13th centuries. To a devout Muslim, Western Society is nothing short of the demon possessed. While it is fun and profitable to demonize Bin Laden as a blood thirsty terrorist for his willingness to kill civilians, in fairness, military and diplomatic targets, which he also bombed, don’t have the emotional punch that taking down a sky scraper does. Further, his “blood thirsty” strategies killed far fewer civilians than the U.S. killed in retaliation, and to maintain dominance in the oil rich Middle East. In perspective, his acts were insane and inhumane, but not more than acts we accept often.
The death of Bin Laden, gunned down in a posh house in the suburbs of the capital of Pakistan a full decade after a blood oath against him, is anti-climactic at best. His influence had become more diffuse; he hadn’t planned any major bombings in some time. What he has done is leave a legacy of “franchise” al Qaeda units scattered throughout Islam, particularly those nations where Islam is being pressured by the West. It might seem odd to us, but in other nations they aren’t used to the idea of turning the country over to their enemies every four years. Many places, like China, don’t want American style democracy, since in their view it leads to instability. It’s worked well enough here, so far at least, but there are plenty of examples where democracy failed horribly. It isn’t a foregone conclusion that a people would want representative democracy forced on them, and our assumption that they would is akin to the assumption of Muslims that every nation is best off as a theocracy. While the idea of women not being allowed to drive or own land is barbaric, it is a way of being millions are happy with.
Bin Laden’s 911 attack paralyzed the United States for days, as though a tiny bee sting had sent the entire body into anaphylactic shock. Bin Laden must have been astonished at his good fortune. Instead of considering the bombing a criminal act and getting on with life, the nation stripped itself of its civil rights, hamstrung air traffic, the lifeblood of business, created oppressive and expensive new bureaucracies and embroiled itself in a costly, unrelated war in Iraq. Certainly the agony his bee sting brought to the nation must have been proof not only that Allah favored Bin Laden’s plan to reverse the degradation of the West, but also that, like the Soviet Union, the United States is a hollow giant which can be brought to its knees with a few thousand deaths.
After the attack, the nation was gob-slapped, and George Bush seized the moment to declare “war” on terror and attacked Iraq. Most Americans had little understanding of the Middle East and were happy to think of a new “axis of evil” in the region. The first casualty of war is always truth, and it went down without a fight as Bush steamrolled legislation which would bleed the nation’s coffers and privatize war. Investors reaped the benefits as Blackwater provided guards at the cost of $455,000 a year, and corporations charged sterling prices to build American bases in Iraq.
Bin Laden’s success continues as our economy at home is slumped and bleeding while the war in Afghanistan drains the U.S. as it drained the Soviet Union. The two wars together are estimated to have cost us about $3 trillion, and so ineffective is our investment there that Bin Laden lived in luxury only a few miles from Islamabad, capital of our partner in the war on terrorism, Pakistan.
The killing and nearly anonymous burial at sea isn’t likely to change much. Terrorism is effective because it hits us where we live and there is almost no way to really stop it. There isn’t likely to be another attack using air craft, but our infrastructure remains fragile and vulnerable, and it is likely Osama Bin Laden’s death is going to result in scattered, separate attacks against the U.S.
Globalogists refer to organizations like al Qaeda as “anti-systemic” movements because they move against the global economic system. There are many such movements, including some environmental movements, and some right wing movements. Rome dealt with terrorism; all hegemonic powers do. Islam is likely to be a source of such movements as post modernity sweeps away the last of the traditional societies, and we’re likely to hear Osama Bin Laden’s name again, regardless his watery grave.