After OBL

by John Quiggin on May 3, 2011

The death of Osama bin Laden has inevitably produced a gigantic volume of instant reactions, to which I’m going to add. Doubtless I’m repeating what others have said somewhere, but it seems to me that most of the commentary has understated the likely impact, particularly as regard US politics. That impact is by no means all favorable – while the Republicans are the big losers, Obama will also be strengthened as against his critics on the left, among whom I’d include myself (admittedly as a citizen of a client state rather than the US proper).

Looking first at the impact on the Islamic world, I don’t differ much from what I see as the conventional wisdom – Al Qaeda was already struggling for relevance in the light of the democratic upsurge in North Africa and the Middle East, and the death of bin Laden will weaken them further, even if they manage some terror attacks in reprisal[1].

As regards the political impact in the US, comparisons to GHWB and Gulf War I are beside the point. Hardly anyone in the US cared about Saddam or Kuwait before his invasion, and most of them promptly forgot about them once the cheering died down after Desert Storm. Even in GW2, it was clear that Saddam was just another nasty dictator of whom the Bush Administration had decided to make an example. By contrast, bin Laden was unsurprisingly, the object of more national fear and hatred than any figure since Hitler or Stalin.

Equally importantly, bin Laden and 9/11 were central to a Republican narrative about foreign policy as a crusade against Islamofascism and its liberal dupes/fellow-travellers/ineffectual resisters that has now collapsed almost completely. The story had been unravelling ever since the Iraq/WMD fiasco, but the contingent fact[2] that Obama has succeeded where Bush failed has left the Republicans with almost nothing to say on an issue they expect to own.

That won’t wipe out the impact of bad economic conditions, but I suspect that the lack of Republican credibility on foreign policy (and for that matter, the birther issue) will encourage critical analysis of their fraudulent claims on economics as well.

Coming to the bad news, the success of the US intelligence machine in locating bin Laden is obviously going to strengthen Obama’s position in claiming that he has special knowledge that justifies suspending civil liberties. Reading the accounts in, for example, the New York Times, it’s clear that their sources are trying to make claims for intelligence extracted under torture even though (on my reading) they didn’t actually get anything useful from these sources (the NYT quotes an intelligence source as saying that the value was in what was not said, which could justify just about anything).

There’s an outside chance that, having secured his standing on the issue, Obama will return to the policies he campaigned on. Failing that, as the fear of terrorism fades, there may be a gradual return to the rule of law, although the precedents set in the last ten years are likely to remain.

Finally, like most people in the world, I’m glad bin Laden is dead. I would have preferred to see him face trial for his crimes, but he was (assuming the official account to be correct) given the chance to surrender, and didn’t take it.

Update 4 May The parenthetical qualification in the last sentence turned out to be a sensible precaution, reflecting past experience of these announcements. As almost always seems to happen, the revised account from the government is very different from the original one. Whereas the original story suggested a gunfight with bin Laden using a woman as a human shield, the new version has an unarmed bin Laden shot when his wife (also unarmed) ran at the assault team and was herself shot, though not fatally. That doesn’t preclude a call to surrender, but it certainly seems that he wasn’t given any time to think it over.

fn1. BTW, has there been any statement from AQ confirming or denying OBLs death?

fn2. It’s interesting to ask how history would have changed if the military had done as good a job with the Iran hostage rescue ordered by Carter as they did in the present case.

{ 93 comments }

1

Barry 05.03.11 at 11:39 am

“fn2. It’s interesting to ask how history would have changed if the military had done as good a job with the Iran hostage rescue ordered by Carter as they did in the present case.”

Big, big difference – going much farther, with the intent of pulling a large number of people out (of the middle of a large city). IIRC, this was considered by experts to be a long shot.

However, what *could* have happened is that Delta Force assaulted the embassy, gotten into a massive firefight, which would have ended with most or all of the hostages dead. That would have been followed within the day by a US declaration of war against Iran, making Carter a wartime president. Since that was 1979 (?) he could probably have gotten re-elected. This would have derailed the Reagan era, of course.

The effects would be – well, who knows?

2

Matt McIrvin 05.03.11 at 12:02 pm

Obama’s critics on the left have approximately as much influence in the US as a fart in a windstorm, and this was the case long before they got OBL. The great force pulling the acceptable frame of American discourse to the right is the implacable lunacy of the Republicans and their voter base, and this gives its influence a big, big temporary hit. Obama may or may not do anything constructive with that, but politically I see it as, for now, all to the good.

3

Andrew 05.03.11 at 12:13 pm

I agree that the killing of Bin Laden is important to the efforts against international Islamist terrorism, but is not central.

I disagree that Bin Laden is key to any narrative in the US about the same. For some time now, Americans have been told that Bin Laden has little importance to the operations of AQ or its various affiliates and cousins. His death will have no impact on the arguments surrounding Islam generally, or violent Islamism in particular.

Obama will get a bump, but it will be temporary. He should win, regardless, in 2012.

He won’t discontinue his current policies for a simple reason: the conditions that persuaded him to undertake those policies still exist. Bin Laden’s death does not change those conditions.

Whether terrorism continues to stand in the background as an issue has everything to do with whether there is another terrorist attack; Bin Laden’s continued existence had little impact.

Like the rest of my country, the killing of Bin Laden brings a measure of satisfaction to me, but I have no qualms about a lack of trial, nor do I care whether he was offered a chance to surrender. This is war and he was a legitimate target.

4

Nate Stout 05.03.11 at 12:28 pm

I’m not sure how temporary the boost will be for Obama. I read a story this morning that said that the US recovered OBL’s hard drive during the raid along with hundreds of others throughout the compound that he was housed in. So, the operation not only produced the death of Bin Laden, but it produced a deluge of intelligence as well. If the intelligence is actionable and Obama can succeed in reminding the public where the intelligence came from, this might produce a lasting effect for his administration.

5

Matt McIrvin 05.03.11 at 12:35 pm

The boost to Obama’s job approval rating will be significant but temporary, because that’s how it always works. Even George W. Bush’s unprecedented post-9/11 boost faded with time. The 2004 election was close, and if the economy had been in today’s shape he would have lost.

But there are going to be longer-lasting effects. The Republicans are, with one stroke, completely unable to own national security as an issue and campaign on some supposed toughness. They’ll try, but it’ll be laughable. The question is just whether that will matter by November 2012.

6

Straightwood 05.03.11 at 12:40 pm

Simple logic leads to the conclusion that the terrorist threat was vastly, and deliberately, exaggerated to feed the US defense establishment and advance political agendas. TSA tests of airline security repeatedly succeed in smuggling simulated bomb components aboard aircraft, and thousands of unguarded US infrastructure sites are easy targets for even the most bumbling and under-financed terrorist. With truckloads of drugs crossing the porous American borders regularly, the inability of Al Qaeda to bring one man with a rifle and a box of bullets into the US is clearly at variance with the bogeyman story line. Given these obvious vulnerabilities, the fact that there have been no significant attacks is proof of the mythical character of the threat.

Americans have chosen to adopt a common mythology of vulnerability to terror as a fundamental component of national identity. Like the Red Scare, this national paranoia serves many powerful interests and justifies all manner of mischief by the US government. Thus the terror myth will long outlive Bin Laden, as the myth worshipers eagerly await Bin Laden’s successors.

7

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.03.11 at 12:54 pm

Eh, bin Laden is nothing; it’s al-Zawahiri we really should be afraid of. He’s twice as evil, and five times more powerful.

8

engels 05.03.11 at 1:01 pm

it’s al-Zawahiri we really should be afraid of. He’s twice as evil, and five times more powerful

Don’t count on it

9

Straightwood 05.03.11 at 1:19 pm

Forget al-Zawahiri, Emmanuel Goldstein is the real threat:

Emmanuel Goldstein is a character in George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the number one enemy of the people according to Big Brother and the Party, who heads a mysterious and possibly fictitious anti-party organization called The Brotherhood. Despite being a key part of the story, he is only actually seen and heard on telescreen, and may in fact be nothing more than a useful propaganda fabrication of the Ministry of Truth.

However, Goldstein’s persona as an enemy of the state serves to distract, unite and focus the anger of the people of Oceania, as he is always the subject of the “Two Minutes Hate,” a daily, 2-minute show beginning at 11:00 AM where a purported image of Goldstein is shown on the telescreen (a one-channel television with internal surveillance devices that cannot be turned off). Ostensibly, Goldstein also serves an important role as both a convenient scapegoat for the totalitarian regime in 1984, and justifying reason for more military buildup, surveillance and elimination of civil liberties.

Source: Wikipedia

10

john b 05.03.11 at 1:25 pm

I’m fairly sure that Henri was being ironic.

Slight digression re the original post: By contrast, bin Laden was unsurprisingly, the object of more national fear and hatred than any figure since Hitler or Stalin.

Was Stalin the object of national fear and hatred in the US? My understanding of the early years of the Cold War is that US public opinion only got properly Red-phobic post-1953 (not least because of the positive Uncle Joe stereotype concocted during WWII), and that even then the Soviet Machine and Reds Under Beds were always the focus of home-front fear rather than Hitler/Saddam/OBL style demonisation of Soviet leaders. I’d be genuinely interested in evidence to the contrary though.

11

Bill Benzon 05.03.11 at 1:26 pm

Alas, ever since the end of World War II (some component of) the American psyche has required an external enemy. Between the democratic uprisings in the Arab world and the death of bin Laden it looks like the search is on for another enemy. Where will the projective imagination of the American national psyche light next?

12

Paul (@princejvstin) 05.03.11 at 1:28 pm

fn2. It’s interesting to ask how history would have changed if the military had done as good a job with the Iran hostage rescue ordered by Carter as they did in the present case.

A SF story by Kim Stanley Robinson called “Remaking history” explores a world where this scenario happens. The actual story is about people talking about the “Great Man in history” theory as a film based on the successful hostage rescue is being developed.

13

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.03.11 at 1:33 pm

Surely al-Zawahiri makes a better Emmanuel Goldstein. He wears glasses, and he published a book. Granted, it’s not The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism but Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, but nevertheless…

14

Straightwood 05.03.11 at 1:39 pm

it looks like the search is on for another enemy. Where will the projective imagination of the American national psyche light next?

There are so many easy choices:

1. The yellow peril – as Asian economies outperform the sclerotic US, the demonization of Asians is an obvious political move.

2. The Hispanic hordes – overrunning our borders and threatening the sacred whiteness of America, this threat cannot be neglected.

3. Ungrateful blacks – if they even hint at making trouble, just because 75% of their young people are unemployed, they will need to be taught a lesson.

4. The Rooskies – controlling Europe’s gas supplies and an increasing share of oil, the Russians are ready for a repeat performance as America’s #1 national threat.

15

alkali 05.03.11 at 2:11 pm

@6, @7, @9, @11, @13: I’m not entirely without sympathy for your cynicism, but it loses a lot of its punch when one recalls that there were actually quite a lot of people who died because of OBL.

16

Michael Bérubé 05.03.11 at 2:28 pm

The Republicans are, with one stroke, completely unable to own national security as an issue and campaign on some supposed toughness. They’ll try, but it’ll be laughable. The question is just whether that will matter by November 2012.

I don’t understand the logic here. After all, as Elliott Abrams has already pointed out, the hunt for bin Laden began under Bush, so W. should get some of the credit. The rest of the credit, of course, goes to Ronald Reagan, for issuing bin Laden a special low-interest, low-fees FreedomUSA credit card in the first place, which enabled our intelligence services to track his online purchases over the past ten years.

17

ajay 05.03.11 at 2:28 pm

My understanding of the early years of the Cold War is that US public opinion only got properly Red-phobic post-1953

Hmm. I am not sure about this – Joe McCarthy and his list of State Department Commies was 1950, and so was the “Who Lost China?” business, the outbreak of the Korean War, and the unmasking of the atom spy Klaus Fuchs; the first HUAC hearings were late 40s, Alger Hiss was 1948, as was the Berlin Airlift.

If there was a positive image of Uncle Joe – and there certainly was in Britain, I’m not sure about the US – then I don’t think it would have lasted much past 1947 or so.

14 is well-said. It doesn’t take a massively Machiavellian propaganda machine to make an enemy out of a man who murders three thousand civilians in a single morning to register his disagreement with US foreign policy.

18

Walt 05.03.11 at 2:35 pm

Bill (Benzon), I think that genuinely misunderstands the American psyche. Americans are a bunch of ignorant motherfuckers who never learned to distrust their government when it announces a new bogeyman. People believed Saddam Hussein was like Hitler because their government told them that. They would believe that you were the new Hitler just as easily. But if our leaders don’t demonize anyone, then it’s not like people will be out there looking for a new Hitler on their own.

Osama bin Laden is different. He really was our enemy, and even well-informed Americans who don’t actively wish brown people harm are glad he’s dead.

19

Straightwood 05.03.11 at 2:48 pm

there were actually quite a lot of people who died because of OBL.

In recent history, the USA caused, directly or indirectly, the deaths of over 2 million Vietnamese. (One can calculate the size of a monument with each Vietnamese name inscribed on it, in the same style as the Washington monument to US KIA in Vietnam: it would be roughly four miles long.) Of course, this did not happen on live television in a spectacular skyscraper collapse, and thus has far less historical significance. One can continue the tally of US-instigated direct or proxy killing in many countries and many eras. This is not cynicism; it is cold arithmetic. America’s hands are blood-stained with the dirty work of attaining and sustaining global hegemony.

The blow we suffered on 9/11 in no way alters the reality of the substantial harm we have done (and continue to do) to the people of the world. It serves to erase our guilt and inflame our hatreds, restoring our sense of entitlement to dominate the world.

20

Earwig 05.03.11 at 2:55 pm

“I suspect that the lack of Republican credibility on foreign policy (and for that matter, the birther issue) will encourage critical analysis of their fraudulent claims on economics as well.”

That would of course be a welcome knock-on effect. But I’m hardly sanguine about it, because the main reason for the fraudulent claims remains: those with great wealth want to keep and increase it.

From where do we imagine the criticism of those claims will emerge? — The means to promote or criticize the claims remain in the hands of the extremely wealthy.

21

Phil 05.03.11 at 2:56 pm

I don’t think the Republicans lose much here. They lost years ago when Bush used 9/11 to launch an unrelated war and forgot about the vengeance task. Obama also loses here. While he said he would shift the fight to go after OBL, he did so using rather Bush-like tactics. He has kept Guantanamo open, presumably still extracting information from prisoners. He has invaded two sovereign states without Congressional approval. He chose cowboy justice (assassination) over caputure and trial. Add to that the fact his economic policies are right out of Bush’s playbook: spend recklessly on defesne and domestic causes, deficit be damned. I’m not so sanguine he is re-electable. I vote based on means as much as ends. I don’t like his means; they are mean. The Right has always hated him and he continues to lose the Left.

22

Anderson 05.03.11 at 2:57 pm

it’s clear that their sources are trying to make claims for intelligence extracted under torture even though (on my reading) they didn’t actually get anything useful from these sources

Emptywheel is, as you’d guess, the go-to site on that issue.

23

roac 05.03.11 at 3:02 pm

@17: The American public could be persuaded that Saddam was a Hitler-equivalent because of the enormous reservoir of anger induced by 9/11. Essentially, he was a proxy for bin Laden in the public mind. It is possible to wonder whether the selling of the Iraq invasion might have encountered more resistance if we had actually nailed bin Laden by then. (Potential conspiracy theory recognized but not necessarily endorsed.)

24

Anderson 05.03.11 at 3:02 pm

He chose cowboy justice (assassination) over caputure and trial.

Good lord, you and Paul Campos. I’ve seen one Reuters report quoting some anon “national security official” claiming that the order was to kill only. It’s going to take more than that for me to believe that the SEALs were really told not to accept a surrender by OBL — not that anyone expected OBL would do any such thing.

25

Bill Benzon 05.03.11 at 3:17 pm

@14, 16, 17: Yes, bin Laden did real damage and so was, in effect, a gift to the projective needs of (some portion of) the American psyche. It’s because those needs are there that it was so easy to launch wars on Iraq and Afghanistan in order to avenge 9/11.

26

Natilo Paennim 05.03.11 at 3:21 pm

23: I think it is obvious that the “Capture or kill” order was winkingly delivered with an implied “…and no one is going to ask questions if it is the latter.”

If there’s anyone whose death it makes sense to gloat about this week, it is California white supremacist Jeff Hall. As in 2001, or 1991, or 1981, or 1971, the danger we face in this country is not from external threats, but from our homegrown fascists. Admittedly, it would be nice to see children of somewhat more dangerous racists kill their fathers, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

27

salazar 05.03.11 at 3:25 pm

AngryArab points out, says, rightly I think, the US probably wanted him alive so it could humiliate him as it had Saddam. Also, it’s quite possible Obama would have gotten more political mileage from a Bin Laden trial and execution.

On the other hand and as others here have pointed out, Bin Laden would likely never have let himself be taken alive.

28

Anderson 05.03.11 at 4:29 pm

“I think it is obvious”

I think that tells us something about you, but not about the SEALs or their orders.

I am not in a hurry to declare these men and their commanders to be war criminals.

29

Leinad 05.03.11 at 4:37 pm

If the priority was capture, why was the JDAMing option on the table?

30

Anderson 05.03.11 at 4:45 pm

Leinad, I think there is a legitimate difference between a “priority” to capture and being willing to accept a surrender. There was little reason to expect that OBL would offer to surrender, and the circumstances were not conducive to negotiating that issue with him.

If he really was unarmed, as we are now hearing, I suspect the SEALs were about as surprised by that fact as I am. The man had gotten awfully slack. No AK47 leaning beside the bed? That in itself would be, I think, circumstantial evidence that he’d been living in this compound for years, and/or expected protection from Pakistan.

31

Don 05.03.11 at 4:53 pm

I can’t imagine why this success would make Obama pivot to the left. It’s not as if liberal social policies have been suddenly vindicated. Just the opposite: it’s the CIA and the military who are being lionized right now, and pesky legal technicalities like national sovereignty are being laughed out of the room. Obama isn’t stupid enough to stop doing what he’s being rewarded for. It’s going to be fuck-you-hippies until 2017.

32

stras 05.03.11 at 5:24 pm

“The great force pulling the acceptable frame of American discourse to the right is the implacable lunacy of the Republicans and their voter base”

No, the great force pulling American discourse to the right is corporate America, and the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow from it into the coffer of politicians of both parties, and the trillions of dollars that flow back to it in return. Republican and Democrat has nothing to do with it; ownership of the state by the corporate class is a bipartisan phenomenon.

33

Dave 05.03.11 at 5:27 pm

I keep seeing this claim that it would be preferable to have bin Laden tried and imprisoned rather than killed. Is there really any reason for such a commitment? What, you’re not a barbarian?

34

stras 05.03.11 at 5:30 pm

@18:

Hell, you don’t have to reach back as far as Vietnam to find monstrous atrocities committed by the United States. Hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, half a million dead Iraqi children under Clinton, tens of thousands dead across Latin America under Carter, Reagan and Bush I… and Obama himself, in a mere two and a half years, has already racked up a bigger body count than Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda have always been amateurs compared to the murderers employed by the United States government.

35

Jim Harrison 05.03.11 at 5:42 pm

In the first months of the Bush administration the neocons were obsessed with China, not the Middle East; and I expect that they and their allies will revert to this preoccupation now that the boogieman is dead. Terrorism + Iraq + Afghanistan may turn out to have been merely a long detour from the Interstate highway of American geopolitical paranoia.

36

Hidari 05.03.11 at 5:48 pm

37

Earwig 05.03.11 at 5:59 pm

Hidari, for most of those 10 years referred to in your link, most everyone’s been ignoring “bin Laden.” (Have you seen how many college-age kids have no idea who he even was?)

The machine chugs along pretty damn well without any specific #1 bad guy.

And how much credence does this “America and the coalition invaded Afghanistan with the simple aim of destroying the terror camps and setting up a democracy that would allow the country to be ruled by good people” really merit?

Adam Curtis, talking about the power of “simple” stories, does come across as rather a simpleton himself.

38

MyName 05.03.11 at 6:21 pm

Alot of those “hippies” deserve to be told off. They aren’t going to win any elections on their own, heck they lost 2000 (indirectly) by spoiling Florida with Nader. Obama has never been a lefty candidate and neither was Pres. Clinton and if this was a parlamentary system, he’d probably have been the 2nd choice in a coalition gov’t for most of them. But until we get our fiscal house in order, we can’t afford to listen to social liberals anymore than we can afford to listen to the hawks who think we should beef up the military even more and bomb Iran.

But as far as civil liberties go, I think that’s a separate issue that depends on what the Administration and Congress want to do. The administration now has more room to maneuver after this without being painted as weak by the opposition. Before, they couldn’t even get a criminal trial for one of the terrorists, and Congress was going all NIMBY about where to put the prisoners so they are no longer in Cuba. “Only Nixon could go to China” and all that.

Walt @ 17: I’ve always been against the Iraq War, but the reason why Saddam made a good bogeyman was because he was a mass murdering bastard who had this nasty habit of invading the “nice” Arabian countries that are selling us oil. In contrast to the “good” dictators in Egypt &co. who we are still giving tons of money to.

There may be an element of 1984 to this, but if you look at it, I think there’s also some self interest involved in our choices of who to demonize (especially under Bush II). Iraq and Iran are both threats to oil security, to our allies in the Middle East (particularly Israel, although Saudi Arabia is also threatened) and their leadership is/was brutal to their own people. “Evildoer” Korea is a threat to both S. Korea and Japan, and they have the Bomb, which is more than enough to explain why we care at all whether they’re ruled by this incompetent space-alien who can’t even keep his own people fed.

39

Substance McGravitas 05.03.11 at 6:27 pm

They aren’t going to win any elections on their own, heck they lost 2000 (indirectly) by spoiling Florida with Nader.

All votes counted Gore won Florida. It’s fun to blame hippies though.

40

Don 05.03.11 at 6:36 pm

Yeah, the nerve of those people, voting for the candidate of their choice.

41

Salient 05.03.11 at 6:40 pm

Alot of those “hippies” deserve to be told off. They aren’t going to win any elections on their own

I dunno, 29,000 folks in the Gulf Islands said differently not too long ago.

But until we get our fiscal house in order,

The ever-so-slightly-left-centrists had their chance to do this, with Clinton, pulling in surpluses, and it did nothing but get swept away in Bush II tax cuts favorable to the wealthy, which are apparently now an inviolable part of the system.

42

Sev 05.03.11 at 7:15 pm

#26 “AngryArab points out, says, rightly I think, the US probably wanted him alive so it could humiliate him as it had Saddam. Also, it’s quite possible Obama would have gotten more political mileage from a Bin Laden trial and execution.”

I think this is completely wrong. Just looking at what a nightmare the trial of KSM has become, I truly doubt Obama wanted UBL in a cage. This, in fact, is what makes me suspect that he was, essentially, executed. FWIW I felt no sense of celebration at his death; would have much preferred having him arrested and tried. I thought Obama could have shown himself a strong leader by going ahead with trial of KSM in NY. I wish we were the same kind of country that carried out the Nuremberg trials, at least in terms of commitment to rule of law, rejecting torture etc.

43

Sev 05.03.11 at 7:31 pm

#19 “America’s hands are blood-stained with the dirty work of attaining and sustaining global hegemony.”

Such considerations doubtless motivate it, yet mostly it just seems an orgy of useless violence, which weakens us- of course, it may well work to consolidate control of some individuals, classes, corporate sectors. And that, apparently, is enough.

44

The Raven 05.03.11 at 7:37 pm

US anti-terrorism is not a response to terrorism; it is an expression of something endogenous to the USA. Stalin’s death did not end the Cold War, and even Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization was not enough. Maybe a few conservatives swing over to Obama’s side. Maybe the intelligence gathered at the compound makes a real difference. My general take, however, is that it’s going to take endogenous change in the USA–probably demographic change–to change US thinking on this.

In any event, I think this ends the Decade of the Big Nothing.

45

chris 05.03.11 at 9:18 pm

FWIW I felt no sense of celebration at his death; would have much preferred having him arrested and tried.

Why? Wouldn’t it inevitably have been a sham trial? I can’t imagine anyone sitting on that jury and deciding impartially, without being influenced by their preconceptions.

I don’t celebrate his death either, but I don’t see how capturing him alive could have led to any better outcome.

46

Ed Podesta 05.03.11 at 10:17 pm

“If we cast [international law] aside, there’ll be nothing left but might-is-right, arms, oil and profits” – Jackie Ashley in the Guardian(UK)

47

roy belmont 05.03.11 at 10:18 pm

The US government is a series of processes, the people of the US are a bunch of sentient animals mostly living on the North American continent.
The people of the US would still be themselves even if all their houses were to get bought up by India and their government taken over by commies from Mars.
What those processes have done to various other peoples and govts of the world doesn’t have much to do with the US people or their will, or their well-being, though it pretends to.
That the death of one man is being celebrated this week dovetails with the celebration two weeks ago of the death of another Man. Different expectations about what comes after, but the same idea really. Dead guy! Yeah! Yay!
The ridiculous macho posturing noise coming out of Washington and the national media rings like bells. Sad bells.

48

john b 05.03.11 at 11:15 pm

The great force pulling American discourse to the right is corporate America, and the hundreds of millions of dollars that flow from it into the coffer of politicians of both parties, and the trillions of dollars that flow back to it in return

Different values of “to the right” here, I think. There isn’t much benefit to Goldman Sachs or Pfizer from US foreign policy discourse being on the ‘bloodthirsty maniac’ side of the tracks – if anything, it disadvantages US companies internationally. The Toby Keith Right is orthogonal to neoliberal corporatism – at most, it’s a sideshow to persuade working class people to vote for the party that’s most directly hostile to their interests.

Adam Curtis, talking about the power of “simple” stories, does come across as rather a simpleton himself.

No, you come across as someone who hasn’t read the article.

49

stras 05.04.11 at 12:28 am

There isn’t much benefit to Goldman Sachs or Pfizer from US foreign policy discourse being on the ‘bloodthirsty maniac’ side of the tracks

The defense industry has made hundreds of billions of dollars off the war on terror; for that matter, so has the energy industry and, yes, the financial industry, running up fortunes in commodity speculation as the price of oil goes higher and higher. Wherever there’s been war, there’s been war profiteering – it’s the reason we have war in the first place.

50

john b 05.04.11 at 12:47 am

“The defense industry has made hundreds of billions of dollars off the war on terror; for that matter, so has the energy industry and, yes, the financial industry, running up fortunes in commodity speculation as the price of oil goes higher and higher”

The defence industry doesn’t require a War on Terror to make money (and indeed, a War on Terror is an inconvenient sort of war for the defence industry, since it relies primarily on intelligence rather than expensive toys). But I concede it benefits from proper shooting wars like Iraq.

Wars in one minor oil producing country and one non-oil producing country are pretty irrelevant to the oil price, which – until the end of 2010 – was driven by supply peaking while demand continued to rise. The current Arab Spring turmoil *has* had an additional impact, but you’d have to be in pretty deep tinfoil territory to assume that those uprisings are a creation of the US military-industrial-financial-energy complex.

“Wherever there’s been war, there’s been war profiteering – it’s the reason we have war in the first place.”

[citation needed]

51

Andrew 05.04.11 at 1:05 am

Why would we want bin Laden to have a trial? I honestly fail to understand this sentiment. This was a military action, in a foreign country, against the putative leader of an organization against which the US is at war. The man had no right to a presumption or effort at capture.

A further question is: what will be the consequences to Pakistan of this latest, most flagrant, indication of the complicity of at least some parts of the Pakistani government with AQ?

52

Salient 05.04.11 at 1:50 am

Why would we want bin Laden Joseph Goebbels to have a trial? I honestly fail to understand this sentiment. This was a military action, in a foreign country, against the putative leader of an organization against which the US is at war. The man had no right to a presumption or effort at capture.

Winston Churchill Andrew, 12/1944

53

Jim Demintia 05.04.11 at 1:58 am

“A further question is: what will be the consequences to Pakistan of this latest, most flagrant, indication of the complicity of at least some parts of the Pakistani government with AQ?”

Probably some more drone bombings of innocent villagers and extra-judicial assassinations by the CIA?

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logern 05.04.11 at 2:17 am

The Republican narrative has been altered by several things recently, OBL killed (terrorism) Japan and BP (energy), the political ruckus in the Middle East. (multiple Boogeymen in possible demise)

Although the GOP sitting around twiddling their thumbs looking for something interesting to do doesn’t bring any sense of calm.

55

Sev 05.04.11 at 2:25 am

“Although the GOP sitting around twiddling their thumbs looking for something interesting to do doesn’t bring any sense of calm.”

Screw the Presidency, we’ll just continue governing through the Guardian Council (courts).

56

Natilo Paennim 05.04.11 at 4:05 am

28: I think that tells us something about you, but not about the SEALs or their orders.

I am not in a hurry to declare these men and their commanders to be war criminals.

I think what these sentences tell us is that you are either heartrendingly naive or stupendously ignorant about the way in which the current undeclared war is being prosecuted.

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Dave 05.04.11 at 4:53 am

Why would we want bin Laden Joseph Goebbels to have a trial?

Oh yeah, remember when Goebbels was tried in court?

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Salient 05.04.11 at 4:56 am

Oh yeah, remember when Goebbels was tried in court?

Remember when the word “want” was included in the question? Or do you conspiracy-theorize that the trials at Nuremberg were an elaborate ruse to trick high-level Nazis into suicide?

59

LFC 05.04.11 at 5:10 am

Wherever there’s been war, there’s been war profiteering – it’s the reason we have war in the first place.
This is nonsense. There is some, albeit limited, evidence for the existence of war before the existence of agriculture. Let alone before the existence of profits and hence of profiteering. War, unfortunately, has characterized a very large amount of human history and and probably pre-history. This may now be changing. Profiteers are happy to sell weapons and weapons systems, but many of them, interestingly and hopefully, have gone unused in recent years. The hopeful fact is that, perhaps apart from the Korean War which is a difficult war to categorize, there has not been a major Great-Power war (great powers in direct conflict with each other) since the end of WW2.

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anitchang 05.04.11 at 6:27 am

Is nobody else bothered by the whole “Geronimo” thing? Either it establishes exactly the kind of continuity that you would not want (though I am sure that some think that is why it is exactly the right name…) or it points to the idea that in 100 years this whole OBL affair will be judged the same way the US attitudes to Geronimo are seen now, which one hopes it won’t be…

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maidhc 05.04.11 at 9:24 am

I don’t really claim to be competent to evaluate this, but in case anyone was wondering if there were some other theories going around:

http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/ME03Df02.html

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daelm 05.04.11 at 10:05 am

“@6, @7, @9, @11, @13: I’m not entirely without sympathy for your cynicism, but it loses a lot of its punch when one recalls that there were actually quite a lot of people who died because of OBL.”

yes. in Iraq, Afghanistan and the like. funny that.

d

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Jack Strocchi 05.04.11 at 12:17 pm

Pr Q said:

That impact is by no means all favorable – while the Republicans are the big losers, Obama will also be strengthened as against his critics on the left, among whom I’d include myself…Coming to the bad news, the success of the US intelligence machine in locating bin Laden is obviously going to strengthen Obama’s position in claiming that he has special knowledge that justifies suspending civil liberties.

I am gob-smacked that a Left-liberal would feel that the destruction of a theocratic terrorist somehow represents a political set-back for his cause. This feels like hyper-factionalism gone mad. Perhaps Pr Q will take this opportunity to “clarify” this hasty reaction.

OBL’s demise should be greeted with relief and some quiet satisfaction by Left-liberals since his existence alone justified many of the supposedly unnecessary infractions on civil liberties by C-T agencies, irrespective of the nominal laws on the books or spin put on it by national security apparat. In any case Obama has already wound back the worst excesses of Bush-Cheney admin, without falling for the the libertarian “clever hopes…of the low dishonest decade” that preceded them.

I predict that OBL’s demise will signal a gradual winding down of the GWOT, at least as far as the persecution and prosecution of supra-national sub-state agencies is concerned. It will demoralise potential terrorist recruits, in the same way that Hitler & Mussolini’s ignominous death demoralised fascist recruits. Particularly in the context of the “Arab spring”, which shows that the great un-washed can acquire far more political power through overt peaceful protest than covert violent action.

Hopefully the Occidental powers will use this opportunity to drop out of the Southern Eurasian Great Game, since the Pakistani farce proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we always get played for mugs.

Instead, we should concentrate on developing alternative sources of energy. I hear great things about the latest developments in cold fusion.

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engels 05.04.11 at 12:23 pm

Tariq Ali:

In 2006 on my way back from Lahore I encountered an acquaintance from my youth. Shamefacedly he confessed that he was a senior intelligence officer on his way to a European conference to discuss better ways of combating terrorism. The following conversation (a lengthier version can be found in The Duel: Pakistan on the Flightpath of American Power) ensued:

‘Is OBL still alive?’
He didn’t reply.
‘When you don’t reply,’ I said, ‘I’ll assume the answer is yes.’
I repeated the question. He didn’t reply.
‘Do you know where he is?’
He burst out laughing.
‘I don’t, and even if I did, do you think I’d tell you?’
‘No, but I thought I’d ask anyway. Does anyone else know where he is?’
He shrugged his shoulders.
I insisted: ‘Nothing in our wonderful country is ever a secret. Someone must know.’
‘Three people know. Possibly four. You can guess who they are.’
I could. ‘And Washington?’
‘They don’t want him alive.’
‘And your boys can’t kill him?’
‘Listen friend, why should we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?’

Now the Americans have killed the goose themselves. What was the bounty promised and to whom? Would that they also now brought to an end the war and occupation that was supposedly fought to take out Osama and that has already led to civilian casualties that are, at the very least, four times higher than the casualties of Twin Towers. Will they? Like hell they will.

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Jack Strocchi 05.04.11 at 12:43 pm

Pr Q said:

like most people in the world, I’m glad bin Laden is dead. I would have preferred to see him face trial for his crimes…Whereas the original story suggested a gunfight with bin Laden using a woman as a human shield, the new version has an unarmed bin Laden shot when his wife (also unarmed) ran at the assault team and was herself shot, though not fatally. That doesn’t preclude a call to surrender, but it certainly seems that he wasn’t given any time to think it over.

The whole notion of sending a commando into a heavily defended compound within a hostile military precinct in the hope capturing OBL alive is passingly strange. It seems to represent some sort of TV fantasy of close combat, where people can talk it over in a Mexican stand-off or perhaps shoot the bad guy in the hand before things get too ugly. Having seen what automatic weapons can do to tree-stumps I can sympathise with the commandos who decided to take no chances.

In any case there is no way this guy would have come quietly. Its hard enough to restrain a drunken woman when she is in a fighting mood, let alone the worlds heavy-weight champion of suicide bombing, surrounded by guards prepared to lay down their lives to save him. Who wants to be the first to volunteer to grab him if they can’t see what’s under his shirt? Or whats wired up under the floorboards?

A trial would have been interesting, given the dirt he might have dished on the Pakistani military. But obviously Obama felt that this would just generate too much paper-work and detract from the general aura of invincibility that he wants to conjure up in the year preceding his re-election.

OBL had numerous opportunities to “think it over” during the past decade or so. He had his chances and he blew it.

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Acre 05.04.11 at 1:50 pm

“Eh, bin Laden is nothing; it’s al-Zawahiri we really should be afraid of. He’s twice as evil, and five times more powerful.”

In the time-travel back to kill Hitler scenario, yeah. If you had 2 bullets, you would have shot Zawahiri twice. Without him there was no al Qaeda, no pull with serious, established jihadist groups and what followed from that.

However in the present, the identities are meaningless. It’s been a philosophy more than a group/network for at least half a decade. The actual group itself has long since paled in comparison to other actors.

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Acre 05.04.11 at 2:03 pm

“I’ve seen one Reuters report quoting some anon “national security official” claiming that the order was to kill only.”

Funny, I’ve seen the POTUS say the same thing in a well publicised announcement.
Seriously guy, it was a SEAL team hitting a house in the middle of the night with no guards. An unarmed man took a double tap to the face. What are you waiting for here?

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Salient 05.04.11 at 2:37 pm

I predict that the death of bin Laden will lead to a gradual drawdown of the U.S. national security state apparatus that closely parallels the gradual drawdown of the U.S. national military-industrial apparatus following World War II.

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chris 05.04.11 at 3:09 pm

the worlds heavy-weight champion of convincing other people to engage in suicide bombing

FTFY. OBL, obviously, never conducted a suicide bombing himself.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that he was a physical coward, but you can’t use his “involvement” in suicide bombing to prove that he won’t go down without a fight when his involvement was purely as a REMF.

On the other hand, he was also a veteran of the mujaheddin resistance to the Soviets. I don’t know if he saw any front-line action in that war, but I bet the people who conducted the op knew everything there was to know about his background and skills.

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Earwig 05.04.11 at 5:02 pm

@john b: “No, you come across as someone who hasn’t read the article.”

Hmm. Nothing here but a link. Then, in reply to my comment on the article and quote in the author’s voice, you give only your false insinuation.

Perhaps you disagree that Curtis is prey to the simplification he seems to me to simultaneously bemoan, celebrate and indulge in. Conversation would be easier if you’d provide evidence you had read the article. But you’ve convinced me you’re interested in something other than discussion.

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Don 05.04.11 at 5:15 pm

Jack Strocchi said:

I am gob-smacked that a Left-liberal would feel that the destruction of a theocratic terrorist somehow represents a political set-back for his cause.

What has happened is more than the death of bin Laden. It’s apparently a vindication of assassination as a means of foreign policy, and of military responses to terrorism in general. The foreign policy that created bin Laden has been strengthened politically. The international law under which he could have been tried and convicted has been weakened.

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chris 05.04.11 at 6:00 pm

It’s apparently a vindication of assassination as a means of foreign policy, and of military responses to terrorism in general.

ISTM that lumping together *conventional* military responses (which Bush tried and which failed) with intelligence/special ops responses (which succeeded) as “military responses” obscures more than it reveals. The involvement of Navy SEALs doesn’t really change the fact that this was primarily a CIA operation which relied for its success on surprising even our nominal ally, not an invasion and occupation of an entire country.

I don’t think anyone ever doubted that *some* form of violence would be the only effective way to respond to a fanatic like OBL. It’s not like he could be bought off or talked down. But there used to be a debate between small-scale, targeted, intelligence-heavy approaches and ham-fisted invasions of whole countries, and in that framework, it’s clear that the scalpel approach was the one that was vindicated. I doubt if anyone will try to mock “law enforcement” as a response to terrorism anymore.

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Don 05.04.11 at 6:34 pm

Chris, your last sentence doesn’t seem to fit. This was an entirely non-law-enforcement approach to a criminal, and it’s a political success like none we’ve seen for years. I think the law enforcement approach, and the people who suggest it (like me), are going to be considered ridiculous until further notice. Or did I miss your point?

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Sev 05.04.11 at 6:34 pm

#66 “I predict that the death of bin Laden will lead to a gradual drawdown of the U.S. national security state apparatus that closely parallels the gradual drawdown of the U.S. national military-industrial apparatus following World War II.”

Martial Plan?

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Salient 05.04.11 at 6:45 pm

It’s not like he could be bought off or talked down.

This is (probably correct but still) quite a weird thing to say of someone who we bought off as an ally for what, about a decade?, and who turned against us not too long after we stopped buying him off. Given just how large that particular memory hole is becoming, I think from now on I’ll applaud anyone who obnoxiously prepends ‘former covertly-financed U.S. ally against the Soviets Osama bin Laden’ to any discussion of his latter-day life.

I doubt if anyone will try to mock “law enforcement” as a response to terrorism anymore.

I wish/hope you’re correct about that, but, well, see Andrew upthread, for starters.

Martial Plan?

I’m sure you could marshal support for that, yes.

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Norwegian Guy 05.04.11 at 6:55 pm

While no one should be mourning Osama bin Laden’s death, the story has turned out to be more dodgy than it first appeared. Looks like the raid didn’t happen as the White House first said it did. There was no human shield. He could have been unarmed, captured alive and then killed. If so, this is more similar to a death squad than to law enforcement.

Does anyone know what happen to the bodies of the other people that were killed? If Islamic tradition made it important to dispose of bin Laden’s body so quickly, you would think that they already have been handed over to their families for burial. And what about the people who survived, including his wife and children? Eventually, their version of what happened will get out too.

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dictateursanguinaire 05.04.11 at 7:23 pm

“14 is well-said. It doesn’t take a massively Machiavellian propaganda machine to make an enemy out of a man who murders three thousand civilians in a single morning to register his disagreement with US foreign policy.”

No, their job is to dispel any inklings of the idea that the U.S. has ever made any mistakes in it foreign policy or ever killed any civilians to register their disagreement with another country’s foreign policy.

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chris 05.04.11 at 7:40 pm

someone who we bought off as an ally for what, about a decade?, and who turned against us not too long after we stopped buying him off

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that he played us for fools for about a decade and stopped considering us useful sources of supplies after we stopped being useful to him?

If so, this is more similar to a death squad than to law enforcement.

But those two things are still more similar to each other than to a full-scale invasion. (Especially in this case, where the outcome of a trial would be foreordained anyway.) Conventional military force has failed, hard, and is no longer credible as a response to terrorism. ISTM (given the two wars we still aren’t out of) that this is a bigger deal than how much due process to afford a confessed terrorist.

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Jack Strocchi 05.04.11 at 7:49 pm

And it seems that the military withdrawal hopes I have been pinning on Obama may be vindicated, if this report is to be believed. Talks about a peace settlement with the “moderate” wing of the Taliban are in the air.

THE Obama administration is seeking to use the killing of Osama bin Laden to accelerate a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and hasten the end of the Afghanistan war, according to US officials involved in war policy.
Administration officials think it could now be easier for the reclusive leader of the largest Taliban faction, Mohammad Omar, to break his group’s alliance with al-Qaeda, a key US requirement for any peace deal. They also think that bin Laden’s death could make peace talks a more palatable outcome for Americans and insulate President Barack Obama from criticism that his administration would be negotiating with terrorists.

This is great news for everyone, although the “civil libertarian” Left seem impossible to please. Do we really need a trial, complete with grand-standing by OBL with backing civil rights violin played by Geoffrey Robertson, to prove this guy was guilty?

The ramping up of the Afghan war and killing of OBL was a classic case of “cross-wiring”, initially betraying your own base and stealing the other side’s political clothes, then capitalising it to advance your own side’s agenda. From the get-go back in NOV 2008 I have been impressed with Obama’s “canny Centrism…Clinton without the sleaze”. Starting out with nothing he plays a real “Cool Hand”.

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geo 05.04.11 at 8:02 pm

chris: Conventional military force has failed, hard, and is no longer credible as a response to terrorism … (given the two wars we still aren’t out of)

I guess it still needs to be said: the invasion of Iraq was not a response to terrorism. No one in the US government believed that Saddam had anything to do with al-Qaeda or 9/11. That was simply one of several cover stories. The US invaded because Saddam was an unstable ally, controlling the second- or third-largest reserve of the world’s most valuable resource. Moreover, the national security apparatus must have known — they may be utterly dishonest, but they’re not stupid, or at least that stupid — that invading a mostly Muslim country and building several mega-bases there would probably elicit more terrorism.

Donald Rumsfeld said: “The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with oil! Literally nothing!” Is any more proof needed?

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Don 05.04.11 at 8:07 pm

Chris, I disagree: small wars and big wars are similar, and entirely unlike law enforcement. A war of any size generally runs roughshod over the values on which law enforcement is based. Indeed, if we’ve heard nothing else from the Bush and Obama administrations over the last decade, it’s that war justifies the President ignoring the law, including the laws guaranteeing our most basic rights.

In the aftermath of this apparent assassination, we can be confident our enemies will fear us. But we aren’t going to be in a position to (for example) exert moral leadership on the importance of the rule of law (not that we were in any such position last week either).

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Salient 05.04.11 at 8:30 pm

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that he played us for fools for about a decade and stopped considering us useful sources of supplies after we stopped being useful to him?

Yes, but it would also be less facetious, and right now what the world needs is a whole lot more people laughing-sneering-jeering at the very idea that we should be continually investing resources desperately needed elsewhere in the most incoherent military response to a coherent law enforcement problem the world has ever seen.

Do we really need a trial, complete with grand-standing by OBL with backing civil rights violin played by Geoffrey Robertson, to prove this guy was guilty?

Riiiight, come to think of it, I don’t know why we tried O.J. either — hell, that guy couldn’t even have used his wife as a human shield!

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priscianusjr 05.04.11 at 11:42 pm

I agree with Straightwood — bin Laden was the official Boogeyman of the USA. But this function, and the entire, pathetic, paranoid atmosphere created and perpetuated in this country around it, was a product of Bush/Cheney & Co. The real and lasting importance of the demise of Osama bin Laden is that it also represents the end of the whole Fear narrative. Although I myself was in New York on 9/11, I recognized that narrative as phony from the start, because a real leader like FDR would have immediately rallied the nation and done everything to raise courage and morale, whereas Bush, Cheney and the rest of them did the exact opposite — “be afraid, be very afraid.” And it was obvious they were doing it systematically and deliberately.
Since bin Laden was by now a has-been and was probably never anywhere near as important as he was made out to be, the greatest significance of his death will be to make possible the healing of the national psyche which I believe was injured far more by Bush & Cheney than by 9/11 itself. I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing that led me to vote for Obama, it was to get rid of those extremely bad vibes. So Obama came through, although I never imagined it would occur in that way. We’ve still got a long way to go, but at least it’s now possible.
I certainly won’t miss Osama bin Laden, but I’m sorry he never got to tell his story, it would have been very interesting. All the same, I think the Pakistani government’s got a little ‘splainin to do.

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futurepolitical.com 05.05.11 at 6:32 am

bin Laden was already dead.

No the point is not that he died from renal failure years ago to be buried secretly by his supporters. Rather he had already become a pure image, for some of evil for others not. The actual or physical bin Laden became of much less importance than the image of him.

The recent US raid then, in which bin Laden was killed plays (or prays) upon Osama as image. One kills the image with a even more perfected, over-the-top image. Commandos rappelling onto a suburban mansion, a spirited firefight, even a feminine touch with the report of a human shield. Then the body hoisted away and eventually dumped with religious dignity into the sea.

What really happened is wholly irrelevant.

The image of bin Laden and now the new image or model of his death is what matters for politicians, reporters, and for the celebrants in Lafayette park.

Some years ago the USA contracted with Hollywood screenwriters to come up with the most twisted scenarios they could imagine The recent killing has the same hallmarks. Imagine this: a new call from the US to screenwriters to imagine how bin Laden would be found. In a cave. No, too boring. How about a suburban mansion. Living an almost idyllic family life. Then a sudden raid by professionals. A touch of romance when the wife throws herself between them or was used as a human shield (either image brings in the necessary element). A body snatched. Then a CSI exam followed by burial at sea (expect those images any minute now).

Like a Hitchcock horror movie that is not too graphic, our imaginations fill in any gaps in this scenario (and gaps there are for the story is already changing; Osama was armed now it is said he was not0.

What’s next? I would not be surprised to see a counter-image arise soon. If not bin Laden himself then a lookalike will soon release a new threatening video or photo with audio message. Stay tuned.

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dictateursanguinaire 05.05.11 at 4:05 pm

these people on the supposed left ridiculing the idea of a trial are infuriating. if we start picking and choosing who does and doesn’t get a fair trial, you might as well be next. obviously OBL was guilty as sin and it wouldn’t have been difficult to prove that he was guilty (there were video tapes of him confessing). so what’s the big deal with preserving the rule of law and the writ of habeas corpus? those noble ideals weren’t dreamed up for the easy cases; they were put in place exactly for times like these, which is exactly when the dry libs want to just say ‘screw it’

86

P O'Neill 05.05.11 at 5:27 pm

Meet the new super bad guys — same as the old super bad guys.

Rick Santorum, doubtless rehearsing some lines for tonight

But whatever the fate of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the A-Team of terrorism is still Hezbollah — and it is as strong as ever..

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Substance McGravitas 05.05.11 at 5:37 pm

obviously OBL was guilty as sin and it wouldn’t have been difficult to prove that he was guilty (there were video tapes of him confessing). so what’s the big deal with preserving the rule of law and the writ of habeas corpus?

Before or after kidnapping him? Which part of the rule of law applies? I’m in sympathy with the gist of the argument, but I don’t see how strict adherence to the rule of law would wind up with US custody of bin Laden in the first place.

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Salient 05.05.11 at 6:07 pm

Before or after kidnapping him?

He was a wanted suspect, so I don’t think taking him into custody is ‘kidnapping’ him. Capture by the military seems okay to support in this case, as we were granted authorization by the Pakistanis to do so (unless I’m misunderstanding the deal McChrystal brokered). Presumably getting authorization for rendition wouldn’t be hard.

Which part of the rule of law applies?

The ICC part, if not U.S. law.

I don’t see how strict adherence to the rule of law would wind up with US custody of bin Laden in the first place.

Indeed it might not, though I think Pakistan already granted extradition and ‘hot pursuit’ rights that would allow for U.S. custody.

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Substance McGravitas 05.05.11 at 6:15 pm

I’d be awfully surprised if that was a lawful agreement within Pakistan or an arrangement with politicians.

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Substance McGravitas 05.05.11 at 6:17 pm

Bad sentence, but I think you know what I mean.

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chris 05.05.11 at 6:21 pm

I guess it still needs to be said: the invasion of Iraq was not a response to terrorism.

But it was sold as such, successfully. I don’t think that trick would work again now that we know that *actually effective* ways to get rid of terrorists don’t involve large-scale invasions.

But we aren’t going to be in a position to (for example) exert moral leadership on the importance of the rule of law (not that we were in any such position last week either).

Or last year, or ten years ago, or any time since the commencement of the War on Some Drugs (if not earlier). Police states don’t have moral authority on rule-of-law issues, regardless of their foreign policy.

You really think this damages our moral standing more than the PATRIOT Act or Rodney King? Why?

if we start picking and choosing who does and doesn’t get a fair trial, you might as well be next.

We don’t have the option of giving bin Laden a fair trial. There isn’t an untainted jury pool on Earth. The choice is between a sham trial and no trial.

Also, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve already started picking and choosing who does and doesn’t get a fair trial. Bin Laden is about the least problematic occupant of the latter group.

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dictateursanguinaire 05.05.11 at 11:42 pm

@Chris – you’re totally right but I was more talking hypothetically. There were some on the left (in the media as well as people I know personally) who said that he didn’t “deserve a trial” in the event that a fair one would have been available.

My point was that it’s not about “desert” because not only is a fair trial a human right as established by the UDHR among others, but because the positive effects of bending an extremely important law (i.e. a faster trial for a man who would be found guilty anyways) would be insignificant to nonexistent versus the clear and large negative effects.

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dictateursanguinaire 05.05.11 at 11:42 pm

sorry folks, i suck at html, the emphasis was just supposed to be on “right”

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