Monday, May 23, 2011

Osama: A Cathartic Killing.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden has been dissected in international media. While the world heaved a collective sigh of relief at not just the killing but the near total absence of any outcry from the proverbial Arab street. The latter, specifically, is making analysts sit up and take note.

Are Americans wrong to celebrate the killing of Osama? How different is such an American from those who celebrated 9/11 watching the towers fall? Stunned by Obama's action that looked very much like Bush  the world at large gave a muted appreciation but the ubiquitous finger wagging intellectuals added a "nevertheless its not nice to celebrate a person's death" and for good measure compared it with the celebrations that erupted in parts of Middle East seeing civilians leap to their death from the towering inferno. Such moral bracketing is despicable and loathsome. Celebrating the death of a mass murderer is NOT the same as celebrating seeing innocent men and women leap to their deaths. I had aptly compared it to Diwali in my earlier blog .

Like World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, First Gulf War, this was not a war that America sought out. America in the midst of a recession was busy addressing its economy. George Bush came to office forswearing nation building. He had declared that "America is not the world's 911" (911 - number for all emergencies in USA). John Cherian, writing for Frontline magazine, claimed that America went to war to capture one man. An insulting sleight of hand. America did not go to war with Afghanistan just chasing Osama. Afghanistan was the hot bed global terrorism running practically schools were terror tactics were taught to jihadists. That terror network had to be dismantled.

Some have pointed out that unlike common belief that this attack is indeed covered by international law. More than a few sought to lecture America that  this is not justice but sheer vendetta, justice would be to arrest Osama and indict him in a court of law. America did that to Ramzi Youssef who had bombed the towers in 1993. Youssef, too, was picked up in Pakistan, arraigned in a court of law, defended by a lawyer paid by US taxpayer and is in a supermax prison sentenced for life (no death penalty). What good did it do us? Would the likes of Osama be mollified by such trials? Even if such a trial was carried out a would-be-Osama (and not a few intellectuals) would still mock it as a staged trial. It would be free dangerous propaganda circulating on youtube. Osama's culpability in 9/11 was proved beyond doubt by any standards of investigation, including his own despicably boastful videos that nailed his guilt.

Some brushed it as inconsequential killing that may unnecessarily inflame passions again. The treasure trove of intelligence unearthed has shown that Osama was not just in hiding but actively plotting with his sick mind. There are those who would still say such intelligence was 'planted'. I've no arguments for instinctive Anti-Americans who loath America. Let me reiterate that Obama is the president under whose watch all of this is happening. Now the anti-Americans would drool "all American presidents are the same". Trying to convince them is like having a conversation with a dinner table. The killing has deep symbolic effect across segments and it has perceivable impact in real terms too.

When the Japanese launched Pearl Harbor their idea was that America lacked guts and courage for a prolonged bloody war. After decimating American navy when the planes headed home, General Yamamoto, who spear headed the campaign, educated in USA, is reported to have said "all that we have done today is to wake up a sleeping tiger". Osama thought the same. The nation of Playboy, Bay Watch etc would run away with its tail in between its legs. Osama repeatedly referred to how US ran away from Vietnam and Somalia. The Vietnam debacle especially emboldened him. If bicycle riders could humiliate America why not mule-riders? Destroying that comfort is valuable.

I did not want to write blogs on the operation itself immediately when the details were sketchy. Unlike my initial reaction this was not a 'kill' operation. There were preparations done to take him alive. However that was a very remote possibility. The SEALS were operating in very hostile territory, under darkness racing against time and against an opponent who valued his life very little hence their decision to kill him cannot be second guessed from arm chairs. The decision to bury him at sea was a brilliant one. I don't buy the reasoning given for that like "no country would accept him", "according to Islam we had to bury him in 24 hours". He was killed on land and taken to sea to be dumped for the fishes. I hope they had a feast or maybe they found him too distasteful for their morals.It would take another 5 years minimum until some investigative reporter pieces together the story for a prize winning book.

The killing of Osama provided yet again an opportunity for anti-americanism to come out in its full rich spectrum. Anti-Americanism is a rich tapestry woven out of many strands that mirror the colors of the soul of the beholder. The spectrum of such animosity ranges from sheer loathing to supposedly well meaning criticism couched in intellectual bromides.

A few days after the killing The Guardian newspaper from UK, no friend of America, printed a column that said the greatest myth about Osama was that USA/CIA created him. Soon after Peter Bergen, who had interviewed Osama in person in 1997 for CNN, wrote an op-ed for Washington Post titled "top 5 myths about Osama". The first myth was that Osama was a Frankenstein created by CIA. From Bergen's column:

"Instead, all U.S. aid to Afghanistan was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI. Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, the ISI officer who coordinated Pakistani efforts during the war, explained in “The Bear Trap,” his 1992 book: “No Americans ever trained or had direct contact with the mujaheddin.”
Since 9/11, al-Qaeda insiders have responded in writing to assertions that they had some kind of relationship with the CIA. Bin Laden’s top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in his autobiographical “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” wrote, “The truth that everyone should learn is that the United States did not give one penny in aid to the [Arab] mujaheddin.”
I just finished reading "Looming Tower" by Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer awarded. The radicalization of Osama and the jihadist ire against America has got very little to do with American foreign policy or Israel. Osama declaring war on America follows a tortuous route spun with several threads that culminated in a fateful ideological conclusion. I plan to write on the various in the days ahead. 
What does this killing do for Obama? Not much in real terms. The 2012 election is far away. The Obama team is very well aware that Bush Sr lost the election after winning the war. Bush Sr lost to a relatively unknown Bill Clinton. Unfortunately for Obama the economic situation mirrors that of Bush Sr. But so far the GOP has not produced a Bill Clinton. Obama may yet win 2012 but this killing, while giving a welcome and richly deserved boost, is not enough to guarantee a second term. Its, still, the 'economy stupid".
I shall part with just one more thought. Just like Yamamoto many of the intellectual (if you can call them that way) leaders of Al Qaeda were educated in American universities. They and the 19 hijackers were guests of a generous America. What is it with American education and anti-americanism????

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