Monday, May 2, 2011

After bin Laden, What Will Change? Not Much.

Watching the crowds outside the White House last night an image flashed through my mind of the victorious warlord of eld prancing on horseback around the square with the the severed head of the slain enemy leader impaled on his pike to the huzzahs of his minions.

How desperately we cling to the myth of American exceptionalism!  President Obama fed the frenzy:

    But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we 
    set  our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of   
    prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our 
    commitment to stand up for our values broad, and our sacrifices to make the world
    a  safer place. . .

Well . . . the Bin Laden mission may turn out to be as critical to this President's re-election campaign as the original 9/11 attack was to the re-election of George Bush. So perhaps his flag-waving bovine excrement can be shrugged off, if not forgiven.

This is not to make light of the work of those who planned and executed so flawlessly what was essentially an act of police work: the killing of a most-wanted criminal.  In all likelihood, this act of police work could have been accomplished ten years ao, when the sympathies of the entire world (including Muslim leaders) were with us, and the pooling of intelligence and resources through multinational cooperation might even have yielded a living Osama bin Laden to try and presumably convict under cover of law.

But Bush, an instrument of the corporate militarism that runs this country, and not a very intelligent one at that, had to have his war.  Eight years to the day after he put on his sojer suit and paraded across the deck of an aircraft carrier to declare "Mission Accomplished," another American President actually accomplished a mission.  A difficult, complex and terribly important one, to be sure.

But after more than 7,000 American deaths, tens of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Afghani and Pakistani civilian deaths; after spending ourselves into an enormous deficit waging unnecessary wars and starting new ones; after squandering the empathy of the world and creating new hostilities, are we really entitled to wave flags and chant "USA! USA!" because we finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice?

Did we put as much planning over the last nine months into what would follow a successful mission to apprehend or kill Bin Laden (at least one news agency says the goal never was apprehension)?  Will we end our present wars quickly and be less hawkish about starting new ones? At home will we repeal the unconscionable so-called Patriot Act, restore civil liberties, stop spying on American citizens and turn full attention to meeting the basic needs of the American people?

The organization for which Bin Laden was but the financier and figurehead still exists.  Its recruiting of terrorists and their dedication and fanaticism have been fueled by the wrongful American foreign policy of the last decade.  Those who have studied al Qaeda most closely are certain that retaliatory terrorist acts are inevitable now that Bin Laden has become a "martyr."

The need for vigilance will give our elected officials and the vast military machine plenty of cover to continue wars, spying, torture and whatever else they need to further the policies that degrade us as a nation.

What will change now that we've offed the bad guy?  Very little, I fear.

But Barrack Obama's political future looks a lot brighter than it did 48 hours ago.

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