Osama and Obama
EDITORIAL, 9 May 2011
#163 | Johan Galtung
Some statements about what happened; then their elaboration:
 Osama is probably dead, but nobody should take the killers’ word for it. An independent commission with DNA evidence is indispensable.
 If Osama was unarmed in a bedroom this is extrajudicial execution.
 For that the license to kill has to come from very high quarters, meaning from Obama himself. The implication is a shift in strategy from general overt warfare to covert targeted killing, blurring the line between Pentagon and CIA, as seen by recent appointments.
 If there was no such license from above but a general 007 license to kill given to Unit 6 of the Seals (Sea-Air-Land), the situation is even worse: more roving gangs of professional killers are let loose.
 Those who celebrate extra-judicial execution, are “glad” (Merkel), might contemplate that they are legitimizing an approach that may be applied to themselves by somebody who also might like to be “glad”.
 To refer to the Western reaction as medieval etc. insults the Middle Ages. The reaction has a name: Western Civilization in decline (even rapid decline), leaving behind important achievements–like no punishment without sentence, no sentence without trial, no trial without law and hearing the accused–when they are most called for.
 This becomes even worse when bin Laden is accused of being the operational mastermind of 9/11 with no proof, like for WMD in Iraq. His endorsements fall under Freedom of Expression, not under Law.
 Killing Osama does not kill his cause, the struggle for Islam. The killers will harvest the exact opposite of what they hoped.
 Osama’s terrorism, Al Qaeda or not, killing those innocent of trampling on islam is totally unacceptable also from a Qur’anic angle.
 Obama has now left George W. Bush behind, at war with six muslim countries, having added Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia. Syria next?
 Obama’s massive violation of Pakistan sovereignty will backfire. What has been said is no defense for Al Qaeda-bin Laden violence; nor of 9/11. The former, in the words of Osama is struggle for islam, the latter is struggle against economic and military manifestations of the US empire. How the authors of 9/11 were thinking is under FBI-CIA wraps; they evidently hated US economic-military activity. But Osama’s thinking is available to any “expert” in Bruce Lawrence ed. Messages to the World-The Statements of Osama Bin Laden (Verso, 2005):
“This is one of the battles of eternal Islam” (24 Sep 01).
“What America is tasting today is but a fraction of what we have tasted for decades. For over eighty years our umma has endured this humiliation and contempt”(07 Oct 01).
Obama’s rhetoric is also attractive; the action less; we must focus on both for both. To judge one by good rhetoric and the other by bad action is immaturity, carried by “experts” on mainstream TV.
That they needed 10 years to track him down is no surprise. Of an organization that failed to foresee the Soviet thermonuclear bomb, the Sputnik, the Berlin Wall, the nukes in Cuba, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the end of the cold war, one might conclude: Central, Yes; Agency, Yes; Intelligence, intelligent, certainly No. That Pakistan, a muslim country with artificial Durand type colonial borders to Afghanistan and a Western elite government plays a double, triple game surprises nobody except the USA falling into its own trap. The deep culture, not intelligence, is running this miserable show. Add Obama’s ignorance of foreign affairs (The New Yorker (02 May 11) and we have a weak, talkative victim of very dark forces for our eyes.
The reaction from the Osama side is predictable (ICSR-The International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, 06 May 11):
“Al Qaeda members promise a series of further attacks which ‘will even make the hair of babies turn grey’, and call for Pakistanis to rise up against their government”.
Are the Americans able to kill what Sheikh Osama lived and fought for, even with all their soldiers, intelligence and agencies? Never! Never! Sheikh Osama did not build an organization that would die with him, nor would end with him.–If the light of Islam and jihad could disappear with the killing or death of just one person, it would have gone the day Prophet Mohammed died–instead they were emboldened by the attacks–holding the flag of truth in their hands…”
The Al Qaeda story, threatening, bad, at least hangs together; Washington’s not. It is changing by the day, even by the hour; blaming the fog of war, not the fog in the minds of the committees composing those stories. John Brennan is billed as the leading counter-terrorism expert; if his version reflects his intellectual level, it is small wonder that counter-productive is a better term. This does not mean that their narratives will converge toward truth.
Is there any way out of this? One could wish that Osama had sent thousands of muslim women dressed in black, hundreds of them surrounding each US embassy demanding, nonviolently, a dialogue. One could wish that the US empire, of which Obama is the current administrator, were open to dialogue and conflict resolution. But Obama is as far from that as Osama from nonviolence. Serbia’s Milosevic wanted dialogue, Iran’s Mohammad Khatami wanted dialogue, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein wanted dialogue about his four peace proposals, Libya’s Gaddafi wants ceasefire with dialogue. And Washington? They want one thing: regime change, getting rid of the person they have demonized to the point that they think his disappearance from the scene is identical with conflict resolution. They feed that dish to obliging media and a US public praying “give us today our daily lies”.
And yet there are two roads to peace. One passes through denying them support, isolating them in their violent madness; no allies.
And the other passes through the past, the 27 or so Western attacks on Islam after 1830[i], reconsidering, reconciling. Unlikely from the bastions of Western arrogance, but possible maybe from others.
An educated guess: Sheikh Osama will live on in the minds of people long after President Obama has been forgotten. Both extremely violent, killing civilians en masse, rhetorically gifted, intelligent, attractive, handsome. But one is on the side of history, fighting, however wrongly, for the wrongfully suppressed, and the other for the wrongful suppressors, for a dying empire, against history. Sic transit.
[i]. 50 Years: 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives, TRANSCEND University Press, 2008, Ch. 88; from www.transcend.org/tup.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 May 2011.
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