The Justice Done.
Osama bin Laden has finally been wasted, at his notably immodest hideout, in Pakistan by US forces. For a long time he was the international personification of Islamist Terror for around a decade. A signifier of pure and radical evil in the West, the name itself was enough to conjure up the images of the Twin Towers crashing down after the planes struck. Osama stands out from the 52 children of Mohamed bin Laden, a multimillionaire who built 80% of roads in Saudi Arabia and died in a helicopter crash in 1968. In a sense Osama bin Laden personifies the contorted base and superstructure of Islamism. A son of the Saudi bourgeoisie, born to privilege and luxury as a result of capital accumulation which would have been impossible without the close relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. The contradiction between the economic base of corporate oligarchy and the ideological superstructure of radical Islam is evident in the surroundings of which he was found. Only the face of Islamist Terror could hide in a mansion less than a mile from Pakistan's Sandhurst.
The BBC is eager to remind us that the ideas of Osama bin Laden are not dead, we ought to keep in mind that the ideas are not his own. It was Sayyid Qutb who advocated the formation of state with all the advances of Western science and technology, but it would be purified of the decadence of liberalism through a strict adherence to a radical interpretation of the Qu'ran. These conclusions Qutb made after his travels in America throughout the 1940s and upon his return to his native land of Egypt he joined the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Brothers supported the revolution led by General Nasser, a bourgeois nationalist committed to a non-aligned secular model of development. The CIA had trained the security services of Egypt. By 1954 Sayyid Qutb was imprisoned for his political activities, he was tortured and suffered a heart attack in his time in prison. The experiences of prison radicalised Qutb even further, he concluded that the possessive individualism of the West was a barbarous infection.
All the means of combating the spread of jahiliyyah in Egypt were justifiable and leaders like Nasser could be killed justifiably because he was no longer a Muslim according to Qutb. The Nationalist regime tried Qutb for treason and then executed him to set an example. The radical writings inspired a young doctor, another aristocrat, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In 1981 Zawahiri helped organise the assassination of Sadat, for his corruption and compromise to Israel. The Propaganda of the Deed was intended to provoke a mass-uprising against the Nationalist regime in Egypt. There was no such uprising in support of a Islamist state, Sadat was merely succeeded by Mubarak. In prison al-Zawahiri was tortured and he began to blame the Muslim masses for failing to rise up against the corrupt regime in Cairo. He went on to conclude that the masses had been corrupted and were no longer Muslims either. For him the slaughter of politicians, infidels and even ordinary Muslims would be necessary in order for Islamism to be realised in a country.
Once Ayman al-Zawahiri was released from prison he went to Afghanistan to help the resistance to the Communists and Osama bin Laden had moved there in 1979 for the same reason. The two of them would become heavily involved in the radical wing of the Mujahideen, which had been founded in 1978, just before the Soviet invasion, with money provided by the Carter administration. The flow of money to the Mujahideen was increased under Reagan, it was funnelled through Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Incidentally the regime of General Zia ul-Haq initiated the radicalisation of Pakistani society in the 80s and we are still seeing the consequences today. The corruption in Pakistan is the reason that Osama bin Laden managed to hide there for so long. The US not only funded but trained the "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan, ironically Osama bin Laden personally thanked Prince Bandar for securing the assistance from the Americans. Over 30 years of war has reduced Afghanistan to a backward narco-state, it was once a modern and forward-looking country.
The Terror of War.
The name bin Laden was rolled out on the news soon after the attacks on the Twin Towers took place on September 11th 2001. The televised images were horrifying and surreal. How could such a thing happen to America? When the attacks hit home, I had just got back from school to find the horrible news on telly. Looking back, my reaction is quite interesting. I immediately changed channel. The reason: I took the sight of people fleeing from an enormous dust cloud must be something to do with Israel-Palestine. The constant fighting over patches of sand seemed a wearisome issue at the time, an unsolvable conflict which had gone on forever and would go on forever. When my mother informed me of the dreadful truth, that the people in those towers were American and not the fresh victims of a conflict going back 60 years. At first I thought the planes must have flown into the Towers by accident somehow. No one would dare attack the beloved America, the land which brought us The Simpsons and Coca-Cola. It had to be an accident.
In the wise words of Hunter S Thompson "The Towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for peace in our time, in the United States or any other country." Soon the old men with grey hair were on TV and we were all assured that there would be justice. George Bush re-declared the "War on Terrorism", a declaration originally made by Ronald Reagan, the words of Thompson were proven deadly accurate. The justifications for warfare against "rogue states" were reminiscent of the words picked by LBJ "We have to stop the communists over there [Vietnam] or we'll soon be fighting them in California." Only the Western victims of terror mattered and the Persian Gulf War had demonstrated that the invasion of a country could be executed without major casualties (on our side). Don't mind the thousands of Iraqi slain, particularly civilians and the hundreds of thousands more who would be brutalised by economic sanctions.
The invasion of Afghanistan followed as the Taliban refused to extradite Osama bin Laden to the US, but would do so on the condition that there was evidence put forward. It is strange that the US seems perfectly capable of extraditing Julian Assange for rape, but not a man who was responsible for terrorism on an international scale. The regime in Kabul had been propped up on cash from Saudi Arabia and the US. Even radical Jihadists condemned Osama bin Laden at the time, so there was a chance to divide the Islamists and secure the extradition through unscrupulous methods not alien to the chickenhawks. Nevertheless, the invasion went ahead as the British and Americans were fully aware the military strike could lead to the deaths of over 7 million people just through starvation. It was not part of a reaction to 9/11. The war has united the Islamist movement against the West and the threat of private-terrorism increased sharply. Even more so after the invasion of Iraq.
We do not know if the invasion could have been avoided given the concentration of power in the US and the convergence of interests in favour of war. The bombing of Afghanistan killed civilians and was executed to demonstrate the might of the US. From the standpoint of neoconservatives it might have been seen a necessary war to be fought in order to take Iraq later on. The American people had to be brought together in a fight against a common enemy, which morphed from bin Laden to the Taliban in a couple of weeks. The value of Afghanistan is strategic as the country is situated on the edge of the oil spicket of the world. Not just the Middle East, but also Central Asia. The way in which India seeks to power it's growing economy is relevant here, rationally there could be agreements between India and Iran to run a fuel pipeline through Pakistan. The US wants to isolate Iran and force the Indians to make a deal with Turkmenistan, which would require a multi-billion dollar pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.
What Justice Done?
It took 10 years to kill this man, though the extent to which the "War on Terror" was about capturing this man seems highly suspect. In death he has secured a second term for Obama, who has finally accomplished one of his election promises to kill Osama bin Laden and may have made the demagogues calling for Obama's birth certificate look irrelevant. We should remember that it was the idle threats bin Laden made in 2004 which secured a second term for the Bushites. In other words, the financier of international terror had earned a swift burial at sea from the Americans. No doubt the conspiracy theorists will be typing vigorously. The de facto leadership of al-Qaeda are still at large, the organisation has lost a useful financier and prominent ideologue. The former of which will be easier to replace than the latter. Despite the superficial role of bin Laden, the Taliban have sworn revenge and al-Qaeda may have acquired a useful prominent martyr.
The Republicans will seek to vindicate the Bushites of such criminal indulgences as kidnapping and torture at secret prisons around the world, as well as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Democrats can forget about the lessons of the Bush administration and it will be up to the American people to force the US government to change. The United States of Amnesia at it's finest! Revenge is the word for it and far more appropriate than justice as the latter would require a degree of self-reflection and presuppose a lack of double-standards. If the US were to pull out of Afghanistan and leave the Iraqi people to decide the trajectory of their country it might mean more than simple vengeance. It would mean even more if the Bush administration faced trial for the crimes committed in the name of freedom and democracy. After all the Bushites are guilty of the supreme international crime - unprovoked aggression - established at the Nuremberg Tribunal.
There is something surreal about the death of bin Laden, a man who had avoided capture for 10 years and in the end was killed. There were theories that he had been killed or died years ago. Some even thought he had never existed or was not involved in 9/11 in any way. The corpse was buried at sea after it was not accepted by Saudi Arabia. It would have been the appropriate burial ground for a man who bought into the obscurantist Wahhabi brand of Islam, a puritanical reading of the Qu'ran propagated to protect the heart of capitalism in the Middle East. The assassination of Osama bin Laden has come at a vital moment for Obama, it will provide a 'boost' for Americans who are looking at huge austerity measures and economic turmoil. The impact of the man's death - which has even boosted the stock market - is far less noticeable in Europe where there are no gatherings of people chanting nationalistic slogans. Possibly because in Europe there is the stark perception of what the American government has done since the tragedy of 9/11.
The greatest victory of Islamism would be the self-destruction of Western values as a reaction against itself, a sadomasochistic method if there ever was one. The proponents of liberal interventionism, from American neocons to Blairites, are so eager to fight radical Islamism to defend Western values and the Judeo-Christian civilisation. Not only are the warriors on terror profoundly anti-Christian in their rejection of Christianity as a universalist doctrine and reversion to Paganism. The terrorists are prepared to destroy this world for love of another world, the counter-terrorists are ready to destroy the Free World out of a hatred of the Muslim Other. From waging illegal wars to legalising torture, the greatest infringement on freedom and democracy, made to defend freedom and democracy. This is a contradiction internal to late capitalism, the explicit need for a violence in the defence of freedom against violence and in doing so freedom is lost. After the "War on Terror" Americans should inquire what was it the US was fighting for?