So it is hardly an occasion for celebration. Its significance is merely symbolic: killing the perpetrator of 9/11.
The New York Times claimed in an editorial that 9/11 “profoundly changed our lives” but we can “now breathe a bit more easily.”
That’s nonsense on both counts. The world remains sometimes wonderful, sometimes cruel and sometimes unjust. But it never really changes in major ways. The changes are minor like the absurd bolstered security in public buildings and the ridiculous screening overkill at airports.
As for breathing easier, a terrorist war has no front, the soldiers are invisible and the war never ends.
Yet morbid end-of-war celebrations erupted with honking horns, waving flags. giddy crowds and asinine chants of “USA! USA!”
Feverish jingoism is so typical of boobus Americanus, so typical of a nation that considers itself exceptional.
President Obama, the politician caters to that chauvinism. He declared: “Justice has been done.” No, vengeance has been done. Murder Inc. triumphed.
The greatest flaw of democracy is the need to pander to voters. So Friday Obama appeared at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, proclaiming to a raucous crowd of 2,300 soldiers that the killing of bin Laden “was a job well done.” He ended the presidential pep rally with the traditional “God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”
Michael Moore argued persuasively that bin Laden should have been captured and tried.
“Look at the Nuremberg trials,” Moore said. “We didn’t just pop a bullet in the heads of the worst scum in history. We thought it was important to put them on trial and expose their evil. In a democracy we believe in a system of justice. We believe in a judicial system that gives people a day in court.”
The Pakistan government rightly called the commandoes who executed bin Laden guilty of “an unauthorized unilateral action” in its country.
But what is one more U.S. affront? It already is at war in Pakistan with drones killing civilians.
Meanwhile the nation is waging an interminable and senseless war in Afghanistan. It is not leaving Iraq, another senseless war, anytime soon. And it is senselessly bombing Libya.
The manhunt for bin Laden took 10 years and cost $400 billion. It was not worth it whatever the polls say. Polls reflect group-think not rationality.
The Times also declares that the values of the nation “make us who we are.” Constant warfare is a value? Assassination is a value?
Other U.S. values:
• Sending terrorism suspects to “black sites” in America for torture and detention without trial.
• Outsourcing torture to other countries.
• Abducting and imprisoning hundreds of innocent men at Guantánamo.
The argument here is hardly a defense of terrorism. But the 9/11 murders were provoked by America’s constant support of Israel while constantly ignoring fundamental Palestinian rights.
Muslim nations also resented the global reach of the U.S. military, some of that empire reaching into Muslim lands. They also resented America’s support for Arab dictatorships, the wrong side of history as the Arab Spring has shown.
Bin Laden was outraged by U.S. backing of repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. He was outraged that Israel got copious U.S. aid while Palestine was ignored. (The founding of Israel on Palestinian soil was one of the greatest mistakes in history.)
Bin Laden told CNN the truth in 1997: “The U.S. wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources … wherever we look we find the U.S. as the leader of terrorism and crime in the world.”
Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times who covered the Mideast for seven years, knows al-Qaida intimately. He knows that the organization is a terrorist organization.
But Hedges also knows this truth: “the collective humiliation that we have imposed on the Muslim world.” He adds in his online column Truthdig:
“The expansion of military occupation that took place in the Arab world after 9/11 and the presence of American imperial bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Doha have done more to engender hatred and acts of terror than anything ever orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.”
The United States is a powerful recruiter for al-Qaida. America is the very evil that its rhetoric deplores.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.