Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Terrorism

by S. ELLIOTT, MSc--- Every human being with a heightened conscience and sense of empathy should pause to reflect on the murder of another of our fellow beings, without regard for the identity of the perpetrator, victim, or the list of alleged crimes. No murder should ever be met with rejoicing or celebration. However, the murder of bin Laden, in our dominant cultural psyche, is considered a 'justifiable' homicide-- meaning that this murder was an act of justice, and something which was well-deserved in response for bin Laden's alleged involvement in bombings and attacks against civilians and against Western targets.

In his quest to destroy the corrupt and decadent vestiges of Western civilization, Washington responded to him in kind; therefore, both were on two sides of the same coin in their methods. bin Laden and those present inside the home were executed in a violent raid even though bin Laden himself was not armed (contrary to initial US government accounts). This appears to have been an illegal (under international law) execution within the borders of a sovereign foreign government without that government's permission to score political points for a president facing re-election who was considered ineffectual and weak and whose American loyalty was in doubt.

bin Laden had little operational sway in the workings of al Qaeda, so his death will only transform him into a worshipped martyr and give his adherents more reason to plan their attacks. This operation seems to be nothing more than a set up on the American people and the Pakistanis, as bin Laden's whereabouts have been known for some time. Furthermore, it seems that a majority of Americans, besides being elated over the execution of bin Laden, also commend the torture interrogation methods used against detainees in American-operated camps. These attitudes should send a shudder down the spine of any individual who is familiar with the retributive mob mentality of the past and the tremendous harm it can inflict on those classified as the "other."

Our world features a kind of split between those who favor capital punishment/death penalty, those who support the right to bear arms, and those who believe in Old Testament forms of retributive justice/revenge (stoning of adulterers and sorcerers, limb amputation of thieves, destruction of nonbelievers -- "eye for an eye" etc), and those who espouse a different philosophy which rejects these paradigms and works to cultivate a more sophisticated, civilized notion of justice based on peace and nonviolence. Its leaders would include Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi, and one of its forms is illustrated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa after apartheid-- a focus on restorative justice.

Note that this fits in with a Christian view of ‘turn the other cheek,’ ie, choosing not to fight violence with violence or forcing others to bend to one's will but fighting with words, ideas, and leading by example. This notion depends on the observation that violence begets violence, and can only result in a never-ending cycle of destruction; there are no positive or productive outcomes. Violence—no matter whom the perpetrator or how classified or defined by political powers—is a form of terrorism of the human psyche and soul.

In our culture, we have a strong thirst for violence and bloodshed, evidenced by our preference for multiple imperialist wars (currently occurring simultaneously and without end in sight), a military doctrine of shooting first, asking questions later and of murdering the declared enemy without capturing or bringing the person(s) in question to trial. Further evidence our cultural fascination with murder and death is to be found in our choice of entertainment, ie, extremely bloody, violent video games, music, television shows, and films, a love of guns and obsession over gun rights, mass murder/killing sprees in public spaces (malls, school board meetings, classrooms, parking lots, etc). In a way, we worship the power of the gun, and by extension, the military and its missiles, rockets and advanced weapons systems-- which are described by political pundits in almost giddy fashion. Military strength-- besides the obvious phallic representations and associations with virile masculinity-- is equated to our national strength—defined in negative/destructive terms—instead of through positive/productive terms such as the relative development and health of our society.

Our elected leaders have lied time and again regarding the reasons for entering into war, and regarding how people classified as “enemy combatants” are being treated. American society may now largely question the basis of the wars, but it does not take much to get the public riled up in support for a given enemy. Without recounting here the horrific events of September 11, 2001, our nation was given a face of an enemy who symbolized an underlying conflict of civilization and ideology. It was this face we were told to direct our anger and hate. Thus, no one I have yet spoke to has expressed anything but jubilation over the news of the murder of Osama bin Laden.

With our energy directed against bin Laden and his cadre of brown-skinned ‘terrorists’ who supposedly want to reduce us all to sheep farmers and burqa-clad chattel, our critical thoughts are not directed at the political hegemony that keeps us mislead, underfunded, and vulnerable to attack. United against a common enemy, the American people have little time to contemplate the factors that are rotting our nation from within. Now with the announcement of bin Laden’s murder by US military forces, there will inevitably be calls for retribution and a willingness to avenge his death by his supporters. Needless to say, the root causes of what the West has deemed “terrorism,”—economic and political exploitation, devastating sanctions against Iraq resulting in the deaths of at least half a million children (described by then US Secretary of State M. Albright as "worth it"), US military targeting of key infrastructure such as dams and water treatment plants leading to starvation and illness, continued military support and weapons supplies to Israel, support of corrupt regimes, indiscriminate bombing campaigns, and hypocritical policies in the region--are left unaddressed.

As long as the countries in the Muslim world with whom we seek cooperation feel attacked, ignored, besieged, undercut, or pitted against each other, we will never achieve our aims. As long as we fund corrupt regimes, continue our imperialist wars, loot resources, seek to attack others' culture and civilization, etc, we will find only enemies and fair-weather friends. Key countries in the region support—directly or indirectly—at least the ideas, if not methods/actions of bin Laden, and the reasons for this are complex, having to with distrust and hatred of US policies in the Muslim world and in South Asia leading to the suffering and deaths of millions of Muslim peoples, and to a lesser extent, fundamental cultural differences varying across countries (of which Americans from the top down are completely ignorant). (According to the results of a 2010 Pew poll in Pakistan-- the country in which bin Laden was hiding in plain sight and later killed-- cited by the New York Times, "only 3 percent of Pakistanis believed that Al Qaeda was a threat and 68 percent held a negative view of the United States.")

This of course is a major problem for US foreign policy. US political analysts and pundits have been wrong in overemphasizing economic factors behind terrorist acts; after all, bin Laden came from an extraordinarily wealthy and privileged family, and in fact, we American society has its own problem of home-grown terrorists. Therefore, the solution is not to assume that imported American lifestyles will be the fix for the problems in the Muslim world; rather, the US must do more to examine its own misguided policies in the Middle East and South Asian region before any progress can be made. In the meantime, the bloodshed on both sides will continue and will likely escalate. The murder of bin Laden will do nothing to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan or Iraq, and the wars will continue. Through our continued misguided militaristic interventions in the Arab world, we ensure bin Laden's survival and replication; however, this may in fact serve the very selfish aims of our empire. After all, war without end requires an ever-present enemy to justify it.


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.