Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Is Dead: Now What?

Note the difference in response from civilians outside the White House, and troops in Afghanistan, as the world learns that Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of 911 is dead.

Posted by: Noël Jones

Last night I got home around 10pm and turned on the TV to a rather anxiety-provoking announcement--the press corps had been mysteriously called back to the White House without explanation, except that President Obama would soon be making a "highly unusual" announcement of national security concern. I checked the other channels--the same story was running everywhere, and without commercials. Newscasters speculated that it might be about Libya, as NATO has recently struck the home of Muammar Gaddafi's son, killing him, and three of his children. But then the word got to the press that the president's announcement would not be about Libya. What could it be? The president never makes unplanned announcements after 10pm on a Sunday night. My first thought was biological terrorism. No, no, try to think of something positive...what positive news could possibly inspire the president to do this? Maybe they finally got Bin Laden...

Moments later, the press got the word that it was indeed the killing of Bin Laden, the mastermind of 911 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, about which Obama would address the nation. It was after 11pm before he finally did, as the administration was waiting to announce until after members of Congress had been notified. But word was already spreading, and outside the White House people were gathering by the hundreds, chanting "U.S.A! U.S.A!" and singing the national anthem. People gathered at Ground Zero in New York as well, and there was an outpouring of jubilation at the news. 

I texted my brother, who is stationed at Ft. Drum: "We got Bin Laden." He called me immediately, and when I answered the phone, he asked in a very even measured tone, "Is it true." He was at home, and the TV happened to not be working. I told him that it apparently was--that we had killed him. "You mean, he's dead?" he responded. I realized for the millionth time how important--and powerful--words are. My message "We got Bin Laden" had led my brother to assume that we had
captured the man, not killed him. I put my iPhone on "speaker" and turned up the TV, and we listened together to the coverage, and finally to President Obama's announcement. My brother said, "I know some people feel like this is 'Ding dong the Witch is Dead' but I feel much more somber about it." We both wondered about what would come next. Would this be Obama's turning point in the Afghan War, when we could finally begin to draw down our troops, since finding and killing Bin Laden was our justification for being there in the first place? My brother has served two tours in Iraq, and has assumed that his next tour will be in Afghanistan. 

Or would this merely martyr Bin Laden and cause even more vengeful "blowback" in the form of terrorist attacks by extremists? It is tempting to think of Al Qaeda as a snake, and Bin Laden as the head that we have finally cut off. But unfortunately, Al Qaeda is more like a poisonous fungus, cropping up everywhere, and sending off hundreds of spores to spread on the wind each time a part of the fungus is chopped off.

I could be wrong, but I think that that is the difference in the reactions of American citizens and American troops in the photos above. Citizens think we've beheaded a snake, and it's time to party. Troops know we've chopped off part of a lethal fungus, and are quite aware of what could come next. Will they go home? Or will they be there another 10 years? At this writing, Secretary of State Clinton has just announced that the threat from Al Qaeda remains the same, and our strategy in Afghanistan will remain the same. Great.

I have a crazy idea. Why not bring them all home, to defend us against terrorism here, where it would actually happen? Let them guard our ports, borders and airports. Let them rush in after the South is ravaged by the hurricanes, oil disasters and tornados to save Americans, protect them from looting and help them rebuild? Lets have them here defending people instead of there, killing terrorists and thousands of civilians as collateral damage, forever feeding the blowback that makes people willing to die to kill us in ever-growing numbers? As long as we have tight security in airports overseas that send planes to our country, and intelligence to alert us as to nuclear danger, why shouldn't we defend ourselves here? Lets not spend another $1 trillion on "defense" contracts that should really be called "offense" contracts, when our economy is in desperate need of paying off its deficit. Let's bring our troops home, secure our borders, save the lives of our young people and save our tax money. Let's focus on ourselves and stop making new enemies.

But alas, this is a fantasy. Just days ago, we (as part of NATO) attacked the home of the family of the leader of Libya, killing his son and three grandkids, all the while claiming that we're just helping the rebels, not trying to kill Gaddafi himself. Gaddafi was in the house, but escaped, and only family members, including children were killed. How does this make us look in the eyes of the Arab world? How does this protect us from terrorism, as opposed to creating more and more anti-American anger and fresh new terrorists who want to kill us? 

How do photos of our people, jumping up and down joyfully in the streets with flags, hands in the air, chanting U.S.A., U.S.A. look any different to Arab citizens in the Middle East and Africa, than photos of their citizens jumping up and down look to us?

I said good-bye to my brother around midnight, both of us, wondering, I'm sure, as to whether this all means he will be sent to Afghanistan sooner, later or not at all. This morning his wife gave birth to his seventh child.


Anonymous said...

"How do photos of our people, jumping up and down joyfully in the streets with flags, hands in the air, chanting U.S.A., U.S.A. look any different to Arab citizens in the Middle East and Africa, than photos of their citizens jumping up and down look to us?"

Just remember one very important fact. On 9-11 people all over the world were celebrating the murder of thousands of innocent civilians.

Yesterday and today people are celebrating the killing of one of the truly evil people on our planet.

HUGE difference.

noel jones said...

The question is not "how are they different?" but "how do we "LOOK any different to ARAB citizens?" If you set aside the whole debate OF who's right and who's wrong--or who's on God's side and who's not--and simply look at the goal--for there to be less terrorist attacks in the U.S.--then we have to recognize (if we are thinking rationally) that with every attack on an Arab country--especially those attacks in which civilians die, as in the case of Gaddafi's youngest son and his children--that we are creating more anger, more desire for vengeance, more people willing to be suicide bombers to get back at us.

I just think it makes a lot more sense for us to be involved in as few conflicts in Arab nations as possible--to save our money and DEFEND rather than OFFEND if our goal really is to create a future in this country where terrorist attacks are LESS likely to happen. The more we attack terrorists (and kill civilians as collateral damage) on their territory, the more the CIVILIANS that we say we are trying to "help" HATE us.

And who can blame those civilians? If a Libyan jet bombed a dinner party where they new President Obama was in attendance, and ended up killing your children, who were there to get an award, would you care that the Libyans felt they had just cause? Can you honestly tell me that you wouldn't hate Libyans for killing your children, regardless of whether they had a good reason or not?

Might point is that we tend to hold a double-standard that is born of American Exceptionalism. They kill civilians, therefore they are Evil. But if we kill civilians, that's ok, that's just the collateral damage of war and they shouldn't hold it against us. If they jump up and down on TV, they are uncivilized savages, but if we do it, we just getting excited about our heroes.

Whether or not you agree on the idea of the double-standard, I would hope that we can agree that attacking people in their countries makes them hate us, and not less likely to produce terrorism over here, but MORE likely. That's why the CIA invented the term "blowback." Because it exists.

noel jones said...

Ugh, sorry for the typos--typing too fast!

noel jones said...

Here is an article sent to me from a good friend and fellow writer in Karachi, Pakistan. It is an article by a Pakistani journalist for the British publication, The Guardian:

david said...

To be perfectly honest, other than being a morale booster, I don't really see how this changes anything.
TO be fair , if we'd captured him and gotten some information that would be one thing, but his death, other than making us feel good doesn't count as much at this point and if anything points out our weaknesses to our enemies.
This has been the most wanted man in the world and it took the most militarily powerful nation in the world a decade to kill him.
I think the advertisement of the death is a bit stupid at this point truth be told.
We had at one point a number of Black Power folks who went around killing police officers as acts of terror in the seventies and then repatriating to Africa. My understanding (and I could be wrong) is that they were all quietly hunted down and killed. Quietly, because public admissions would only make them martyrs and open old wounds. I must say after a decade I think that would have been the best approach here.
Had we killed the man in the first week or month, it would have shown our power.
Had we brought him home in chains, the same.
I don't argue with the need for the man's death, but at this point it just makes us look petty and vengeful and perhaps a bit week. It reminds all involved that our power is so small that it took us a decade to hunt down and kill the most wanted man in the world.
Just my two cents,

noel jones said...

Strangely, while everyone on TV and especially NY is talking about the heightened need for security after Bin Laden's death, a friend of mine in Easton went into the city over the weekend and said she did not see one police officer in Pt. Authority, when you normally see them all the time (I can vouch for seeing them whenever I go)...

To my horror, pundits and "experts" on MSNBC have actually been using my metaphor of the head and the snake (not because it's MY metaphor, obviously, but because it's an easy product of wishful thinking) with regard to killing Bin Ladin and the resulting efficacy of Al Qaeda. I cannot stress enough how dangerous this kind of symbolism is--by even suggesting it (especially on global television), they are taunting Al Qaeda to prove otherwise.

david said...

Damned thing ate my last answer. Still. the following video featuring among other retired FBI counter intel agent jack Shaffer is one I think all Americans should watch.
You are right BTW Noel, as it regards Al Queda here in the states they follow the phantom cell structure, almost completely removed from any standard chain of command and as such BIn Laden's death is likely to have little or no strategic or tactical value as it regards them. A morale value true, but little else.

noel jones said...

Thanks for the link!

david said...

Happy to put it out there, there is some rumor that the Tv Show "lie to me" is built off of Shaffer, and the information he puts forward regarding how to spot, and report suspected terrorists is of course dead on as he's written pretty much all standing SOP's on the subject.
It's daunting that the video's have only 1,300 hits or so, but well...sometimes that's life.

noel jones said...

ok, the narrator on that video had a little too much caffeine (or perhaps METH) but i did look up Krav Maga and it turns out that there is a place in Bethlehem who teaches it, for anyone interested:

noel jones said...

Since Osama Bin Laden killed 3,000+ Americans on /11/2001, the National Journal reports that the expense of finding and killing him has been:

American lives: 4452 in Iraq, plus 1570 in Afghanistan


$3 trillion

noel jones said...

that was supposed to say 9/11/2001