The End of Restraint, Colltalers
Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces five years ago today, in Pakistan, as President Obama and his advisers watched it live. It was supposed to be the official closure of the Sept. 11 tragedy, and the final cleanup of the mess left by the Bush administration.
It ended, however, hardly anything. Not just bin Laden had already become irrelevant, and, isolated in his quarters, as good as already dead, but the world he unleashed had taken a horrific turn of its own, way bigger than him, and by then impossible to be reversed.
It’s a world where the killing of innocents is justified under any excuse or cause. For him, it was a personal grudge against American allies, and his own country, Saudi Arabia. The same Saudis now threatening retaliation if their role in the 911 is disclosed.
The same world also where the American military has finally admitted last week that it did bomb ‘by mistake’ a hospital and killed almost everyone on sight, last October in Afghanistan, after months of denials. Despite all mea culpa about that so called mistake – the NYTimes Sunday published an elaborated story on how it happened but not why – it’s already declared it case closed. Sorry about that.
It’s in fact frightening to follow such logic: since no one is being seriously persecuted for the mass killing of innocents, this mere admission places the planet’s most powerful nation, and its army, side by side with the terrorists they claim to be fighting.
This is the new world order that was drafted in the first hours after the Twin Towers got destroyed in New York. Surveillance and suspicion became synonymous of security, rule of law be damned, and the state is reaffirmed in its total control over the individual.
The raid in itself was a military pay back statement. It was arguably the president’s greatest achievement as commander in chief. That being said, it was however no more than the closing of somebody’s else account, a fact he seemed fully aware of in May 2, 2011, when he announced it to the American people. Even the small, localized street rallies in its celebration were excessive, of course.
On the surface, President Obama did what George W., Dick Cheney, and their minions failed miserably to do in eight years of inflated Pentagon budgets and meaningless bravado.
But in retrospect, they were never that focused on finding bin Laden, despite all grandstanding: while no one was looking, they were busy fabricating the excuses to fight the war they had planned to fight all along.
So when special units of military and CIA tactics invaded the Abbottabad compound, to find the world’s former biggest villain sleeping amid a pile of VHS porn tapes, the U.S. was already fully engaged in Iraq, on the way to fill over 4,000 body bags and a still unknown number of Iraqi troops and civilians, and Afghanistan, where we’ve recently crossed the disgraceful 2,300 dead Americans threshold.
No need to remind anyone that we’re still in both places, still waging unwinnable wars that seem to only have one certain result: the manufacturing of new generations of justifiable U.S. haters. To be fair, President Obama has tried to set withdraw schedules, and deadlines for armed troops, and cutting downs of the so called boots-in-the-ground factor in both countries.
Truthful that this may be, at the same time, we have unleashed a demon of our own, whose wrath is as oblivious to the American public as the unfortunate deaths in the Middle East: drones. For what was once considered a way of ridding the world of bad guys has become the ultimate soulless assassination scheme. Killing of civilians, often at the wrong wedding party, has grown to a despicable routine.
Yes, they were supposed to reduce casualties and, most of all, the use of troops, which still have the downside of being regularly shot and killed, and have to be replaced in a constant basis. What we got, instead, was more unaccountability. And more deaths.
In war, it’s a given that we never know, or care, who killed whom, but now we have a geek in a bunker, thousands of miles away. Following screen prompts, he’ll kill with no empathy to the unknown flesh and blood pixels that are being viciously ‘deleted.’
President Obama had not much of a choice, even though many saw in the killing of bin Laden a lost opportunity. One to show the world that the U.S. chooses law and justice, not revenge, to right its wrongs. But that opportunity is still being wasted in Guantanamo, and in the persecution of whistleblowers, and the impunity of white collar criminals, so no one has any delusions about it anymore.
But even when perpetrating his deadly deeds, and bragging about killing in the name of a religious lie not even him believed in, by the time bin Laden was awakened by his judgment day, he had already been dead for a while. Even the 911, in the context of other acts of terrorism in the world before and, specially, since, was most crucial by what it ignited, than by what it actually represented.
Millions of people are awakened daily by their particular 911, and the world takes little notice. That won’t change, at least while there is a powerful weapon industry trading on human blood, and countries still going to war for domination and each other’s resources.
Other surges of global terrorism have flared in the past; the difference about this new century is that the current wave has rearranged geopolitics itself. Casualties are the least of concerns populating the spreadsheets of the behind-the-scenes masters of permanent war.
One of the most enduring legacies of that mass murderer who met his undignified fate five years ago is the absolute lack of restraint by which any madman now decides to prove a point. Be it in the name of faith, or ideology, it doesn’t make much of a difference, and it’s wise to exercise caution about even those invoking justice for all, as their motivation, as the U.S. often does to justify its actions.
For us, bone collectors left in the dark of the darkest motivations for killing another human being, nothing really justifies it, even when our own lives are in danger. After all, modulating the intensity of our reaction in the face of threats is what makes us humans.
The new normal, though, is to ignore such morality call and proceed, by any means necessary, to the complete annihilation of the opponent. It’s also the motto for every mass murderer in history: shoot first, shoot often, reload, shoot again, get the hell out of there.
Fortunately, many are capable of compassion, solidarity, and nobility of purpose, even as gun powder clouds the air and clogs our hearts. We need more of them, as there’s seem to be always an endless supply of new psychopaths ready to take on the world.
Let’s hope against hope that our current wars are not manufacturing other bin Ladens, just like we did back in the 1980s, making him a convenient asset, when Afghanistan was fighting our official nemesis Soviet Union. But chances are that, indeed, we already are.
In the same token, against the tide and beating incredible odds, fighters for a better world are also known to rise. They’re among us, if only by laws of probability, and count on us to stand up. If no one does it, let us be the ones who do. Enjoy the beautiful month of May. WC