After Bin Laden: A Reckoning and Reflection

osama bin ladenAfter hearing that Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden is dead, I felt relief—and hope. Hope like light coming through the crack in a locked door. Hope that we can finally end the longest war in United States’ history.

The post-September 11th attack on Afghanistan — a country that never attacked us–was sold with two reasons: get bin Laden and defeat Al- Qaeda. The CIA says that now there are only 50 to 100 Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. Isn’t having 1,000 U.S. soldiers for each one of these terrorists ridiculous? Continuing George W. Bush’s drone attacks–which have tripled under the current administration–has mostly killed civilians.

However, President Obama must be commended for not just bombing bin Laden’s hideout . The seriousness of his announcement of the Special Operations, SWAT-team like action contrasted with the cheering crowds outside the White House and in New York. Obama’s silent laying of a wreath at Ground Zero May 5th is the sober response that’s right for this moment. If not for the screen captions “Osama bin Laden is dead”, Sunday’s revelers could have been easily mistaken for sports fans celebrating a championship victory.

This event raises critical questions. Almost immediately some media pundits and politicians are crediting torture for gaining the intelligence that located bin Laden. This is FACTUALY WRONG.

In fact, torture of Guantanamo detainees and “high-value targets” alike only led to prisoners to make stuff up, in order to stop the abuses. A near-death experience like waterboarding will do that.

For those who still agree with Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Donald Rusted, that the US has only engaged in “enhanced interrogation” that amounts to “fraternity hazing”, consider these facts: the U.S. Army’s Field Manual (as well as the Geneva Convention) forbids the stress positions, exposure to cold and other tactics that have been used. There should be no debate about what waterboarding is: anything invented by the Spanish Inquisition, 500 years ago, is undeniably torture.

International law and U.S. law–including the 8th Amendment of our Constitution–forbid torture of prisoners for any reason–no exceptions, in spite of what you may have learned from the TV show 24 or executive branch legal apologists.

Now, is the time for Americans to re-set our moral compass and demand an end to and accountability for torture of prisoners in the “war on terrorism”–in Guantanamo or being held for the U.S. at the remaining “black sites” in ally countries. Imprisoning people without charges, trial or conviction of any crime for almost a decade and torture are standard means used by colonial powers and military dictatorships to terrorize civilian populations.

Unlike during the Vietnam War, the U.S. doesn’t do body counts so, the only casualties we see are the American soldiers’ faces at the end of evening newscasts. However, an estimated one million Iraqis and over 100,000 Afghans have been killed since the U.S. invasions. Countless more have been wounded and disabled,; millions have been made into refugees.

Now, is the time to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing all the troops and private contractors home.

Twenty-first century war must be recognized as terrorism. Instead of individual suicide bombers, the mightiest military on Earth uses the most sophisticated weaponry–including unmanned drones, depleted uranium shells and cluster bombs—on people’s schools, hospitals and homes. . As the tenth anniversary of September 11th approaches, we must see that more than that day’s 3,000 have been victims.

With our doppelganger Osama Bin Laden dead, will Americans have the courage to finally look into the mirror of U.S. State-sponsored terrorism and become active, engaged citizens who demand “no more in our name”?

Lydia Howell

Lydia Howell is an independent Minneapolis journalist, winner of the Premack Award for Public Interest Journalism. She is producer/host of “Catalyst: politics and culture” on KFAI Radio http://www.kfai.org

Published by the LA Progressive on May 5, 2011
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