The only way evil can flourish is if good men do nothing. We can never be silent in the face of those wishing to destroy others. – Edmund Burke
On Sunday evening, United States President Barack Obama announced the killing of Al-Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden in a raid carried out by U.S. Special Forces operating in Pakistan. Rather than hiding in a cave near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks was actually discovered stashed away in a comfortable middle-class compound in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan, just an hour north of the country’s capital Islamabad.
Given the proximity to the capital, and the fact that the Pakistani military has a large presence in this city, it is now being heavily speculated that Pakistan had been protecting and sheltering bin Laden all along. This would explain why a man with kidney disease and apparently a whole host of other health problems was able to survive for so long with the most powerful and sophisticated military on earth hunting him endlessly.
One curious fact – or perhaps not so curious depending on your perspective – is that the U.S Joint Special Operations Command forces that stormed bin Laden’s compound and killed the world’s favorite boogeyman chose to give him a “burial at sea,” apparently dumping his body out of a helicopter while flying over the ocean. One would think this is the last thing anyone would want to do, given the inevitable skepticism that a story like this is bound to raise around the world. Why not present the body to be photographed and autopsied, so that there would be no doubts anywhere that bin Laden was really dead? Although, as someone who has respect for others’ religious beliefs, even if they aren’t in line with my own, half of me understands why this was done. Burial, as most of us know by now, in both Judaism and Islam is mandatory within 24 hours.
For those who have been wise enough to look beyond the sycophantic reporting of the mainstream media, which never seriously questions anything that comes out of the mouths of government officials, the decision to dump the body at sea (under whose orders, exactly?) has to be greeted with extreme suspicion. While an autopsy would have conclusively proven that the wicked witch was indeed dead, it also would have revealed all of the details about how and when he actually died. It has not received any attention in the New York Times, on CNN, or on the Nightly News, but over the years there have been a number of sources with connections to the world of intelligence who have claimed that Osama bin Laden actually died years ago, most likely of kidney failure, and that this fact has been deliberately hidden from the American public so that the government could continue its War on Terror. Some have even believed that his body was being kept on ice for convenient rollout at the opportune moment. It is not known if or when photographs of a corpse purported to be bin Laden will be revealed, but without an actual body such evidence will not answer any of the questions that have been raised and will now be raised even more loudly. Nor will this story in any way dim the recognition of those who are paying attention of the way the War on Terror has been used as an excuse to try and tear our Constitution into a million tiny pieces.
While many of the individuals housed in indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay are no doubt truly the scum of the earth, this does not mean they should be denied a speedy and public trial as called for by the Bill of Rights and the American legal tradition, even if that trial is a military tribunal. If the recidivism rate is so high, with released prisoners returning to their terror cells to fight again, then proper sentences should be handed down and prison terms enacted. Long-term incarceration without proper charges and sentencing diminishes the concept of justice as enshrined in the ideals that we as Americans hold. While one should certainly not be too quick to pay homage to the concept of international law, since this is often just a clever way to try and take away national sovereignty, when international law is in harmony with American legal tradition it should not be ignored and abused. When we see this happening, it should make all of our alarm bells go off. Is there any reason to believe a government that is so quick to rationalize the abandonment of the spirit of American constitutional principles in dealing with “foreign combatants” will have any compunction whatsoever about treating American citizens with the same kind of disregard?
That is what makes the so-called Patriot Acts such a dangerous mockery of the constitutional tradition. What this terrible legislation does, first authorized after 9/11 by Congress during the Bush Administration and continuously renewed ever since, is give the government permission to concoct any excuse they choose to justify violating the civil and constitutional rights of citizens doing something that the government doesn’t like. This activity could involve supporting international terrorism, it is true, but it could also be protesting against unfair gun control laws, or investigating malfeasance at the highest levels of power, or trying to express an opinion about how power brokers hope to use the coming societal crisis as an excuse to erase the Constitution completely. This is exactly the kind of thing that the First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments in particular are here to protect us against, but these important constitutional protections are only a nuisance to those in power. As we head towards total collapse, the amorphous, ambiguous, never-ending “War on Terror” provides the perfect excuse to justify discarding the Bill of Rights whenever it gets in the way.
With this in mind, the question might be asked: why now? If indeed bin Laden has been dead all along, or if they knew where he was but chose not to act, why end the charade now? Could it be because the bin Laden boogeyman is no longer necessary to their agenda? When the government announced its outrageous and intrusive new policies for airport searches, while a few courageous voices spoke up, the vast majority of Americans accepted this policy without a bleat of protest. And as the war in Afghanistan goes on with no end in sight, with a new war starting up in Libya, the American people seem perfectly content with endless war and conflict legitimized with the flimsiest of excuses. Perhaps all of this is a sign that the people have been so well-trained that now the need for a terrorist mastermind villain no longer exists.
The End of a Man and the Beginning of the End
Of course, it is possible that Osama bin Laden really has been in hiding inside Pakistan all of this time, and that he really was hunted down and killed on May 1st as a result of new and fresh intelligence. Regardless of the truth of this matter, however, the overall legacy of Osama bin Laden is clear. His existence and his role in the September 11 attacks gave the government the perfect rationale it needed to begin ignoring the Constitution and rolling back our rights, little by little.
Certainly, terrorism is a real threat around the world, and we can all hope that the end of bin Laden will bring some comfort and relief to all the family members of those who died on September 11, as well as the family members of the brave young people who have lost their lives in far-off places like Iraq and Afghanistan. But nevertheless, as society heads for inevitable economic and ecological collapse, it is impossible not to take note of the insidious way our freedoms have gradually been eroded in the wake of the War on Terror.
This slow and subtle slide towards tyranny will ultimately most serve the interests of those who will use the coming troubles as a justification for their attempts to seize power and end government of the people, by the people, and for the people once and for all. Osama bin Laden may have been a dark spirit, and the world is certainly better off without him. But those who exploited his presence are perhaps the darkest spirits of them all, and for them, Osama bin Laden was one of the most useful tools that history has ever devised.