06 May 2015

Remember Osama bin Laden (Killed May 2, 2011)?

Guns in, body out but sea does not swallow all
Obama and his team watched 'The Drama'.  They were and are being watched in return.  

'Guns in, body out but sea does not swallow all' is the title of an article I wrote for THE NATION shortly after Washington announced 'the fact' of Osama bin Laden being killed.  Now, 4 years later, there's little or no mention of this 'fact'.  The politics associated with 'the fact' however has not aged.  
Osama Bin Laden is dead.  If there was even a shadow of doubt about this, President Barack Obama would not have announced the fact.  The risk of being proven wrong is far too great to be frivolous about something like this.  The man is dead. What remains are the questions surrounding his death.

First, did he die as Obama claims he did or was it all show, the man having died or having been killed a long time ago? If indeed he had indeed been killed (as Obama claims he was), then questions such as ‘Why was he not captured alive?’ can and have been asked.  

Robert Blake, US Assistant Secretary of State (South and Central Asia) says ‘Osama was a legitimate target’.  Obama says that relevant photographs and video footage will not be shown.   We know that a doctored photograph of a wounded, bloodied and ‘dead’ Osama bin Laden was released and then withdrawn (because it was very clear it was a fake).  Obama’s excuse is that whatever is released would be labeled ‘fake’ by conspiracy theorists. 

A friend of mine sent me a couple of quotes that speak to our times and in particular to the shameless shy-making from the Obama administration.  They are from John Le Carre’s ‘The Constant Gardener’.  Here’s the first: ‘If you set your mind on hiding the truth, then the first thing you have got to do is give people a different truth to keep them quiet. Otherwise they'll start to wonder whether the real truth isn't out there hidden somewhere, and that will never do...’

The next is even better: ‘And we should never forget that a good coverup is a lot harder to achieve than a bad murder. You can always maybe get away with a crime but a coverup is going to land you in jail every time. You cover this bit up, then out pops another bit. So you cover that bit up. Then you turn around and that first bit is showing again...’

Well, Obama and his administrators can sort that one out.  What is pertinent is that even the official story has serious implications in terms of precedent, the worth of international covenants, and the legal and ethical parameters of engaging terrorists and terrorism.  The official story indicates that an unarmed man who could have been arrested was shot dead. He had offered no resistance whatsoever.  Add to this the doubts over the man’s identity and we suddenly find a Barack Obama whose moral standing has diminished quite a bit since he became President shrinking even further. 

There is an easy answer.  Some have claimed that arresting Osama would have created a legal and political mess. Even if the question of where and how to try him was resolved, the prospect of Osama choosing to defend himself and turning his trial into a propaganda circus that might result in the Al Qaeda getting a massive cadre-boost could not have been appetizing for Obama.  What this means is that international law has been shown to be inadequate. 

Nations fighting terrorism (we have to forget US interest in oil, markets and pandering to the arms industry for a while) cannot arm fighting men and women with rule books which they have to memorize and from which they are required to obtain guidance when forced to make split-second decisions. This reality, on the other hand, does not justify spraying bullets on civilians (as US troops have done and continue to do even as I write). Nor can it be taken as a justifiable excuse for killing someone who can be taken prisoner. 

Obama has stated that troop safety was a primary concern. Now what if this really was Bin Laden and he had been surrounded by 300,000 civilians the majority of who may very well have been Al-Qaeda fighters, perhaps all carrying weapons and/or strapped with explosives?  Would Obama have risked a lengthy siege, given the military and political implications of such a course of action?  Would he have tolerated any power, big or small, arguing for a ‘peaceful surrender’ or worse, an evacuation of the top Al-Qaeda leadership? 

The United States of America killed over a million people, the vast majority of whom were civilians, directly and indirectly caused the death of over half a million more children, destroyed a country, precipitated sectarian violence and civil war and displaced over 2 million people just to look for non-existent weapons of war. That was and is Iraq.  The USA during the search for Osama Bin Laden, caused the death of tens of thousands of civilians, displaced more than a million, ruining lives and livelihoods and rupturing families, and destabilized two countries.  Would an administration that has no remorse about any of this, have paused to consider things such as ‘right to life’ and ‘innocent until proven guilty’ if it was at a point of eliminating its No 1 Enemy?  Can a nation that sanitizes torture by calling it ‘enhanced interrogation’ and indeed ‘arms’ combatants with torture techniques be expected to have a ‘credible and effective domestic mechanism capable of investigating rights violations’? 

All things considered, Sri Lanka had a much tougher task.  The ‘enemy’ was not holed up in another country. The enemy was armed to the teeth and was fighting back right up to the last moment.  The enemy had surrounded itself with civilians who may have been loyal to the enemy or could even have included fighting cadres out of uniform and perhaps armed with suicide-vests and so on.  The political risks as well as the threat to troops were of a magnitude that makes the operation that took out ‘Osama’ look like child’s play. All the more credit, therefore, to the Sri Lankan security forces for taking out not just Prabhakaran, but his entire military high command and comprehensively dismantling the military apparatus of the LTTE.  That over 300,000 civilians were saved at great cost to troops is nothing less than an unbelievable and unprecedented military operation speaking of precision, dedication and humanity. 

Robert Blake has lumped Prabhakaran and Bin Laden together.  They both held the dubious title of ‘World’s most ruthless terrorist’, the latter succeeding the former on May 19, 2009.  They are both dead.  The LTTE has been vanquished militarily. Not so the Al-Qaeda. 

In the case of the ‘Osama killing’ the US political leadership cannot offer even a shred of evidence regarding the identity of the man who was killed and finds no support in the gamut of international law to justify the killing.  They will not entertain accountability questions.  Guns and bucks let them get away scot free. 

Osama bin Laden is dead. So too several million innocent people.  That’s a lot of blood on the hands of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  And it is not over yet either.  Convinces me that we in Sri Lanka, all things considered are blessed and that for all their faults have better leaders.