Well done, Barack Obama. Kudos, Navy SEALs. Assassinating Osama bin Laden, code-named “Geronimo,” was a fairly impressive military operation. But that’s it. All the rest is sheer nonsense.
The waves of excitement and joy that swept the world, including Israel, are no more than a deceptive ripple of foam that will evaporate immediately. Just like last week’s wedding of the century, this week’s assassination celebration was no more than a Hollywood-style event blown out of proportion.
But while many people didn’t take the wedding festivities seriously, the celebrations of bin Laden’s death have created mountains of bombastic pathos signifying nothing. Among the troublesome questions, which almost nobody dares to utter, is why kill bin Laden rather than capture him alive and, primarily, why toss the body into the sea, keeping him from getting the burial that even a dog would.
It is important to note that the world hasn’t changed at all since the operation. A safer world? Of course not. A better, more moral world? Very doubtful. Bin Laden deserved to die. He was responsible for the deaths, not only of thousands of Americans and Europeans, but also of hundreds of thousands of Muslims who were killed in the abominable retaliation wars America waged in response to his acts. He gave a bad name to Muslims and spread hatred of them. Killing bin Laden was an act of primeval revenge, nothing more and nothing less.
The empire that struck back remains at least as hated as it was before, and persists in its decline. Only its president’s popularity is soaring, but that’s just temporary. Israel’s 1976 Entebbe raid saved lives, yet changed nothing in history; even the prime minister who gave the order couldn’t be reelected after the operation.
But bin Laden’s death didn’t even save anyone. It only made many vindictive people happy. Just as bin Laden’s body was thrown into the sea, the Americans had previously shown Saddam Hussein having his teeth checked as though he were a horse being examined in the marketplace.
Both acts are despicable, repulsive and unnecessary. As it is wont to do, the United States cloaked the details of the operation with the fog of war. Was bin Laden armed? Was there a woman in the compound? Were shots fired? Nobody asks. Why spoil the best party in the world? Israel, of course, joined the orgy with great enthusiasm.
An army of generals and commentators, who wait in the wings for assassinations like these, emerged in television studios, proudly airing their intimate familiarity with the Navy SEALs and singing America’s praises. Oh, such intelligence information; oh, such commandos. The subtext is how great it must be to take action without a High Court of Justice, without a Richard Goldstone or a B’Tselem. As if we don’t jump into operations like that anyway.
We just haven’t had similar success with a rescue of Gilad Shalit. The result is more support for assassinations and torture, and even less of a chance than before of reaching a deal to free Shalit. That is the local damage of the operation in Abbottabad. After the euphoria ebbs, the world will awaken to more acts of vengeance and an even greater hatred of America.
This Rambo V-style operation will not be what brings glory to the United States. The only glory comes with returning to its stated values, which have mostly been voided of content, with acting like it really is the leader of the free world.
It is not Guantanamo Bay and Abbottabad that will make America the promised land. The empire may have struck back multiple times, but it has long betrayed its duty. The Muslim world dreams of America, trying inadvertently to implement its declared spirit − and hates it.
It’s no wonder that America’s sole achievement in recent years was made without firing a shot or invading a single country. Its only achievement stemmed from its serving as an example in Tunis, Benghazi and Cairo, where people want their countries to be like America − but not the America of the Navy SEALs, of the body tossers.
They want the America of its proclaimed principles − the ones it states loftily, and betrays again and again. Killing Osama bin Laden may have been necessary, but it will neither strengthen this empire nor halt its decline.
Only if the United States reinstates its basic values and disseminates them will it once again be the leader of the free world, not merely the leader of modern imperialism. About two and a half years ago, the United States seemed to have elected for president a person who understands that, but that hope is on its way to being dashed.
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