Monday, May 09, 2011

My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death - Noam Chomsky May 8 2011

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed
at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination,
multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to
have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could
have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they
claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess
some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial.
I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller,
informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history,
the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was
hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What
they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months
earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how
serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to
extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon
learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said,
in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11
attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s
“confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston
Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan
didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and
security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said
about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a
political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in
Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to
dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and
skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed
at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the
Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he
is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders
to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war
crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the
whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were
hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees,
destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has
now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just
died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine”
that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists
themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that
Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of
its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so
profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they
are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance
against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after
victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to
call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts
should provide us with a good deal to think about.

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