It would seem that we in America are once again experiencing a kumbaya moment in which we all hug, hold hands, and say things like “America, Fuck Yeah!” and chant “USA, USA.” All because of the killing of one man. But in watching the news reports of celebrations taking place outside of the White House and where the twin towers used to grace the skyline of NYC, I couldn’t help but see parallels between how some Americans reacted and how some Muslims reacted after 9/11.

When we were surprised by this:

Some in the Muslim world reacted like this:

In many respects we couldn’t understand why there would be anybody in the world that would be happy with an attack on America. We collectively scratched our heads seeking answers to why people hated us. And because we have no understanding of history, of cause and effect, we smugly came to the conclusion that it was because they hate our freedom, or that Islam was simply a naturally violent and barbaric religion.

Yet when we final got revenge with this:

Some in America reacted like this:

Now, I’m not saying that the attacks that occurred on September 11th and the killing of Osama Bin Laden are equivalent acts of violence. The people in the Twin Towers were innocent, Osama had crimes to pay for. The deaths of 3,000 unsuspecting people on that morning can not be rationalized, while Osama had to have known what fate held in store for him, he knew he was a hunted man. Otherwise, he would not have been hiding out in a high security compound. Osama Bin Laden deserved to be punished for his actions, to be brought to justice for the atrocities he set in motion.

But what the two events share is their symbolism. The attacks on 9/11 weren’t so much aimed at the people in those buildings as they were the symbols of American strength, both financial and martial. Osama struck at the heart of our empire, attempting to unveil the corruption and moral degradation that lies at the core of our world spanning reach. Our strike this weekend, cutting off the head of Al Qaeda, was just as symbolic. We proved that no matter how long we have to wait or how far we have to go, America will hunt down every last terrorist and we will show no mercy. There will be no day in court for the likes of Osama Bin Laden. Others like him will be put down like the dogs that they are.

News that we got Osama was an emotional release… an end to a chapter in our current American story. But for all the celebrating there needs to be a more focused and inward reflection of what this event really means for our current situation. And my guess would be that beyond the symbolism, beyond the feel good moment, little will change. Our quest for hegemony will continue unabated and the world’s reaction to such a geopolitical reality will continue.

I’ll leave you with this somber reflection…

  1. That Osama picture you’ve posted is a fake. Just FYI.

    • carfreestupidity

      yeah… I know. I wrote this last night and put that in thinking i would find something better, then I forgot before i hit publish.

  2. Lisa

    The celebration is unwarranted and declasse. It saddens me. Good post CFS.

  3. JC

    You bring up symbolism. I often think that much of the U.S.’s problem with how to cope with bin Laden has to do with our perceptions of what he was trying to do–his motive behind his strike.

    I think that given all the material that was recovered during the strike (conspiracy theories notwithstanding)–all the computers and writings, etc.–that maybe some of that hopefully will be revealed someday.

    You say: “Osama struck at the heart of our empire, attempting to unveil the corruption and moral degradation that lies at the core of our world spanning reach.”

    That may be a bit of projection. How do we know that bin Laden didn’t want exactly what he got: a huge recruiting tool in the guise of U.S. overreaction; repression of the American people by their government in the name of national security; a vulnerable economy due to unpaid for war spending, etc. That the presence of the “Department of Homeland Security”, warrantless wiretapping, etc. represents an enduring victory by al Qaeda.

    I have a hard time reconciling the 9/11 attacks as a moral victory in the mind of an individual who commits atrocities as a tactic. I don’t think that bin Laden was that insane, in the way that Hitler was insane, for instance. I think that he was coldly calculating, taking a huge gamble that if his suicide missions succeeded, he could accrue huge victories–both foreseen and unforeseen. But always knowing that if the U.S. overreacted–which it did in many, many ways–that he would have won a tremendous battle, live or die. It was a brilliant strategy.

    bin Laden changed American society for the worse. Civil liberties trampled; the expansion of the unitary executive state; expansion and solidification of empire; growth of fascism–the blending of the government, military and private corporations/mercenaries into the world’s greatest standing army fighting an unjustifiable war (Iraq); the loss of the notion of shared sacrificed while at war (let’s cut taxes and shuffle war expenses off the books), and the acceptance of war as a daily fact of life–we suffer from war fatigue, the inability to challenge to war machine in the way Vietnam was challenged; and on and on.

    And a few bullets to the head will do little to nothing to change all of that. If anything it will cement those victories of bin Laden into place, as the country moves on to the next battle, with no reflection on how we got to where we are, or if we will revisit the misdirection the 9/11 attacks set our county on. bin Laden’s death may be accompanied by some feel good moments or forebodings, but if it does not instigate a national purge of the al Qaeda-fomented “wins”, then it is meaningless. Democracy and freedom will have lost. And terrorists will continue to reap the spoils of their victory.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking piece, CFS.

    • Carfreestu

      I think we are expressing the same sentiment JC.

      When you quote me and then talk about Osama wanting us to overreact… That is exactly what I was getting at. Our image of ourselves is one of God’s choosen country, of the most morally upstanding people in the world, a beacon of hope, renewal, and freedom. Osama wanted to tear the viel away from our eyes, to expose that, if pushed, America could perform atrocities on a level similar to that of countries we continually lambast for their human rights violations. He might be dead now, but he might have also succeeded.

  4. ladybug

    Brezinski lured the Soviets into Afghanistan. Osama learned, and lured the U.S. into a similar no-win trap. The Soviets were smart enough to cut their losses. Iceberg straight ahead, full speed ahead. USA, USA, USA!

    • The only difference is that we’ve suffered one tenth the casualties and inflicted a thirtieth of the civilian casualties. But yeah, go ahead and act like the two are comparable.

      • The two are in total comparable, no acting required. It is interesting that you cannot see that the same deed, done by Americans instead of Soviets, still the same deed! The Americans armed the Mujahadeen in the 1980’s. They later became “Al Qaeda” (a name we made up). We knew where their bases were because we built them. Such twisted and blind support for your country no matter the crime would make any Soviet citizen proud. You are them, they are you.

  5. petetalbot

    As I was wrestling with some of the points you bring up, CFS, my wife said to me, “you know, it’s alright to be excited about Osama’s death.” She was right, as usual. The guy was a monster.

    We shouldn’t be dancing in the streets or shooting off fireworks or handing out cookies like that idiot Glenn Beck. This is a sombre moment. But one doesn’t have to feel guilty over feeling good about Osama’s death.

    Will his death shift the paradigm? Will it make us a more introspective nation? Probably not. There is some justice in his being killed, though.

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