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In Praise of Petty Tyrants

Killing Osama Bin Laden may help Obama win a second term in Washington but it will have little effect on the war in Afghanistan, now in its 10th year. And it will only intensify the so-called War on Terror with devastating consequences at home and abroad. .

As Chris Hedge, former Middle East Bureau Chief for the NY Times, recently noted, Bin Laden’s death can only inflame militant Arabs around the world who will no doubt continue their jihad against the US at whatever cost. What rank hypocrisy for Hillary Clinton to warn al-Qaida to give up terror for a peaceful political process— or else.  Why should they?

“These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind. The language of violence, the language of occupation?the occupation of the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?has been the best recruiting tool al-Qaida has been handed,” wrote Hedges, who admits al-Qaida scares the hell out of him.

All the triumphal boasting about the raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, reminds me of a similar moment of faux-victory in Baghdad in December, 2003 when the US Administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, gleefully announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen. We got him!”

Acting on a tip, American soldiers found Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole in the ground just in time to have him in jail for Christmas. How relieved Bremer seemed to be about Saddam’s capture! It was the high point of his disastrous year in Baghdad as American Pro-Consul of occupied Iraq.

By the following June, Bremer would be gone. So would $8 billion US tax dollars he couldn’t account for and any chance of actually rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure.  Bremer left Iraq suddenly and in disgrace on June 28, 2004 , having failed to create democracy there and instead, fomenting a homegrown insurgency by purging former Baathists from the army and government service. His alleged mistress and her family fled to Amman, Jordan, and Saddam’s opulent palace in the Green Zone, which Bremer had transformed into a kind of Grand Central Station with office partitions, continued to be a beehive of adrenalin junkies running around like chickens with their heads cut off and no idea what they were doing.

Now, here it is 7 years later and things are just as bollixed as they were when Bremer slunk out of Baghdad.  A new crop of smart guys like General David Petraeus took over the war and engaged Sunni leaders by paying them off to stop their terrorist attacks.
This wasted another $25 billion while the ports, electrical grid, oil refineries, roads, schools, police stations, hospitals, and other public buildings were either never built or blown up when they were. The so-called “Surge” has fizzled, the insurgents are still active, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

What are we doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyway? Are we fighting a War on Terror, nation-building, on a humanitarian mission, or are we simply engaged in the projection of empire for oil and power? Whatever the reasons for fighting wars, our political discourse deludes us into thinking we should. Saddam Hussein came to understand this while fighting a bloody 8- year war with Iran. He was a US ally at the time.

 “Politics is when you say you are going to do one thing while intending to do another. Then you do neither what you said nor what you intended,” he said. The Iraq-Iran War ended in a in a stalemate with millions dead on either side. Bloody tyrant though he was, Saddam knew violence and terror have their limits.

 “America needs wisdom, not force. It had used force, along with the West, to its extreme extent, only to find out later that it did not achieve what they wanted.”

Saddam presumed to offer this advice to Americans in an open letter shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001. His words pretty much sum up the folly of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since then.  Saddam was hanged in 2006.  Navy Seals shot Bin Laden in 2011.Those two deaths proffer little in the way of wisdom except maybe that revenge takes time.

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