The Elephants in Osama’s Compound

Following the assassination of Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan by US special forces, President Obama stated in a television speech, “I can report to the American people and to the world, the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children . . . nearly ten years ago that . . . bright September day . . .” (“Transcript: Obama’s speech announcing the death of Osama bin Laden,” CNNWorld, May 2, 2011)That same evening, Obama informed former president George W. Bush of bin Laden’s assassination, to which Bush replied, “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”(“Bush Congratulates Obama on Bin Laden Killing,” By Josh Voorhees, The Slatest, May 2, 2011).One of the elephants looming in Osama bin Laden’s compound is former president George W. Bush.

Former president George W. Bush is a far worse terrorist and international war criminal than Osama bin Laden.The deaths of some 3000 Americans on 9/11, horrible in themselves, pale in comparison to the estimated, not thousands but, hundreds of thousands to over one million innocent Iraqi men, women and children killed as a result of the Bush administration’s falsely-based, illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.A war that has torn Iraq apart, decimated its life-sustaining infrastructure, driven some four million Iraqis from their homes, and continues to breed violence not foster “democracy.”A war based on Bush’s lies: that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and thus to the terrible 9/11 attacks, and that he had “mushroom-threatening” weapons of mass destruction.Lies that Bush kept saying, before launching his administration’s invasion, while repeating over and over that Hussein was deceiving the UN weapons inspectors, when it was “The decider” who was the deceiver.

“No matter how long it takes, justice will be done?”After Barack Obama became president, he refused to initiate any investigation into the possible criminality of the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.And his refusal to see that huge elephant in Osama bin Laden’s compound is reflected in his statement following bin Laden’s assassination: “The American people did not chose this fight.It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.” (“Transcript: Obama’s speech announcing the death of Osama bin Laden”, Ibid)The very same words could be said by the Iraqi people?with far greater justification!

Along with receiving political cover, America’s worst terrorist is being harbored by the United Methodist Church. United Methodist bishops eagerly met with their own Methodist-affiliated president at the White House, and afterwards readily talked about praying with him?possibly as if the power and prestige of his office made their god, and thus themselves, feel more exceptional and powerful.(See Alberts, “When Pride in Power Corrupts and Pride in Oneself Empowers,” Counterpunch, June 4-5, 2005)

 As the criminality of the Bush administration’s war against Iraq became more visible, 95 United Methodist bishops, whose denomination’s Social Principles oppose war, issued a measured “Statement of Conscience” against the war.A statement saying, “Let us object with boldness when governing powers offer solutions of war that conflict with the gospel message of self-emptying love.”The 95 bishops could not even bring themseelves to name the “governing powers.” (See Alberts, “Time for People of Faith to Censure Bush,” Counterpunch, Apr. 29/30, 2006)Bush, himself, assumed a posture of piety: “I pray daily . . .for peace,” he said, as his administration preyed on the Iraqi people.Historywill catch up with Bush himself: “No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”

Unlike the “terrorist” who was dumped into the ocean to prevent his followers and sympathizers from building a monument to him, a monument is being built for America’s greatest terrorist, the Bush Presidential Center (a library and institute) at Southern Methodist University.The opposition of a significant number of United Methodists to Bush’s monument was far overshadowed by those in the hierarchy and lowerarchy whose Christian exceptionalism was amplified by one of their own becoming president.The one buried at sea.A monument to the other built at SMU.

Tragically, in assassinating an unarmed Osama bin Laden and disposing of his body in the ocean, the Obama administration conveniently rid itself of another elephant: the imperialistic U. S. foreign policy of Republicans and Democrats alike.Had bin Laden been kept alive and put on trial, under our democratic law, that assumes innocence until guilt is proven, we American people would have become aware of shocking information about our government’s imperialistic foreign policy in our name.Such as the basis for bin Laden repeating a statement he made in a 1997 interview with CNN:

 [The United States] wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us and then wants us to agree to all this.. . . If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists.When Palestinian children throw stones against the Israeli occupation, the U.S. says they are terrorists.Whereas when  Israel bombed the United Nations building in Lebanon while it was full of children and women, the U.S. stopped any plan to condemn Israel.. . .

Wherever we look, we find the U.S. as the leader of terrorism and crime in theWorld. (“An Emblem of Evil in the U.S., an Icon to the Cause of Terror,” By Kate Zernike and Michael T. Kaufman, The New York Times, May 2, 2011)

It evidently was too risky to put Osama bin Laden on trial.Such a global attention-producing legal event would have put U.S. foreign policy on trial before America and the world.In addition to the above grievances, bin Laden and his defense lawyers would have testified to the many intrusive and controlling U.S. military bases in Muslim nations.They would have called the attention of Americans to Muslim countries in which citizens had been and are oppressed by despots, who were and are supported and controlled by the U.S. government and business interests.Bin Laden’s defense would point to the over 500,000 Iraqi children who died, between 1990 and 2000, as a result of U.S.-controlled UN sanctions that deprived them of needed food and medicine. (See, “Transcript of Osama Bin Laden Interview,” By Peter Arnett, CNN, Mar. 1997)

 Had Osama bin Laden been brought to trial, “justice” for us Americans actually could have “been done.”His day in court would have been one of the American judicial system’s?and our country’s?finest hours.Our government’s use of justice to get at the truth, rather than use of violence to get at “justice,” would have transcended and exposed bin Laden’s own eye-for-an-eye violence in taking lives to redress the taking of lives.And his testimony could have provided us Americans with a rare opportunity to engage in greatly needed national self-examination?which is the key to the awareness ofthe truth that would set us free andempower us to hold our elected officials accountable for committing war crimes and creating enemies in our name.Self-examination, not theobliviousness of exceptionalism, is the pathway to national security.Our country’s security lies in a foreign policy that practices the Golden Rule, not one that imposes the rule of might.


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Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His new book, The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away) is now published and available on Amazon.com. The book’s Foreword, Drawing the Line, is written by Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair. Alberts is also author of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.

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