FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama, Bin Laden, and Mitt

by SHELDON RICHMAN

The partisan squabbling over the killing of Osama bin Laden is a typical election-year distraction, effectively squelching discussion of more important matters one year after the execution of the al-Qaeda chief executive.

Aided by cable-TV talking heads, Americans are spending too much time speculating over whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have given the order to get bin Laden, and also issuing paeans to President Obama’s “courage.” (We have a strange notion of courage. Did Obama risk his own life? Of course not. He was safe in the White House Situation Room. Perhaps he “risked” his political career, but even that isn’t certain. A failed operation might have won him sympathy for a good try. On the other hand, the men under his command were ordered to risk their lives and the lives of others.)

While the commentators are engaged in trivialities, big foreign-policy questions are ignored.

For instance, although bin Laden is dead, his strategy of sucking the United States into bloody, expensive imperial wars in the Muslim world has worked like a charm. In a video released in 2004, bin Laden said, “We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah willing, and nothing is too great for Allah.” He compared what was happening in Afghanistan then to the previous Soviet debacle there. “We, alongside the mujahideen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.”

Ironically, President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has bragged that he helped draw the Soviet Union into Afghanistan in 1979 precisely to mire the Russians in their own “Vietnam.” That experience failed to deter President George W. Bush from blindly following in the Soviets’ footsteps; nor did it keep Obama from redoubling this futile effort, including a major expansion of drone attacks in Pakistan, which have killed at least 1,400 people since Obama took office. The U.S. government has been fighting the same people it helped fight the Soviets.

“All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations,” bin Laden said.

Right he was. The Obama administration ruthlessly drone-bombs Yemen and Somalia to eradicate the “threat” from real or potential al-Qaeda affiliates in those countries. Even American officials are aware that this policy creates anti-American militants. This is not rocket science. Bomb people, and they will dislike you — and perhaps seek revenge.

Bin Laden got his wish. America’s fiscal house couldn’t be more disorderly. The debt is over $15 trillion, larger than the GDP. The Congressional Research Service says that from 2001 to 2011 the Afghan war cost $443 billion. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, and many more maimed. American deaths total more than 1,800, with well over 15,000 wounded. The number of survivors whose lives have been effectively destroyed is uncountable. And that leaves the Iraq war out of the account. Al-Qaeda wasn’t even in that country until George W. Bush invaded in 2003.

The point is that we let bin Laden take our eyes off the ball. He and al-Qaeda were creatures of American policy, though not in the sense that U.S. agents funded him or set up his organization. Rather, he turned his wrath toward America (and away from U.S.-backed Middle Eastern oppressors) as it became apparent that so much of the misery inflicted on the Muslim world had its origins in Washington, D.C.

The sources of misery include the decade-long economic sanctions on Iraq, which killed half a million children — a price pronounced “worth it” in 1996 by President Clinton’s then-UN ambassador and later secretary of state Madeleine Albright; the stationing of U.S. troops near holy places in Saudi Arabia; and the continuing subjugation of Palestinians by U.S.-backed Israel. In the absence of those and related policies, bin Laden would have had no interest in seeing U.S. territory attacked.

To be sure, bin Laden is gone. But the abominable foreign policy goes on.

Sheldon Richman is editor of The Freeman, senior fellow at the Future of Freedom Foundation, and an advisory board member of the Center for a Stateless Society. He is  author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare StateVisit his blog “Free Association” at www.sheldonrichman.com. Send him email.

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail