By Ameen Izzadeen
(This article also appears in Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)
Is the enemy real? Is the victory real? Is the death of Osama bin Laden real? One thing certain is that what we are being told as the truth is not exactly the whole truth.
Contradictions in statements coming from Washington and Islamabad compound the confusion. US President Barack Obama said Pakistan cooperated in the operation but a day later top US military officials said they kept the operation a secret from the Pakistanis because they feared a leak. A highly embarrassed Pakistan, meanwhile, said it was part of the operation and then denied it. The babbling continues with US officials revising their earlier version that spoke about a gun fight and bin Laden using a woman as a human shield when the commandos raided his Abbotabad hideout.
But who cares? Truth and morality have little or no place in international politics where even genocide — like the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 — is permissible as long as it helps achieve the goals of big powers.
In a world order where justice, morality and truth or the people’s right to know are suppressed, those who clamour for them remain neutral or when pressed choose the lesser evil. This is more so in a war on terror where confusion reigns as to whether the hunter or the hunted is worse.
On the one side of this war was al-Qaeda, the group that bin Laden formed. The group is accused of carrying out the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the US base in Khobar (Saudi Arabia) in 1996, the American warship USS Cole in 2000 and several other US and Western targets.
Of these, unquestionably, the September 11 attacks were the worst because they took place on US soil and killed more than 3,000 civilians. However, some analysts suspect that the intelligence negligence which led to the attacks was deliberate.
On the other side of the divide were the United States and its allies which include the Western world and several Arab and Islamic countries. In the modern history of warfare, apart from Nazi Germany, no country has killed more civilians than the United States and no country has got involved in so many wars as the United States has.
The atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the last stages of World War II, the My Lai massacre, the napalm bombing and the use of chemical weapons in the Vietnam War, the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba, the invasion of Grenada and Panama, the attacks on Libya that killed Muammar Gaddafi’s little daughter, the involvement in the wars in Somalia and Lebanon and the outright encouragement and support extended to Israel to commit war crimes on the Palestinian people are only a few of a long list of US crimes committed prior to the 9/11 attacks.
One can add to this list the numerous attempts to assassinate world leaders, including Cuban leader Fidel Castro and the United States’ involvement in major coups, the most outrageous of them being the ouster of Iran’s nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953. After the 9/11 attacks, the list got longer with the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq and allegations of torture and violations of the Geneva conventions on warfare. These post-9/11 wars have seen more than 1.4 million deaths — Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis. If these were not enough, the empire has now joined the Libyan war that saw last week Gaddafi’s little grandchildren who were playing in their house being killed in a NATO attack.
Well the empire, like Rome in the past, needs wars to survive and to maintain a system which sustains the government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. The rich symbolized by Big Business benefit from wars and manipulate the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation to rob the resources of the oil rich Middle East and developing countries.
To wage wars, one needs an enemy. The enemy came in the form of the so-called Islamic terrorism after the Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, died in 1991. In this war against Islamic militancy, bin Laden and al-Qaeda were probably a creation of the Central Intelligence Agency — a fabrication designed to obtain a pretext for the capitalists’
In George Orwell’s 1984, bin Laden’s equivalent was Emmanuel Goldstein, the enemy, of whose existence no one is certain. Orwell’s 1984 is a useful analytical tool for students of politics to understand the schemes within schemes. As far as bin Laden was concerned, there were two — Osama bin Laden the jihadist and the US bin Laden. The confusion is over which bin Laden carried out the terror attacks. True, some of the terrorist attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda but there were attacks that were carried out by foreign intelligence groups in al-Qaeda’s name with the intention of destabilizing Iraq and Pakistan. As years passed, several breakaway al-Qaeda groups emerged in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Indonesia and other places with little or no allegiance to bin Laden. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, for instance, led the Iraq operations with total independence from bin Laden. As al-Qaeda lost its centralized command structure, it became easy for foreign intelligence operatives to penetrate the movement.
At times, the alleged al-Qaeda statements issued through video or audio tapes raised doubts because they helped former US president George W. Bush to invade Iraq, win his reelection and get his war bills passed in Congress. This week, the death of bin Laden helped Obama to boost his popularity rate and strengthen his case for reelection next year despite the crumbling of the US economy. Little wonder, some analysts described Osama bin Laden as Obama’s bin Laden.
The lack of transparency, the contradictory statements, Obama’s refusal to release the pictures of bin Laden’s bullet-riddled body and the stoic silence of Pakistan’s military raise suspicions. Like the 9/11 attacks, which bin Laden is alleged to have masterminded, the death of bin Laden is also shrouded in unanswerable questions.
In the case of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, there was video footage of his capture, medical examinations, his trial and even his hanging. But in the case of bin Laden, we are told to dive into the Arabian Sea to look for his body which received a made-in-USA Muslim funeral ritual. This must be bin Laden’s third death. Once, he died in the US attack on Tora Bora in 2001, and then in 2007, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in an interview with the BBC said she was certain that the al-Qaeda chief was killed by one Omar Sheikh.
Meanwhile, questions arise whether he was captured alive and taken to the United States for interrogation because if he was the real bin Laden who with his Jihad credentials rose up against the crimes of an arrogant superpower, he would have had lot to offer. On the other hand, if he had been an agent provocateur or a Manchurian candidate, an ideologically charged radical who does not know that he is being handled, then bin Laden may disappear into society under a different identity. After all, didn’t Bush relax the no-fly ban imposed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to allow the bin Laden family to leave the United States? Or he could still have been killed since the handlers have little use of him now.
Probability theories apart, lets go by what the leader of the free world had said about what happened on May 2, 2011 around 1 a.m. Pakistan time. Yes, Osama bin Laden is dead. The man who was an ally of the United States in the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s, is no more. The man who later waged a jihad to oust the American forces from the Arabian peninsula and attacked US targets in retaliation for what he claimed were crimes committed on Palestinian people by the US-sponsored regimes in Israel is history. In Obama’s words, “you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”
However, the episode has caused severe embarrassment to Pakistan with critics alleging that Pakistan was harbouring the United States’ public enemy number one. Was Pakistan hunting with the hound and running with the hare? A joke that did the rounds in India several years ago is worth repeating. When President Bush made a statement saying that if he knew where bin Laden was he would bomb the place into smithereens. India’s prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee looked under his bed and said ‘Thank God, he isn’t here’. In Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharraf looked under his bed and said, ‘Thank God, he is still here’.
Jokes apart, Pakistani leaders owe an explanation to their political masters in Washington. The US wants to know why they did not know that bin Laden had been living in a house with a high wall and barbed wire just less than a kilometre away from a top military academy.
But the people of Pakistan also have a question. They ask how could a foreign commando unit violate Pakistan’s airspace and do whatever it wanted. They should have asked this question and taken their puppet government to task when the first Pakistani civilian was killed in a US drone attack on Pakistan soil. It’s too late now. Pakistan is in the grip of the United States. Some say the killing of bin Laden will offer a face-saving exit for the United States to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Far from it, the war may spread to the length and breadth of Pakistan with US ground troops conducting operations to hunt for other al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Days before the raid on the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, some two hours drive from Islamabad, Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani made a statement at the nearby military academy saying Pakistan would not sell its sovereignty for the sake of prosperity. But the bitter reality is Pakistan has already sold it.