Monday, May 9, 2011

How Osama Transformed Obama

I always look forward to editorials by Haroon Siddiqui, a senior journalist with better, more nuanced insight into West, Central, and South Asian issues than most. I found the following recent article interesting, and thought provoking--not least because I had misread the title (substituting mentally Osama for Obama, given the rest of the description), and wondered where he was heading with this. After I got to the end, I rechecked the title twice, and then realized where he had been heading all along. Even allowing for fatigue and distraction, the mental substitution I had made, and its persistence, is telling about how we perceive, and are encouraged to perceive, the two men.

I have highlighted the most significant final paragraphs, though it is best to read the whole to get the full impact, and especially for the US official and its officials' changes of position--or rather changing expressions of the same position. I also added pictures where the original included only Siddiqui's byline photo.

The comments from the "bleeding hearts on the left" thought to read the paper are "interesting".

Siddiqui: Obama’s evolution into a warrior
Published On Sun May 08 2011

In the old wild west of America, executed criminals were hung up in public squares. And photos of gunned down criminals — some featuring the triumphant sheriff and his posse — were widely circulated.

When they ruled Afghanistan, the Taliban used to string up executed criminals and political enemies on trees in traffic squares. Or they gathered people in stadiums to cheer the stoning of women.

Osama bin Laden’s killing was cheered by flag-waving crowds near the White House and Ground Zero, and in sports arenas with shouts of “U-S-A, U-S-A.” Star sports columnist Cathal Kelly observed: “By American lights, it was an emotional, patriotic spectacle. To this outsider, it had an unseemly aspect. A celebration of death smacks of a barbecue held outside the gates to the gas chamber.”

The end of bin Laden brought conflicting emotions for conflicting reasons from different people. Both his few admirers and his many haters demanded the grisly photo of his gunshot face. Both needed proof that he was dead. Others had a different rationale. Sarah Palin: “Show photo . . . It’s part of the mission.”

But Barack Obama had it right: “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”

Yet the president and his administration are all tangled up in what, exactly, transpired during the daring raid.

Did bin Laden use his wife as a human shield? No.

Was he armed? No.

So how did he put up “resistance.” How was he in the “firefight” that killed him? No answer.

Were the commandos under orders to shoot on sight? No.

Yet Leon Panetta, CIA director, said: “The authority here was to kill bin Laden.”

Attorney-General Eric Holder: “It was a kill-or-capture mission. He made no attempt to surrender.”

Panetta: “The opportunity to capture never developed.”

Holder: The killing “was justified as an act of national self-defence.”

So bin Laden was not armed. He could have surrendered. But he was not given the time to surrender. He was killed not because he posed a danger to the commandos but rather a danger to America.

Obama: “We can say to those families who’ve lost loved ones to Al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.”

George W. Bush had said famously that he wanted bin Laden “dead or alive.” In his autobiography Decision Points, he writes of the failed 2001 mission to get bin Laden in the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan: “I hoped I’d get a call with the news that Osama was among the dead or captured.”

Donald Rumsfeld, then defence secretary, writes in his own memoir, Known and Unknowns, that around the same time as Tora Bora, “I watched a Predator video feed of a tall, lanky man wearing a turban and white robes . . . There was not a doubt in anyone’s mind that the image on the screen in front of us was Osama bin Laden. As they made final preparations to take out the target, something spooked the man” and he took off. It turned out that he was not bin Laden.

Obama has now finished the mission as conceived by the Bush administration. He also finds himself in the embarrassing position of having to acknowledge that part of the intelligence for bin Laden’s killing came from water-boarding, which he had strenuously opposed and banned upon taking office. And that evidence may have been obtained at Guantanamo Bay, which he promised to close but has yet to.

Americans don’t care. Obama’s ratings are going up by the day.

Outside the U.S., the view is different.

Helmut Schmidt, former West German chancellor: “It was clearly a violation of international law.”

In Canada, the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair was raising the same issue — albeit clumsily — whether “we want to live in a world where things are based on vengeance or based on justice. Justice means we’re applying rules of law, whether international or domestic.”

That would have meant bringing bin Laden to trial.

Where? At the International Criminal Court, like Slobodan Milosevic. But the court’s jurisdiction dates back to 2002, not 2001. The UN Security Council could have set up an ad hoc tribunal.

Or the trial could have been held in the U.S — in a civil court (where? New York?) or at a military tribunal at Guantanamo.

However, the end of bin Laden avoids all such prolonged, legal niceties that are the foundation of a democracy. What remains are the cheers for a liberal law professor who has evolved into a warrior president and doled out justice the American way.


Another aspect of  how Osama has transformed Obama  is the upward bounce Osama has now given Obama--whereas the name game used to bounce Obama down, thanks to Osama, Islamophobia, and the perception that Obama and Democrats are soft on "turrer". Still, in 2012 will it be "all about the economy, stupid"?

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Related Posts:
A Post-Modernist Reading of the Obama-Osama Entwinement in History
On the Unseemliness of Holding a Pep Rally for a Military Killing: New York and Washington Festivities on the Announcement of the Death of Osama bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden, Code-Named "Geronimo", Killed in a Pakistani Military Town/Former Hill Station of the British Raj: The "Ironies" Mount Upcoming


Wendy said...

Interesting post, Chiara. I think there are many unanswered questions and doubts over all of this. The comment made that the US gov't is 99% positive that the dead man was Bin Laden will sit with me forever I'm afraid.
What really makes me ill about the whole 911 remembrances, etc. is that the USA has killed so many more people since 911 than those who died during 911. As one article out of China stated "now the only terrorist left is the United States."

Majed said...

Obama is right it was never the American way to show off overpowered adversaries as trophies, They did not show off Che Guevara, Noriega they did not show off Dead bodies of Udai,Qasai sons of Saddam Husain and his grand son Mustapha a teenager who fought an American battalion till death,they did not show off Saddam Husain himself in the way they showed him(Rahmatullah alaihim),they did not show off prisoners of Abu Ghuraib prisoners, and suddenly they were transformed and respected him and gave him swift burial in the sea, and this same sons of bitches claim the remains of their blood sucker soldiers rotten-remains from Vietnam and Korea until now,but why to blame them,it is Arabs fault, supposing he was a bad man he then rightfully deserved what happened to him and was killed,at this point his responsibility for anything is over,and it is our duty to give his dead body to which we have all right the due respect, even if it meant to wage war to recover it,have we become inferior even to the crows that flock to bury their dead ones, shame on us utffuuuu.


Related Posts with Thumbnails