Volatility

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Dead? It Has Nothing to Do With the War

Filed under: Afghanistan, Disaster Capitalism, Global War On Terror — Russell Bangs @ 3:08 am

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So I wake up to hear that Osama bin Laden is allegedly dead. I remember back in 2001, once the government launched the war in Afghanistan, the consensus among my co-workers was that they’d kill or capture bin Laden within two weeks. That’s actually not far short of when they had him bagged at Tora Bora and let him escape through suspicious negligence of the back door into Pakistan. Of course, in 2001 most people thought Bush really wanted to capture or kill him. The idea that bin Laden was more useful to corporate imperialism alive and at large than dead or a prisoner was too cynical for most people at that point. We’ve since learned differently, and most people are jaded about it all.
 
Still, this has caused a ripple of excitement. At Naked Capitalism they’re even asking if this makes Obama a shoe-in for 2012. Nobody’s cared about bin Laden for a long time, and I’ll eat my hat if anyone cares about this in 2012. This criminal probably will win in 2012 if he’s up against anyone from the current slate of Republicans, but only by default on account of how repulsive they all are.
 
I suppose it’s not surprising that stimulus-response Americans in general, always desperate for a novelty to give them a temporary rush, are momentarily excited over such a non-event. (Bin Laden hasn’t had any operational significance in many years; he’s long been of only symbolic significance. Indeed, while his death means nothing from America’s point of view, his symbolic martyrdom may be more influential to the declining jihadist movement than he was alive as a has-been.)
 
Still, I hope people can turn this momentary enthusiasm to good effect by insisting, “This means the objective of the war is complete and we can end the war now.” That’s really nonsense, of course. The purpose of the war has nothing to do with actual terrorists, who are merely a pretext. Obama hopes he can score political points with a momentary proclamation of victory but still continue the wars unabated. Maybe for once this kind of scam won’t work.
 
(A cynic on this issue might go with the following line: For general audiences, pretend to go along with the notion that bin Laden was the one and only true leader of Islamic terrorism, that this is conclusive, and say, “So this is it. We’ve won. Now we can end the wars and bring the troops home.” Accuse anyone who disputes this of being a liar who always claimed killing bin Laden was the primary goal.)
 
What’s the real point of the war? I’ve written about it extensively before; see my categories “Afghanistan” and “Global War on Terror”. But I’ll sum up my more recent refinement of my view.
 
Going back to 1990 and through the early 2000s, I used to think Middle Eastern aggression was primarily about oil. It used to be, but I think by now it’s more about corporatism and domination.
 
An empire which was truly, rationally focused on the global flow of oil would have gone about things very differently. If you want the oil to flow smoothly, you want geopolitical stability. You want calm in the Mideast. But the US has done all it can to disrupt the region and create chaos. Similarly, if you want to maintain consensus on the dollar as reserve currency and the currency paid for oil, you’d want to maintain the same calm, not do all you can to break up that consensus and drive others to seek alternatives.
 
I think in Washington the goal of ensuring the oil supply is considered too boring and isn’t the most short-term profitable priority. As we’ve seen everywhere, no one in the kleptocracy seems capable any longer of setting a priority based on longer-term self-interest, or even of conceiving such things. No one seems capable of thinking or doing in any way other than to maximize short run profiteering.
 
That’s why the imperial wars are so impulsive, scattershot, strategically incoherent, and more in the nature of drunken plunder raids than calculated empire-building. Iraq provided the most stark example, as the neoliberal Einsatzgruppen surged in immediately following the troops, and with the indiscriminate destructiveness of a tsunami rushed to impose a policy of total deregulation, privatization, and throwing the borders completely open to the full fury of globalization. Not one bit of this was even the slightest bit coordinated according to any guiding principle whatsoever. It was total corporatist chaos as its own principle. Every racket which could get to Iraq now cashed in its chips. It could be compared to a bank run, in that for short term profit corporatism was depleting any basis for its long run ability to maintain a revenue stream from these new colonies. But nobody cares about that anymore.
 
In Afghanistan that same dynamic has sought to prevail, although there it’s more difficult as there isn’t the same domestic economy to exploit, so the pirates have to content themselves mostly with government contract plunder.
 
So we can see how improbable it is that anyone among the elites considers the death of bin Laden to have any significance at all. Indeed, the way Obama’s exulting in this looks like self-indulgence for the sake of merely a short-run political profit. Over the long run, wasn’t bin Laden still more useful at large than dead? At any rate, there was no downside to his still being alive, but like I mentioned above, there’s a possible political downside for them now that he’s dead.
 
But like I said, I doubt it will matter either way. The corporate imperial “war on terror” has nothing to do with actually fighting terrorists.

9 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more.
    I notice that all the accolades coming in always end with something about how the war on terror must go on. It seems the criminals, I mean politicians, are at least a bit worried that the public might decide the mission is accomplished.

    Was anyone else severely troubled by the news this weekend that in Libya, Qaddafi’s son and three of his grandchildren were killed in a strike on the son’s house? NATO claimed, of course, that they were targeting “command and control,” not an individual.

    So Qaddafi’s son’s house is a command and control center? Aha… it was now command center because Qaddafi was there. So they ARE trying to assassinate him, which is something that is against the laws of war, and is certainly not in the purview of the UN resolution or NATO’s mandate.

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the immorality and mendacity of our politicians and leaders, both civilian and military, but I would have thought that their own sense of self-preservation would prevent them from taking this step.

    Does not the now obvious fact that NATO is trying to assassinate Qaddafi yield to the logical conclusion that the political leaders of NATO countries have, by the laws of natural justice and simple reciprocity, opened themselves up to assassination attempts?

    The only way I can understand this decision is that they think themselves immune and protected because of their security and intelligence apparati. If history is any guide, they are suffering from hubris.

    Regarding Bin Laden, this was likely nothing more than a political gambit on Obama’s part. He surely knew that Bin Laden was not much of an effective leader or threat anymore. This smells like a campaign ad.

    Comment by Publius — May 2, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    • Hubris it is (and not just with the war and murders), and I agree that what’s been going around will come around.

      By now they’re incapable of thinking in terms of long-run self-preservation, other than through piling on further crimes.

      Comment by Russ — May 2, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  2. @Publius – Exactly.

    I was awakened this morning to my husband explaining to me the various goings on in the insanity – and this was my first thought as well.

    We are celebrating the murder of children and grandchildren of a leader of an indiependent state who refuses to join the IMF money chain and we do not even hesitate to think that this might mean we have just let it be known globally that the children and grandchildren of political leaders are now ‘acceptable targets’ in this mess?

    Where is their simple sense of self preservation?

    Where is our moral compass?

    Since when are grandchildren of anyone a ‘viable target”?

    And how can we be so ignorant as not to assume that the purposeful murder of anyone’s grandchildren will not inflame and outrage them and any who are observing us?

    Osama is just another CIA operative killed in the line of duty – albeit a little late, but killed none the less.

    In my mind I sense that all over the world there are millions, nay, billions of humans who pray fervently that they not become the next target of our “liberation’ and others who determine that now we have proven our true nature and are therefore justifiably to be wiped off the face of the earth.

    Not good for anyone.

    Especially not good for us.

    How is any of what we are doing different from what Hitler did in Germany? We identify the evil threat and then we annihilate it among claims of our righteousness.

    We have become the enemy.

    Now, quick, let’s all go buy some American flags and run around cheering on our victorious murderous ways…

    Comment by ggirl — May 2, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    • It’ll be up to true citizens outside the system to rediscover the moral compass and redeem America as the Tower of Babel keeps ascending and tottering and eventually comes down.

      Comment by Russ — May 2, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  3. OBL was not “killed” for the political capital the event itself would create, but for the process it would enable and legitimize. I’m talking about a return to the cynical, political manipulation of the color coded terror “alerts” that Bush used to terrorize the American people and secure his power (and reelection). That’s what Obama is a up to. He’s reminded us of our fear of terrorists, and now they’re allegedly about to redouble their efforts to terrorize in order to avenge a man who many believe has been dead for a decade. And so we are about to see a return to those heady days when a terror alert was issued any time POTUS’s poll numbers were flagging.

    Good times. Good times.

    The Washington Consensus cannot afford a return to Republican rule just yet. Only a Democrat can undo what FDR did (which is not to say he did for valid or even noble reasons, only that undoing what he did is a major goal of the Washington Consensus). So it has been decided that OBL is better dead than alive because now he is a martyr that will inspire a new unseen threat to attack us “for our freedoms.”

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — May 2, 2011 @ 11:48 pm

    • Any rational person would already be asking: If killing bin Laden has now made us less safe, as the government is already saying, then why, rationally, was he killed? Why wasn’t he left alive?

      We know the answer is that this, like every other aspect of the “war on terror”, has nothing at all to do with making us safe, and is in fact always intended to make us less safe. That’s to the kleptocracy’s political advantage.

      As for conspiracy theories, I don’t know what to think, but one thing is self-evident. There’s no way this “buried at sea” notion makes any sense at all. If they really killed him when they said, how they said, they’d show the body to prove it (since they know that otherwise conspiracy theories will proliferate).

      So two things are clear:

      1. They didn’t kill him exactly when/how they claim; and/or

      2. They want conspricacy theories to proliferate.

      It’s a moot point to me and to others who see the big picture, since we know the full magnitude of the crimes already committed and those projected. The manner and timing of bin Laden’s death is a detail of minor significance.

      But no doubt large numbers of people will let themselves become fixated on this detail, which is exactly the misdirection the kleptocracy wants. Trutherism and Birtherism are the same.

      While conspiracy theorizing is a step away from conformism and therefore potentially progressive, it’s no good unless it evolves toward a comprehensive understanding of kleptocracy and a disciplined anti-system mindset.

      Comment by Russ — May 3, 2011 @ 4:12 am

      • I have no theory regarding the timing and circumstances of OBL’s death. Like everybody else, I stopped thinking about the guy eight or nine years ago, and I’m not about to start thinking about him now.

        My theory is solely about how Obama will use OBL’s death now. By the way, I don’t think OBL’s death makes us less safe. It’s just being used as an excuse to tell us that we’re less safe, so we’ll continue living in fear, allowing the creep of fascism to continue as we’re distracted by shadow puppets.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — May 3, 2011 @ 9:50 am

      • Yes, I didn’t mean you were saying anything about that. I just added that general thought to my reply.

        I agree, we’re not less safe from Islamic terrorism. We’ve been reasonably safe from that for a long time. But this government is the real terrorist in its self-aggrandizing program to pretend this threat exists.

        Of course, the overwhelming threat to American freedom and security have always been the corporations and government themselves. These traitors are the true terrorists. All the real enemies of America are home-grown.

        Comment by Russ — May 3, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  4. Recap of Stratfor’s longstanding position on the degradation of the al-Qaida core and the jihadist movement’s decentralization.

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110502-bin-ladens-death-and-implications-jihadism?utm_source=SWeekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=110503&utm_content=readmore&elq=338d37054f1649bda6b26c411251ac92

    Comment by Russ — May 3, 2011 @ 8:13 am


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