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It Still Wasn’t Worth It, and Is More War Coming?



The U.S. has finally killed Osama bin Laden, the press and the administration report. Many will say this vindicates the war on terrorism, but it doesn’t.

The Wall Street Journal says, “The development capped a manhunt of more than a decade for the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that left 3,000 people dead and dramatically altered U.S. foreign policy and the nation’s sense of security.”

“Manhunt”? In fact, the U.S. response to 9/11 has been a minor revolution in American statecraft toward the principles of aggressive war, nationalism and centralized executive power. Hundreds of thousands have died. Trillions have been spent. Key civil liberties have been undermined. And will the war now end? All of it? What domestic impositions and foreign occupations will remain?

Obama is absolutely right about the horrific loss that visited so many people on 9/11, including the unseen communities, families and loved ones touched by the tragedy, and we shouldn’t forget this. But even more neglected are the many who have been devastated by the U.S. government in its wars, before and after 9/11. Al-Qaeda, as Obama notes, has killed scores of Muslims throughout the world. This makes bin Laden a mass murderer of Muslims, the president correctly says. What of the scores of thousands of Muslims killed by the U.S.? What does that make our government?

Notably, Obama describes the operation that killed Osama as involving some degree of precision – at least compared to the drone attacks and all out wars that typify U.S. foreign policy, although the president didn’t say this. Had a very limited operation been all the U.S. was doing for ten years — if this was indeed something resembling a “manhunt” — there would be much less to protest, as well as less of a budget problem.

Now that Osama’s dead, if Obama does bring the troops home and end the ramping up of the national security state at home, he will deserve some credit, although that still doesn’t legitimize everything that’s happened since 9/11 – including, for example, the war with Libya, as divorced from the goal of killing bin Laden as was Bush’s adventure in Iraq. But Obama says the task of defending U.S. security is “not complete.” That would mean more war, I fear. Indeed, Senate hawks are pushing for a war in Syria, and it is unclear that Osama’s death will deter the War Party from calling for more military interventions, all under this rubric of the war on terror. But if the war on terror doesn’t end now that the main villain implicated in 9/11 is dead, does that not bring into question the war on terror’s rationale? For how can it be that this war has been worth it for killing Osama, yet the war must continue now that he’s dead? What in fact will mean the end of the war on terrorism?

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