Friday, April 27, 2012

Bin Laden raid not one in milllion after all

In remarks reported by the U.S. government's official news network, Voice of America, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- like every other Obama administration official this election season -- recounts with pride that glorious spring day when, flowers blooming and birds chirping, a team of Navy SEALs found what they admit was an unarmed Osama bin Laden and shot him dead.

While the rah-rah, Obama-got-Osama! stuff is passé and unremarkable at this point, what's noteworthy is Clinton's boast in her speech that the bin Laden raid was not out of the ordinary at all. It wasn't a one-off, spectacularly exceptional raid undertaken because the target was the world's most wanted terrorist, she says. Gosh no. America does this sort of stuff all the time!
"This may sound really exotic and scary to you all, but we've probably done something similar to this - helicopter in, take the target, look for who you're after, and get out of there - we have probably done it now 1,000 times."
Indeed, the U.S. military has terrorized the people of Afghanistan for years now with night raids that, according to the occupying force's own statistics, have killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent civilians. Being poor brown people, though, the dead don't have names, their passing not trumpeted by every Democratic strategist within shouting distance of a microphone.

Life is so unimportant to self-styled liberal humanitarians that it doesn't even factor into their ostensibly all-encompassing contingency planning, as Voice of America notes:
Even with that experience on the ground, Clinton said President Barack Obama's advisors worked through every contingency they could think of in assessing the bin Laden raid: What if something went wrong with the helicopters, like in the failed effort to rescue hostages in Iran in 1980? When was the next moonless night? What would Pakistan do?
Conspicuously not asked: What if the raid ends up killing innocent bystanders? What if it was a case of mistaken identity and Navy SEALs ended up massacring an innocent family? What if, in their zeal to find and kill bin Laden by faking a vaccination a program in effort to track him down by way of DNA, the U.S. government triggered a polio outbreak in Pakistan?

That's not the only conspicuous absence, though. Check out this description of the raid and see if you can see what's missing:
As the raid progressed, a helicopter damaged its tail section on a wall of the bin Laden compound, so another chopper was sent in from Afghanistan. SEALs moved women and children from the house to shield them from an explosion set off to destroy the damaged helicopter while other SEALs brought out what they hoped was bin Laden's body. "All of this is happening - the body is going out, the women and children are coming in, the reserve helicopter is on its way, but it's not there yet," Clinton says. "There was a lot of breath-holding." 
Somehow Osama bin Laden went from being Osama bin Laden to being a "body," yet in a speech dedicated solely to celebrating his killing, how he was actually killed goes unmentioned. Kind of weird -- and it kind of makes you wonder: Maybe even the likes of Clinton feel a tinge of shame about an execution-style killing of an unarmed man, no matter how nasty of a man he might have been. Or, perhaps, they just fear bragging about those particulars might remind people that the original tale of a cowardly, trembling Osama hiding behind one of his wives was a lie.

Either way, it's probably best to keep the story ambiguous.




  2. ambrit5:04 AM

    What I was wondering about was, why then? The timing puzzles me. No obvious triggers. Was Osama threatning his benefactors somehow? And with what?
    Just like Saddam. You're our boy until we don't need you anymore.

  3. Anonymous5:57 AM

    The fact that OBL survived until 2011 is truly amazing since he was almost totally incapacitated from kidney problems and Marfan's Disease in 2001. Then too, is Benazir Bhutto's interview with David Frost wherein the Pakistani PM stated that OBL had died and was buried in Pakistan. That Bhutto was assassinated thereafter is just a coincidence, right?

  4. Hey Charles, this is way way off topic but I was wondering if you care to take a very good look at the things happening here in America to derail the constitution and take away many of the rights we have enjoyed for so long. Not just because it's an American issue, but because it seems to be a new international trend for governments to want to take away all power for recourse, due process, and power of expression through free speech for it's citizens. Sure, it's been done before - here and there - but not globally as we are seeing today.

    I have never been the "Conapiracy Theory" type...but when you see such actions taking place during the same time in history by multiple governments, you have to start wondering. Why is all the power being consolidated up top? Why are they trying to take the voices of their citizens away? Why have they taken our protections to due process and rule of law...where anyone they choose to term an "Enemy of the State" can be made to disappear forever without an explanation per the recent National Defense Act. These things are troubling and it should be an international concern for citizens everywhere. Thank you for your time.

  5. This is a textbook example of what a friend of mine calls "poutrage." Defending Osama bin Laden's right to due process or to not be killed because he was unarmed will get you zero traction with anyone outside the privileged lefty-left (a variety of the 1%). Yes, it's fucked up. But I don't see the point of complaining about it online or acting like others should be as outraged as you are (condescending). 99% of Americans are simply not going to empathize with bin Laden. They might empathize with drone victims. But how bin Laden died is like stepping on a piece of gum - it sucks but that's how it is. We'd do better to focus on issues where there are already shared values with the wider body politic and possibilities of organizing strategies to pursue. This is pointless.

  6. andy nill12:52 PM

    Just wait until global religious organizations and American pro-life groups hear about these atrocities! Oh wait...

  7. "Poutrage." So clever I could gag.

    I'd suggest the ability to glibly dismiss concerns about the extrajudicial murder of terrorism suspects and Afghan civilians with a trite, "shit's fucked up," is awfully reflective of one's privilege. Getting Glenn Beck off TV might have been a key priority for a comfortable white liberal, but I'm guessing poor people in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia would put that way down on their to-do lists.

    Also: The piece used the OBL case to point out that 1) US "contingency planning" ignores potential impacts to innocent non-Americans, and 2) the OBL raid -- as pointed out in the title of the post -- was but one of hundreds if not thousands of others like it. The concern isn't about just one Bad Guy we're all not supposed to care about, but the faceless thousands being murdered in raids not breathlessly reported on by MSNBC. But I get it: you had your stock attack on "the privileged lefty-left" all ready to go. And "poutrage"! Gosh, again, so clever.

  8. ansel1:10 PM

    Le sigh. Just saw your tweet.

    "Expressing concern about the extrajudicial murder of terror suspects and Afghan civilians is a reflection of privilege..."

    That's just utterly intellectually dishonest. Said nothing of the sort. C'mon.

    I'm making a tactical argument here about the usefulness of mentioning OBL as a device to advance wider arguments against killings of civilians. It's not an effective rhetorical device period, and the only reason I can imagine one would use it in a piece is to assuage your own conscience/outrage and that of your blog's readers.

    The drone summit is happening in DC right now to stop or curb the use of drones and the civilian casualties. Important stuff. A sure way for the conference organizers/speakers to ensure their own irrelevance and undermine the effort would be to draw parallels between the drone victims' extrajudicial killings and that of bin Laden's, even if it's a completely valid comparison.

  9. ansel1:21 PM

    Uh also, I'm a fan of your writing. And not a liberal. Just trying to offer a constructive critique. Sheesh.

  10. Ansel,

    You were the one who said only the "privileged lefty-left (a variety of the 1%)" would give a shit about the due process rights of a terrorist. Own your comment, don't run from it. Name names while you're at it, otherwise it just looks like a cop-out, a way of dismissing a point without having to actually engage it.

    The hook of this piece -- again -- was Hillary Clinton saying the US has in fact carried out a thousand or more deadly raids just like the one that ended up killing OBL. My point was to highlight the anonymity of those victims not named Osama bin Laden. But I guess under your Rules of Writing, I ought to ignore Clinton's comment because if I note that others are being killed just like Osama was, people might think those Others are just as evil; I ought to self-censor to better cater to the prejudices of some imagined set of Americans.

    Reminder: I'm running a blog, not running for office. Ignoring uncomfortable truths might be a good way to get a seat in Congress, but it's not a recipe for good writing.

  11. You labelled this post a textbook example of "poutrage," a term currently en vogue among the ignore all the dead foreigners liberal left, because I pointed out Osama bin Laden's extrajudicial killing was not unique while mentioning Osama bin Laden's name. Sorry for not interpreting that as either constructive or leftist.

  12. Not arguing that you self-censor, of course. I'm saying that belaboring the point that OBL was killed the way he was, which you did in the piece while generalizing about the rest of the victims of these strikes, isn't good writing. It's the kind of writing that I doubt is going to strike a chord with very many people who are not privileged leftists. Obviously, I say that knowing that I am one.

    But yeah, "Never read the comments." So I won't bother next time?

  13. "[B]elaboring the point" of course meaning "making the point" in the context of a post all about the point that Osama bin Laden is far from the only one to be extrajudicially murdered in similar fashion. I think I got it: Don't self-censor, just don't write about incidents that make other people -- not me, of course -- uncomfortable. Ignore comments from the Vice President and Secretary of State that cater to American blood lust because, gosh darn it, Americans love their blood lust. Best to cater to it, not challenge it. Or at least wait until you have the perfect victim -- a blond-haired, blue-eyed soccer mom from Orange County, maybe -- before calling out the murder of unarmed, detained people as wrong. Cool.

    Also, just to state the obvious: The "generalizing about the rest of the victims of these strikes" is because we don't have the US Vice President and Secretary of State out there making speeches describing in exact detail the decision-making that led to their deaths. But we do about Osama's, which we are told was not unique at all. We have to generalize based on the data we have.

  14. The whole thing is barbaric, the fact that it's hailed as some kind of leadership accomplishment is fascistic, and the concerns that pointing it out is counter-productive is the epitome of liberal thinking.

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