Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Killing Osama Bin Landen – Lessons Learned?


On May 1, 2011 Osama Bin Laden (OBL) is killed. The nation rejoiced. There are good reasons to do so.

First, OBL is responsible for killing 3000 innocent people on September 11, 2011, and many more afterward. Justice is done.

Second, OBL declared war on America. He is an enemy of the United States. Enemy deserves to die.

Third, OBL has openly humiliated America. OBL, and others, must pay for his defiance, arrogance. America will not be humiliated.

Fourth, OBL is the titular head of an Islamic terrorist organization that promises to kill Americans and destroy US’s way of life. Terrorist leadership must be neutralized. Future terrorists must be stopped. America must be secured.

Fifth, OBL is the iconic leader of a (fanatic) Islamic movement against the free world. Islamism is against the core Western values - freedom, democracy and Christianity. Fanaticism challenges Western ideological hegemony and threatens America’s political dominance, with force. Militarized Islamism has to be stopped. Western (economic/ cultural/ military) dominance must be secured, and unquestioned.

Which of the reasons above are the real reason for killing OBL?


Now some sobering and nagging questions. There are four:

First, can we trust the US at its words, to tell the truth, to reveal all facts? Can we trust the US in telling the OBL story as it happened? There is no reason to think so, looking back on history and as a matter of necessity.

US has a history of lying, for convenience. Not long ago, US military honored a fallen hero – Pat Tillman – an NFL player turned Rangers was awarded a silver star for being killed under enemy fire. It was found out later that President Bush lied. (Bush also lied about WMD to invade Iraq, torture of suspected terrorists, and Internet surveillance of all Americans.) Tillman was killed by friendly fire, in a most careless and unwarranted way.

US has a need not to tell all. If truth be known, it is SOP at CIA and operational doctrine with special force to conceal its ways and means, source and methods, and understandably so. President Bush and VP Cheney have used that excuse to detain and torture people without due process, and in secret. Why do people think it should be any different with the OBL operation?

Americans do not want the truth. The US public wants to be entertained. The US media want market share. The President wants to be reelected. No one want the truth, which more often than not, is disturbing (Abu Ghraib), controversial (Nixon tapes), and embarrassing (Wilkii leaks). People cannot deal with inconvenient truth (Gore).

The truth lies somewhere, and perhaps will never be known. (We have yet to sort out the truth behind 9/11 attack – 17 of the 19 hijackers were Arabs. Arabs in the US were allowed to leave the country without properly vetted by the FBI, or held as persons of interest, within days of 9/11.)

Second, why is there no attempt to capture OBL, alive? It is reported that the special force operation is a kill, not capture, military venture. (This story changed within 24 hours. Now the story is while OBL has no weapon and did not put up a fight, his wife was coming to his rescue and made a furtive move.) If the US is truly concerned with defeating terrorism and protecting the homeland, OBL is certainly a most priced intelligence source. (The SEAL team 6 did seize documents and computer for intelligence, but not OBL. Strange indeed - cold data without interpretation is useless.) An interrogation of OBL might yield a treasure trove of information, e.g., where is OBL’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahir? How does OBL command control works? What is the next terrorist’ plot?

Third, what right do US have to mount a kill or a capture military operation in Pakistan, without authorization or notice to Pakistan leadership? According to General/Secretary Powell, it is because Pakistan cannot keep a secret. According to Clinton, Pakistan (ISI) aids and abets Bin Laden. Whatever the reasons, is this not a military invasion of another sovereign country? Rhetorically, would US stand for such an attack by Mexico on US soil to stop drug lords in the US, killing (innocent) people and destroying (valuable) property in the process?

What does that tell us about US’s respect for international law? What does it tell us about US as a “rule of law” and “peace loving” country?

(A) If US can attack other nations’ at will to do “American” justice, why is US not attacking China for imprisoning Chinese dissident Liu Xiao, the Nobel winner and denying freedom of speech to millions, as in Google. Could it be the case that China is economically strong and military prepared? If so, what does it tell us about US’s conviction and capacity to fight for justice, at all costs and in every situations?
(B) If US will ONLY attack the militarily weak and economically dependent countries to seek justice, does this not amount to “might make right”? What are the lessons to other countries? In order to preserve national sovereignty, a country needs to be military strong (Iran, Korea – nuclear) and economically dominant (Saudi Arabia – oil, China – US bond), not morally superior and spiritually uplifting!

Fourth, if it is right and proper for US to invade another country (Pakistan) who is deemed to have given aids and comfort to OBL, a terrorist and a murderer, what of the thousands of innocent people US killed from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan, as a result of collateral damages or due to war crime, from Blackwater indiscriminate killing of dozens in Iraq to CIA (Davis) agent cold blooded murder of two people in Pakistan. In both cases, the offenders never face justice in foreign soils? Should Pakistan mount a operation to attack the US to vindicate many drone attacks deaths on its soil?


As US celebrate the killing of OBL, US need to take the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned, such as what does US action reflects and portents? What do the rest of the world thinks about America after the OBL killing? It is foolhearted to believe, as US do, that what is just to the US is also right by other countries.

In taking out OBL by invading another country, America is teaching by example (after all that is what true leadership is all about) what other countries should never do, i.e., invade other country to seek justice for its own people, even if it is against international law and involve killing of innocent people (with regret and compensations notwithstanding). That is what OBL preaches to a generation of Islamic followers – it is defensible to kill innocent people for a just cause; after all that is what terrorism is all about.

Other counties should not behave like the US, i.e., when a country’s national interests or cultural values are being challenged, they should use whatever force at their disposal to neutralize their enemies of choice, including killing of innocent people or invading another sovereign nation. Simply put: might does not make right, and shoot to kill first and talk about humanity later (respect Islamic tradition by burying OBL at sea within 24 hours without consulting OBL’s family!) is not the way to go.

The bottom line – military might not moral power is the language of the world, by US account and example.

If that is the message and lesson, the world can expect more violence ahead, and indiscriminately so.

In historical terms, that is the ultimate lesson of OBL killing – a small step for American justice, a huge jump for global disorder!


As I write this commentary, my heart and prayer (in different denominations) goes out to the 3000 global citizens killed on 9/11, and many others after. To do them justice, we must defeat terrorism by standing tall and insist on treating other as we would like to be treated, with respect and humanity.

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