Bin Laden dead, but US wars continue

May 2, 2011
US airforce bombs Rahesh village
US airforce bombs Rahesh village in northern Afghanistan, 2009. Photo from

A billionaire, mass murdering criminal is dead, but the symbiotic processes of empire and terrorism that breed inequality, war, occupation, torture and dispossession are alive and well.

Thank goodness for independent media such as Democracy Now! Today's program offers sober, historically informed commentary on the death of Osama Bin Laden, killed yesterday in a US Special Forces operation in Pakistan.

A day like today reminds us why independent media is so essential. In the hands of most of the corporate media, Bin Laden's death is detached from its historical context and treated as merely an occasion for jingoistic self-congratulation.

Speaking of which, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to issue a statement (archived by Internet Archive) on Bin Laden's death, which included an unsubtle justification for his unpopular policy of extending Canada's war in Afghanistan.

It's utter nonsense, of course. First of all, it's worth remembering that Bin Laden and his cohort of terrorists were themselves incubated by foreign invasion, occupation and torture — the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA-backed armed resistance there, the torture-chambers of a secular dictatorship in Egypt, and so forth.

These are the roots of Al-Qaeda and no one can doubt that the past decade's wars, occupations and torture have sown the seeds for new and unexpected “blowback”.

Then there's the fact that the over 100,000 foreign troops and mercenaries occupying Afghanistan have scarcely even been pretending to be chasing Al-Qaeda in that country since soon after fall 2001.

Even U.S. government sources estimate that there are less than 100 operatives (archived by Internet Archive) from that terror network in Afghanistan.

No, what the war in Afghanistan has been about for the better part of the past decade has been propping up a corrupt puppet government chalk full of warlords and drug traffickers, including many former colleagues of Osama Bin Laden.

The fundamentalist thugs in Karzai's government share Bin Laden's extreme conservatism and misogyny, but this can scarcely be mentioned since their militias kill for 'our' side.

A media that provided relevant historical context would have given us years of screaming headlines about these sordid kingpins in Karzai's government. Take, for instance, the case of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, one of the senior fundamentalist warlords in Afghanistan. Sayyaf is reportedly the man who first invited a rich young zealot named Osama Bin Laden to Afghanistan to join the war against the Soviet occupation.

Sayyaf literally built the future Al-Qaeda training camps with Bin Laden. For most of the past decade Sayyaf has sat as a Member of Parliament in Afghanistan supporting the NATO-backed Karzai government.

In fact, he sat in the row right in front of Afghan feminist and anti-war activist Malalai Joya; I only know this because she told me about the day in parliament when he turned around and threatened to kill her.

Joya was later thrown out of parliament for “insulting” thugs like Sayyaf, while Bin Laden's old mentor continues to enjoy his seat and all the attendant respect and privileges.

Sayyaf spends his days in a fortified mansion compound in the district of Paghman, just outside of Afghanistan's capital Kabul, not unlike the mansion outside of Pakistan's capital where Bin Laden was found and assassinated this week by the U.S.

So turn off the cable news scenes of USA-chanting-frat-party-esque revelry and take a minute to remember all the innocent victims of the murderous attacks in Kenya, Tanzania, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, and the victims of like-minded murderers in Bali, London, Madrid, Mumbai and beyond.

And take a moment, also, to remember the hundreds of thousands dead, the tens of thousands detained and tortured and the millions displaced in the wars (declared and undeclared) and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Palestine and beyond -- all justified by the rhetoric of the 'war on terror'.

On a day like today we need more than vacuous media cheerleading and the facile justifications of politicians like Harper.

On a day like today we need to honour the victims of war and terrorism, and to recommit to dismantling the unjust systems that produce them.

[Originally posted at Derrick O'Keefe is a Canadian anti-war activist and co-author, with Malalai Joya, of Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dares to Speak Out.]

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