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A Nobel prizewinner without scruples

By Atilio Boron

Translation: Machetera / Tlaxcala

One more sign among many illustrating the profound moral crisis of “Western and Christian civilization” that the USA claims to represent is offered by the news of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Aside from the rejection his image and manner of struggle provokes among us, the nature of the operation carried out by U.S. Navy Seals is an act of insurmountable barbarism perpetrated under the direct orders of someone who on a daily basis dishonors the Nobel Peace Prize granted him by the Norwegian parliament in 2009.

According to Alfred Nobel’s wishes in his last will and testament, this distinction ought to be granted to the person who “…shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The lunatic who announced the death of the al-Qaeda leader to the USAmerican public, saying that “justice has been done” is the perfect antithesis of Nobel’s stipulation. A commando operation is the last thing related to due process, and throwing the remains of the victim into the sea in order to hide the evidence of what one has done is what mafiosos or genocidal tyrants do. The least the Norwegian parliament could do is demand the return of the prize.

There are many questions that remain in the shadows after the horrifying operation staged on the outskirts of Islamabad, and the U.S. government’s tendency to deliberately misinform the public makes the whole operation even more suspect. A White House subject to this unhealthy compulsion to lie (remember the “weapons of mass destruction” existing in Iraq, or the infamous Warren Commission Report that ruled that there had been no conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy but that it was the work of “lone wolf” Lee Harvey Oswald) forces us to handle each one of its statements gingerly.

Was it bin Laden or not? Why not think that the victim might have been anyone else? Where are the photos, the proof that the deceased was actually the hunted man? If a DNA test was done, how was it done, where are the results and who are the witnesses? Why wasn’t it presented for public consideration, as for example, was done with the remains of Comandante Ernesto “Che” Guevara? If as is claimed, Osama was hiding in a mansion turned virtual fortress, how is it possible that in a battle that lasted forty minutes, the U.S. commandos returned to their base without receiving so much as a scratch? Did the defenders of the world’s most wanted fugitive, who were claimed to possess an arsenal of deadly weapons of the latest generation, have such poor marksmanship? Who was with him? According to the White House, the commandos killed bin Laden, his son, and two other men guarding him along with a woman who they said was finally used as a human shield by one of the terrorists. It also said that two more persons had been wounded in the battle. Where are they, and what is going to be done with them? Will they be taken to trial, will their statements be taken to shed light on what happened, will there be a press conference where they talk about what occurred? It seems that this “feat” will go down in history as a mafia operation similar to the Valentine’s Day massacre ordered by Al Capone to liquidate his rival gang lords.

A living Osama was dangerous. He knew (knows?) too much, and it’s reasonable to suppose that the last thing the U.S. government wanted was to bring him to trial and allow him to speak. In such a case, a scandal of enormous proportions would have been released with the revelation of CIA connections, weapons and money supplied by the White House, illegal operations performed by Washington, the dark family connections with the U.S. oil lobby and, most especially, with the Bush family, among other trivialities. In summary, this was a witness that had to be stifled one way or another, like Muammar Gaddafi. The problem is that a dead Osama has already been turned into a martyr for the cause by Islamic jihadists, and a desire for vengeance will surely propel many dormant al Qaeda cells to perpetrate new atrocities in order to avenge the death of their leader.

One also can’t help noticing how opportune bin Laden’s death has been. With the brush fire in the Arab world destabilizing an area of crucial importance to the strategy of imperial domination, the news of bin Laden’s murder has put al-Qaeda right back on center stage. If there’s one inarguable truth at this point it is that these revolts do not correspond to any kind of religious motivation. The causes, their subjects, and their forms of struggle are eminently secular and none of them – from Tunisia to Egypt, including Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Jordan – are driven by the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda.

The problem is capitalism and the devastating effects of neoliberal policies and the despotic regimes that neoliberalism has placed in these countries, and not the heresies of Western “infidels.” But U.S. imperialism and its followers in Europe have gone out of their way since the very beginning to make it seem as though these revolts are the product of some kind of evil Islamic radicalism and al-Qaeda, something that simply isn’t true.

Santiago Alba Rico rightly observed that at the height of the secular protests against the IMF and World Bank adjustment policies, a previously unknown fundamentalist group killed Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian activist from the International Solidarity Movement, in an abandoned house in the Gaza strip. Just a few weeks later, a suicidal terrorist set off a bomb in the Jamaa Fna plaza, one of the most well-known tourist destinations not only in Morocco but in all of Africa, and killed at least fourteen people. “Now,” continues Alba Rico, “bin Laden himself reappears, not alive and menacing, but in all the glory of a long postponed, studied, carefully staged and somewhat unlikely martyrdom.  ‘Justice has been done,’ said Obama, but justice calls for courts, judges, summary proceedings, an independent sentence.” None of that has happened, nor will it. But Islamic fundamentalism, the missing protagonist in the huge demonstrations in the Arab world is now on the first page of all the world’s newspapers, with its Islamic martyr leader killed in cold blood by the Western leader’s soldiers. The White House, which knew since mid-February of this year that bin Laden was sheltered in this fortress on the outskirts of Islamabad, waited for the opportune moment to launch its attack, with a view toward favorably positioning Barack Obama in the imminent electoral campaign for presidential succession.

There’s one more detail that is not anecdotal in the least and which makes the US adventure even more immoral: a few hours after being shot, the corpse of the presumed bin Laden was tossed into the sea. The deceitful statement from the White House said that his remains were entombed with respect for Islamic rites and traditions, but this is not true.  Islam’s funeral rites establish that the corpse should be washed, dressed in a shroud, taken to a religious ceremony that includes speeches and funeral honors in order to then proceed to the burial place. Furthermore it specifies that the corpse should be buried directly in the earth, resting on its right side and with its face turned toward Mecca.

How quickly must the battle have taken place, the corpse have been recovered and identified, its DNA collected, and its transfer effected to a naval aircraft carrier situated a little more than 600 kilometers from the suburbs of Islamabad where the confrontation took place, in order for the body to be put overboard, all in time to respect Islamic funeral customs? In reality, what happened was that someone, bin Laden presumably, was shot and “disappeared,” following the preferred sinister practice of the genocidal dictatorship that devastated Argentina between 1976 and 1983. An immoral act that not only offends Muslim beliefs but also thousands of years of Western cultural tradition, even those preceding Christianity. As Sophocles masterfully testified in Antigone, depriving the deceased of a tomb sparks the most heated passions. Such as those which are today igniting the cells of Islamic fundamentalism, eager to teach a lesson to the infidels who insulted the body and memory of their leader. Barack Obama ended up saying that after the death of Osama bin Laden, the world is a safer place to live. He is thoroughly wrong. Most likely his action simply awakened a sleeping monster. Time will tell whether or not this is true, but in the meantime there are plenty of reasons to worry.