Barack Obama rode the wave of victory that promised change; an unprecedented triumph in the political history of the US by this son of a Kenyan immigrant. Obama’s message of hope and change resonated with American voters and the rest of the world. Even the detractors of the most powerful nation on earth, militarily, began to view the US much more favourably; confident in the knowledge that the global politics were entering a new epoch of peace and harmonious relations among nations. There was bloated expectation that frosty relations between the US and the Muslim world would open a new chapter. Obama, when speaking in Cairo in 2009, promised to heal the rift between the US and the Muslim world. A promise that appeared genuine and sincere at the time.
But this is the US we are talking about. A nation with a glowing track record of screwing others in the pursuit of national interest and the spread of Western fundamentalism, which is premised on the values of democracy and a free-market system. Why did we imagine that would suddenly change because a coloured guy was now a US president? We certainly were very naive.
The respected sanusi Credo Mutwa immediately after the historic victory of Obama in 2008, released a rather unflattering poem about the new US president. It read:
An actor walks upon the floodlit stage of life
wearing a mask of an angel beneath a demon’s gown.
Pretence smiles upon the crowded hall of life
holding out hope as bright as it is false.
Son of a woman in whose veins flows the blood
of ancient Ireland and dark Africa’s plains.
You are Obama, nick-named the standing king
You are Barack, oh, son born to deceive
At time, the poem appeared very cynical as we were thoroughly inebriated with the euphoria of the time. But upon reflection, after two years of the Obama presidency, suddenly some of us have a light-bulb moment; a bit of a collective slap on the forehead. How could we have been so naive to have thought that Obama would be any different to all the other US presidents before him? Well, we were not alone. Even the Nobel Committee was duped by eloquent rhetoric and awarded a warlord a Nobel Peace Prize. We have learnt that he has launched more drone attacks in Afghanistan in two years than his predecessor managed in eight years. He sent more US troops to Afghanistan in an escalation of the so-called “war on terror”. At least that was one of the election promises he managed to keep, unlike someone we know in Pretoria.
In an October 2008 debate with Republican nominee John McCain, Obama said the following: “If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out. We will kill Bin Laden. We will crush al-Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”
Obama’s determination on going it alone in the hunt for Bin Laden if Pakistan did not play along, mirrored the threat to the international community by George W Bush when he addressed a joint session of Congress in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 and said: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
Again, Obama kept his promise of acting with or without Pakistan. On May 1 2011, the elite unit of the US army, the Navy Seals, were authorised to kill Bin Laden in Pakistan. The US, consistent with its past behaviour, violated the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan when the Seals embarked on a military operation to kill Bin Laden in Abbottabad without the knowledge and authorisation of the Pakistani government. Even more shocking was the celebration of this blatant breach of international law by the secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, when he praised this unlawful operation.
Over the years the hunt for Bin Laden had been given the veneer of legitimacy by recurrent accusations against him for every terrorist activity without any conclusive evidence. Some lies have been repeated with such consistent regularity that they have been taken as the gospel truth. The media is guilty of assisting in spreading US propaganda. Since 2001 we have been fed nauseating propaganda that Bin Laden was the “mastermind of 9/11″. The Bush administration went to pathetic lengths to link Bin Laden to the deaths of 2 700 people who perished at the World Trade Centre, by publicising a doctored tape by the CIA purporting to show Bin Laden gloat about 9/11. Some claim the tape is a fake. Bin Laden never claimed responsibility for 9/11 nor was he ever formally indicted by the FBI as a 9/11 instigator. The head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the media in 2002 that the FBI after a lengthy investigation could substantiate allegations that Bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11. The Taliban after 9/11 offered to extradite Bin Laden to the US, if they were presented with evidence, but of course the US dismissed this offer because they had no credible evidence to support their allegations.
The Obama administration has continued to keep the deceit alive. When announcing the unlawful execution of Bin Laden, Obama claimed that justice for families and victims of 9/11 was served; which is absolute rubbish. Bin Laden had been used as justification for the unlawful military excursion in Afghanistan and everywhere else under the false pretext of combating terrorism. If Bin Laden was the mastermind, then what was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
The FBI had also indicted and charged Bin Laden with the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. It is uncertain what evidence the US had against Bin Laden for those bombings. Whether it was invented or genuine, it will never be tested in a court of law because the US opted to summarily execute him without subjecting him to due process of the law. That Bin Laden may have praised the attacks does not make him responsible.
What is known is that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for these bombings. How come we never hear this group mentioned anywhere when the 1998 bombing is reported? That it is an affiliate of al-Qaeda doesn’t mean that each of its murderous activities is sanctioned and planned by al-Qaeda or Bin Laden. Even having its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as al-Qaeda’s number two cannot be a direct indictment on al-Qaeda. We don’t blame the ANC for what the SACP does, do we? Even though we know SACP leaders are leaders in the ANC. However, the US uses different standards to suit its own nefarious agenda.
Ramzi Yousef was sentenced to life without parole in February 1998 for orchestrating the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre. Yet the general propaganda is centred on Bin Laden being responsible for this as well. The same pattern had persisted in response to the 2000 attack on the US destroyer USS Cole in Yemen. Another group affiliated to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack. In Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, US Navy Seals were mowed down in what was subsequently known as the Battle of Mogadishu. Al-Qaeda was repeatedly mentioned as being behind the killing of US soldiers, when it was Somali militias led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid who embarrassed the US.
Al-Qaeda had made it no secret that killing civilians is its aim, and indeed it has killed countless civilians in a number of attacks. However, their body count of civilians pales into insignificance when juxtaposed with the thousands of civilians who have perished at the hands of the US. The Iraq body count of civilian deaths has now exceeded 100 000 since 2003. The US would justify its crime by calling deaths of these many innocent women and children as “collateral damage”. They will claim these civilians were not intentionally targeted. But by specifically targeting a populated civilian area as what happened during the “Shock and Awe” operation in Baghdad in 2003, the US was targeting civilians. Is this the case of unleashing unprecedented amount of terror in the fight against terrorism? Fighting evil with evil? How about living up to the pretences of moral authority that the US claims?
Bin Laden was ill and has been ill for a long time, and most probably no longer in direct command of al-Qaeda. Why did the US choose to kill a sick and unarmed man in such cold blood, in front of his wives and children? What happened to the presumption of innocence before being proven guilty? This is like clubbing a man in a wheelchair to death. Respect for the rule of law is not something that appears to be ingrained in the DNA of the US. US Attorney General Eric Holder claims that their unlawful operation “was lawful” because “it was in self-defence”.
The events that happened in Pakistan once again reaffirm to the world that some countries are a law unto themselves. Multilateral institutions are there to be abused for their nefarious ends. The duplicity of the US has not created a better place. The death of Bin Laden has not ended the wave of so-called terrorism across the globe. It may in fact have the opposite effect to what the US hoped for.
Che Guevara said to his Bolivian executioner: “Shoot, coward! You are only going to kill a man.” An ideology does not die with a man. Communism persisted long after Karl Marx died; Christianity survived long after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The US has created an enemy in that 12-year-old of daughter of Bin Laden, who had to witness her father summarily executed in front of her eyes.
“The worst are full of passionate intensity.” — WB Yeats