We lost a ‘personification of evil’

After waiting almost a week for the reports on Osama’s death by newspaper agencies and news networks to recede, I contemplated the idea of putting down my thoughts on the ‘success of US’ war on terror’. Sadly though, this morning I sat down with yesterday’s newspaper over breakfast (that’s right, Bilaspur is so deep inside the second least developed state in India that, we only get yesterday’s paper today!). So here I was, skimming through yesterday’s news and lo and behold, I see that someone has already stolen the words out of my mouth. But as it turns out, the culprit is Professor Richard Jackson, who happens to be the Secretary of British International Studies Association and Editor of Critical Studies on Terrorism (we are referring here to his entry in a personal blog that was printed in the Op-Ed section of The Hindu titled ‘The Death of Osama bin Laden: it’s a Pity’). Having realised that he is a very credible person on this subject, I suddenly felt pretty proud of my own thoughts on the matter (hey, a professor shares my view on the matter!).

Consequently, whatever I write here now is a blend of i) What I thought of the incident that took place on May 2nd, and ii) My views on some of the points raised by Prof. Richard Jackson (who shall be hereafter referred to as ‘the Professor’ ~ My apologies, I guess I have been reading too many agreement bonds and the likes). Please don’t blame me if I bore you to death henceforth, you are always welcome to simply stick to the Professor’s piece (<http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article1994136.ece&gt;).

While the Professor has begun his article talking about the little positive outcome of Osama’s death, I shall not waste a second’s worth of time on such niceties that are generally used in argumentative pieces to add a bit of what the author hopes would be consideration of the opposing view. I shall make no pretence of my opinion on the matter. Maybe there are two sides to every coin and maybe there is no clear black and white in every situation; but to me the killing of Osama bin Laden is not an isolated incident, it is an event that would hopefully (but very unlikely) culminate the United State’s now almost 10 year-old ‘War on Terrorism’. Do we realise that this war has lasted as much as World War I and World War II put together? During this war that cost US billions and billions of dollars, the United States has continued in its refusal to ratify more worthy causes like the ‘Kyoto Protocol’. Ostensibly, the future of the planet is more expendable when compared to the hunting down of a terrorist who was finally found living in a house like a farm mouse that no one in the vicinity knew existed (no offence to farm mice, ratatouille is one of my all-time favourite animated movies, second only to Madagascar 2!).

As the Professor says, in this war “far more innocent people have been killed and injured than bin Laden’s initial attacks. Their deaths are also part of the story and must be counted and acknowledged in our reflections on the real costs of this so-called act of ‘justice’”. He then goes on to talk about the destruction caused in Iraq (I believe that the only thing the rest of the world learnt from the American invasion in Iraq was that, the Americans could not really get the name of that country right; seriously, I-raq?!!). In addition the Professor also talks about how innocents were ‘kidnapped, rendered and tortured for information on bin Laden’s whereabouts, and in the end normal methods of intelligence-gathering found him anyway.’ According to the Professor, the consequence of the torture these individuals endured ‘also have to be counted as part of the lasting costs of the hunt for bin Laden’. This brought back to my mind images of US soldiers abusing Iraqis in the Abu Ghraib prison. It reminded me of the existence of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in southeastern Cuba (maybe my views on the existence of such a prison calls for another entry at a later time, but it is important to note that US finds the inmates in these prisons too dangerous to be kept in their land but not enough to be subjected to the people in Cuba).

The Professor talks about ‘the cycle of violence’ and how ‘by responding to bin Laden in a lawless manner, and treating him as he treated his victims, we simply go down and join him in the pit of immorality. We become the monster we hunt…’ (Note to self, if you ever meet the Professor make sure you give him a Hi-5 on this matter!). There is little of significance that I could possibly add to this matter. It is striking how the Americans’ actions thus far have continually displayed their integral fear of the Arab, or rather, the Muslim world. They are petrified by these people and in turn try to show their bravado of conquering their own fear by torturing and harassing innocent people in these regions. We have the proof of this in the many files that wikileaks have published under the Afghan War Diary and Collateral Murder.

According to the Professor, targeted killing ‘does not work to reduce terrorism, kills many innocent bystanders, and leads to more recruits for terrorists groups’. Would you simply quietly standby and watch if someone came and killed your family claiming that they suspected your family to be terrorists? What would you do if these people could not be charged in any court of justice you went to? What COULD you possibly do if these people placed themselves above law? Would you not want to avenge the death of your loved ones? Would you not join a terrorist group if that proved to be the only path of retribution? What I am essentially trying to convey is that in trying to eradicate terrorists this way, the US is only driving more innocents to the terrorist camps.

The Professor goes on to wonder, now that bin Laden who had become our poster-boy for evil is no more, ‘who will take his place as the next personification of evil’. Honestly, did Osama deserve that Most-Wanted spot that America gave him for 10 long years? And what was America trying to prove by killing him like that and dumping him in the sea instead of taking recourse to law and putting him in trial? His killing has come too little too late to make any difference to any of the many people whose lifestyle and livelihood has been affected by the US’ hunt for him.

And as the Professor rightly points out, it’s a pity that the Americans are rejoicing at this without considering the suffering of the people in that region; it’s a pity that Obama said ‘no Americans were harmed’ in the operation, which only goes to show how they slight the lives of the others who died in the encounter; it’s a pity that the leaders talk of how ‘we will have to (endlessly) continue the fight against terrorism’; and ‘it’s a pity that this event will do nothing to end the sheer stupidity and shameful waste of 10 years of war and violence’.

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