After Ben Laden - A Chance for USA to do the right thing for World PEACE
"Bin Laden's killing was the easy part; it's time Obama backs his talk with concrete steps to rein in Israel"
Aijaz Zaka Syed
U.S. President Barack Obama announcing live on television the death of Osama bin Laden, from the East Room of the White House in Washington on May 1, 2011.
It's more than three weeks since Osama Bin Laden died giving a new lease of life — and perhaps a second term — to a struggling US president, but celebrations in the US are far from over. I hate to rain on this victory parade but the departure of one isolated and ailing figure changes nothing.
In the words of Brendan O'Neill, "all that really happened in Pakistan is that a small group of American soldiers shot and killed an ageing, sickly man who was the nominal head of a fractured terrorist organisation." And, I must add, without going through motions such as a fair trial or consulting the sovereign government of a so-called ally.
I know, I know. Bin Laden was no saint and may very well have been guilty of the crimes he has been accused of, including the 9/11. But reviled as he was, Bin Laden deserved a day in the court to account for himself, didn't he? Even Nazi mass murderers responsible for killing millions during the Second World War were punished only after elaborate trials.
I don't like playing the devil's advocate here, but there's something called due process. Everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. This is the principle at the heart of the international justice system.
Following the WikiLeaks exposé showing the Emperor sans his clothes, Obama had protested: "We are a nation of laws."
But law-abiding nations, Mr President, do not go to war over flimsy pretexts or send commandos into a foreign country to kill an unarmed man in front of his 12-year-old daughter and dump his body into the ocean. Talk of playing the judge, jury and executioner all over again! This justice is little different from the Texan-style retribution seen in Hollywood westerns.
The 9/11 terror attack which claimed more than 2,700 innocent lives was doubtless a heinous crime for which the perpetrators deserve severest punishment. What about all those innocents though who were killed — and continue to be killed — as a direct result of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan?
More than a million lives have been lost in Iraq and hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past 10 years. Who will account for them?
The Abbottabad ‘operation' is a telling example of the way this war has been waged all these years. While it has wreaked havoc across an already ravaged Afghanistan, it's Pakistan that has been the real victim of the decade-long campaign. Its once robust economy is bankrupt; its institutions are falling apart and its complex religious and ethnic mosaic of society is unravelling fast.
Pakistan has lost nearly 40,000 of its people, including 7,000 military personnel, to this conflict since 2001. Despite strong popular protests, US drones continue to hit Pakistan almost on a daily basis feeding a groundswell of anger. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 111 drone attacks were unleashed last year and at least 957 of those killed were civilians.
Of course, you aren't supposed to raise these inconvenient questions. Big powers are exempt from laws that apply to the rest of the world. The empire can get away with murder. Instead it's the victim who's facing the music as US politicians join the chorus to bomb the ally that has given America a licence to kill and do what it pleases.
Pakistan is teetering on the brink as it bends over backwards to meet increasing US demands to "do more". In the process, more and more young people are forced into the welcoming arms of the extremists.
I often wonder if the Americans know what is being done in their name and do they care. How would they react if planes sent by ‘friends' were to rain death and destruction over their cities and towns?
In his speech after the Abbottabad adventure that reminded one of the "Mission accomplished" bravado of his predecessor, Obama declared that the world was safer after Bin Laden's death. Why is it not safe for the Afghans and Pakistanis then? Why do they still get swatted like flies? A day after Pakistan's politicians "warned" against more misadventures, another drone strike killed scores in the Northwest.
So where do we go from here? Obama has a rare opportunity to turn the page on America's disastrous decade and make a fresh start. He has repeatedly talked about "a new way forward" with the Islamic world. It's time to demonstrate he means it.
Extremism as represented by the likes of Bin Laden is merely a symptom, rather than the disease. The source of the sickness lies elsewhere — in the Middle East [and Kashmir]. Obama's State Department speech this week calling for a "viable Palestine" on the 1967 borders is a bold beginning. But we have had enough of his sublime rhetoric. He has to back it now with concrete steps.
And no matter what Israel says or does, I can't believe the reigning superpower is incapable of reining in a rogue regime that survives on its protection.
About time someone told Israel: Enough is enough!
By Aijaz Zaka Syed, Special to Gulf News a widely published columnist. Follow him on Twitter@aijazzakasyed.