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July 13, 2011

Bin Laden’s death and the “war on terror”

Hassan Ibrahim

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Most of us including myself will always remember where we were and what we were doing when the World Trade Center Towers fell on September 11, 2001. In fact the images are seared into our brain from either the nature of the event or the repeated Medias use of the horrific acts to continuously draw our attention.

It is unfortunate that the events of that day are as vivid in my mind as the birth of both of my daughters.  Perhaps it is the moments of extreme elation and extreme horror that are hardest to forget in this short life. 

Now if I could just remember absolutely anything about the day Osama bin Laden, the accused leader of that terrorist act was killed.

I’m not denying that some people may in fact remember that day in detail but I wouldn’t hesitate to bet that for most people that day passed by like any other.  The reason for this is because, although news worthy, bin Laden’s death will have no long lasting or major significance on the so-called “war on terror”.

Even as I write this I wonder if the time has come and past for articles to be written about bin Laden and what his death means to different people.  It has been nearly 10 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center yet books are still being written and theories are still being hashed out about what really happened that day, why it happened, and how it could happen to such a super power like the US.

The most interesting news story since bin Laden’s death is the possibility of a porno stash in the compound where he was staying.  The Americans are drowning trying to make bin Laden’s death out to be one of their greatest achievements.

President Obama perpetuated this in the speech he gave following the military operation in Pakistan: “For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda's leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies.  The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda.”

Mr. President, almost 4500 soldiers and nearly one hundred thousand civilians have died in Iraq alone since the beginning of the “war on terror”, and the most “significant achievement” took place in a compound in Pakistan using eighty or so commandos?

It is sad that many Americans celebrated bin Laden’s death as an achievement of this magnitude, and I’m sure felt in someway everything was now going to be all right.

“Terror” however comes from Latin verb terrere meaning “to frighten” and unfortunately this is not going to subside just because one man was killed.  Even as I write this cyber terrorism is running rampant across the globe and hypothetically it wouldn’t be outlandish to imagine al Qaeda could one day perform an act of terrorism that didn’t involve anything but a computer.

The insignificance of bin Laden’s death lies in the fact that the US or we as North Americans or perhaps those who feel that they are seeking justice haven’t won a thing.  If I’m wrong please tell me different.

I found it almost ironically coincidental that within the last month we have seen the Global Commission on Drug Policy concluded that, "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

"Research has almost uniformly failed to show that intensified policing or sanctions have reduced either drug prevalence or drug-related harm," concluded Peter Reuter, a leading expert on drug policy.

If you replace the word “drug” with “terror” the similarities are eerie.  The war on drugs was started with the intention to get rid of the drug cartels and of course take the drugs off the streets but this never happened.

The reason it didn’t happen is the same reason why the death of the leader of al Qaeda will not curb the acts of terrorism that will inevitably happen again (of course acts of terrorism by individuals, groups and states are happening all the time they just aren’t happening on American soil).  Osama bin Laden was a reaction to foreign policies of the US and as long as those policies stay the same other bin Laden’s will be created in the future.

The operation of assassinating bin Laden was just one more of those acts that end up creating future terrorists.  It is an operation that Noam Chomsky accurately said violated “elementary norms of international law” and that there was “no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim...” He points out that in “societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trail”

It is another case of how the US as a nation totally ignored international law to achieve its goals and of course doesn’t figure on there being any consequences.  Unfortunately there are consequences and one of those was bin Laden.  His acts, though heinous, were no doubt significant because of the domino effect that they started.  His death however only knocks down one domino and will be as insignificant as the date that he died.

What date was that again?

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