So, yes, as you may have heard, we finally found Osama Bin Laden, fulfilling a key promise President Obama made during the 2008 campaign. While I would have preferred to see the perpetrator of 9/11 captured alive and brought to trial — cause that’s how we do justice here in the US of A — congrats to the president’s team, the analysts who did the hard work, and the men and women who executed the operation, on finally getting their man.
All that being said, the second half of the president’s statement above is troubling. The death of Bin Laden should mark the beginning of the end of the 9/11 decade. With the splinter finally removed, it is time to take a long hard look not just at our continuing war in Afghanistan — after all, Osama was eventually found in Pakistan, mainly through what the Bunk would call good po-lice work — but at all the questionable and/or extra-constitutional actions we have taken in the name of fighting the terr’ists since September 11th. (Newsflash: Torture had nothing to do with capturing OBL.) If the death of Bin Laden doesn’t move us to this reconsideration, what then ever will?
Unfortunately (and of course), that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Instead, Congress is laying the foundation for a wider war: “Contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 is a new authorization to use military force that would grant the executive branch the power to ‘address the continuing and evolving threat posed by these groups.’ In practice, that means the president could use military force against any suspected terrorist across the globe — indefinitely.“
Indefinite war? No thanks. There’s been an eerie touch of Emmanuel Goldstein in the way Bin Laden was used to justify all manner of extraconstitutional actions and civil liberties violations under Dubya — actions that have been ratified and continued under Obama. Now that the Bogeyman is dead, it’s time to stand down. It’s time to start acting like America again.
“‘If you think of this as sort of a combination of [the hunt for] Eric Rudolph, who was the Olympic bomber, and the movie ‘Deliverance,’ multiplied by a factor of 10, that’s really what you’re focusing on in trying to find bin Laden,’ said Robert Grenier, the former CIA station chief in Pakistan.” Also high on the foreign policy to-do list for President-elect Obama: bringing the war on terror back to Osama bin Laden.
Alas, despite Dubya’s occasional bouts of half-hearted bluster, it seems the bin Laden trail may well have gone ice-cold over the past few years, while we’ve been focused on Iraq. “Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer, told CNN he’s talked to ‘a dozen CIA guys who’ve been on the hunt for him, and half of them told me they assumed he was dead, the other half said they assumed he was alive, but the key word here is assume. They don’t know.’…[Commander of special operations at Tora Bora Dalton] Fury says the best route for the president-elect to take would be to change the dialogue about bin Laden…He believes taunting the al Qaeda leader may force him to prove he’s relevant and, in the process, lead the United States right to him.“
Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007. It seems all too many christmases of late has been marked by grim news on the global front, from the devastating tsunami to the botched Saddam execution. This year, obviously, it was the assassination of the former prime minister who, while no angel, nevertheless embodied for many hopes for a stable, democratic Pakistan. Her murder — in the military stronghold of Rawalpindi, no less — further destabilizes a nuclear-armed nation already teetering on the brink, and roils significantly the Dubya administration’s fatally flawed approach to the country. Let’s just hope Bhutto isn’t remembered as the next Franz Ferdinand.
A day after Scotland Yard announces it managed to prevent a major terrorist incident (with the help of Pakistan), terror is back on the menu here at home, with the GOP invoking 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 and Lieberman — absolutely wallowing in shamefulness now — actually calling Lamont’s recent victory a boon for plane-bombers. This was a terrifying near-event indeed — were it not for top-notch intel work by British authorities, the world might’ve experienced another horrific day akin to September 11 in very short order. But, look closely, and you’ll find this plot by homegrown British terrorists bears the likely marks of Al Qaeda, which, last I recall, we left somewhere near Afghanistan to go dink around in Iraq. Crossover Joe and the GOP can shout terror to the heavens, but the fact is that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are more of a threat to us today because of Dubya’s non-sequitur Iraq sideshow. Make no mistake: America is less safe because Dubya and the neocons chose to cut and run in Tora Bora so they could prosecute their war of choice in Baghdad.
“There’s a broader lesson here, and it speaks to the Bush administration’s present jam throughout the Middle East and in other danger zones. If the British had adopted the same policy toward dealing with Pakistan that Bush has adopted toward dealing with, say, Syria or Iran (namely, it’s an evil regime, and we don’t speak with evil regimes), then a lot of passenger planes would have shattered and spilled into the ocean, hundreds or thousands of people would have died, and the world would have suddenly been plunged into very scary territory.” In light of yesterday’s foiled plot, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan points out one of the critical flaws of Dubya Diplomacy (which, thankfully, the British do not share.)
“Earth, that living, seething, often inhospitable and not altogether intelligently designed thing, has again shrugged, and tens of thousands of Pakistanis are dead…Americans reeling from Hurricane Katrina, and warned of scores of millions of potential deaths from avian flu, have a vague feeling — never mind the disturbing rest of the news — of pervasive menace from things out of control. Too vague, according to Simon Winchester.” In light of the horrifying calamity in Pakistan this past weekend (as well as Katrina and the tsunami), George Will peruses Simon Winchester’s new book on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
“Fighting over the ‘evolving standards of decency’ underlying the Eighth Amendment’s ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment,’ the 5-to-4 opinions reflect an all-out war between the proponents of a living (or at least medium-rare) Constitution and those who want to see it dead (or perhaps well-done, with a nice pinot).” Slate‘s inimitable Dahlia Lithwick explains the Kennedy-Scalia sniping undergirding the Supreme Court’s very welcome 5-4 decision to ban juvenile executions. To keep things in perspective, the only other nations besides us that have put juveniles to death since 2000 are China, Iran, Pakistan, and the Congo…not exactly what you’d call the Axis of Freedom.
Second verse, same as the first. With the war in Iraq coming to a close, Dubya’s hawks start turning up the heat on Syria. “I think that we believe there are chemical weapons in Syria,” Bush said yesterday. Boy, that rationale never gets old, does it? Even with India now latching onto Dubya’s “preemption” to justify possibly bombing Pakistan back into the Stone Age, the Bushies don’t even make an attempt to forge a casus belli more in tune with international diplomatic precedent. Let’s just hope China also doesn’t decide to “preempt” terrorism in Taiwan anytime soon. (Second link via Follow Me Here.) Update: Bush and Blair try to kill the Syria war hype, for now.