Thursday, 5 May 2011

Obama's Vengeance - the director's cut

It's being hailed as the iconic picture: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and their political-military entourage in the White House Situation Room (purportedly) watching Osama bin Laden's 'real time' murder.
Obama sits low, looking pensive, Clinton anxiously covers her mouth, others stare intently at the 'grisly action'.

Whatever they saw, we've still to learn.  No photographic "trophy" evidence will be released, says Obama.  Doubts have arisen as to whether they witnessed the actual killing.  It's only that photo which we've been given as 'proof' of Obama's 'defining moment'.

It could make the perfect movie still for 'Obama's Vengeance', in which an all-action Navy SEAL hero will cry "Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo, God Bless America!" as Washington's finest savour the final take-down of Bin Laden, the 'embodiment of evil'.  

As with the the BBC's reverential to Obama ("Watch the chin", gushes Matt Frei), the slaying of Osama will soon, no doubt, receive the best Hollywood treatment, every celluloid salutation: dutiful revenge, military honour, the defence of Western freedom.

It won't, we can be sure, depict a set of warmongering elites gazing gratuitously at the detail of their extrajudicial killing.

Beyond the intended photo-op, the picture of Obama's private 'snuff movie' reveals something deeply disturbing about the ways in which power internalises state killing on a personal level, offering a rare glimpse into the pornography of official violence.
Nor can the media-led celebrations and chants of "USA" remove the darker truth that this was the illegal murder of a still un-arrested suspect, even one very deeply suspected and widely reviled.

Consider the media treatment of a similar photo/film showing, say, the Iranian authorities eliminating a sworn enemy in some Western state.

Why, many suffering and bereaved Iraqis and Afghans will now ask, shouldn't George W Bush be considered a legitimate target on home soil for his multiple, untried crimes in their lands? 

Bin Laden has, we're told, been killed, his body removed and buried at sea.  Where's the photographic corroboration?  Assurances have been made about his 'resistance to capture', the 'necessity' of shooting him and the observation of Islamic burial protocols. Yet, beyond the far-out conspiracy theories, where's the standard proof of all this having happened, or having happened according to the Washington narrative?  The director is in charge of the final cut.

Nor should we be misled by the West's smokescreen vilification of Pakistan in, allegedly, harbouring Bin Laden, all serving to mask America's own illicit actions inside another country.   We've been told that the CIA didn't trust Pakistan intelligence (ISI), keeping them in the dark about the operation.  But the dirty dealings, long-standing, between Washington and Islamabad suggest a more nuanced version still to unfold; that this was, more likely, the result of a quieter quid pro quo and 'opportune moment' for the 'sacrifice' of Bin Laden.       

Whatever official 'evidence' might eventually surface on these matters, the essential purpose of the operation has been achieved.  There will be no fair trial, no inconvenient testimony, no public education of the background politics to Al Qaida, the Twin Tower attacks or the illegal invasion of Afghanistan.

As Robert Fisk notes:
"a court would have worried more people than Bin Laden. After all, he might have talked about his contacts with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, or about his cosy meetings in Islamabad with Prince Turki, Saudi Arabia's head of intelligence. Just as Saddam – who was tried for the murder of a mere 153 people rather than thousands of gassed Kurds – was hanged before he had the chance to tell us about the gas components that came from America, his friendship with Donald Rumsfeld, the US military assistance he received when he invaded Iran in 1980."
'Justice is done', Obama and Western others proclaim, including the ever shameless Tony Blair.  No need for accountability or recourse to international law when pursuing a 'miltary foe', fighting the 'war on terror'.   

It's an interpretation convincingly rejected by many notable legal figures:
"The prominent defence lawyer Michael Mansfield QC expressed similar doubts about whether sufficient efforts had been made to capture Bin Laden. "The serious risk is that in the absence of an authoritative narrative of events played out in Abbottabad, vengeance will become synonymised with justice, and that revenge will supplant 'due process'.

"Assuming the mission was … intended to detain and not to assassinate, it is therefore imperative that a properly documented and verifiable narrative of exactly what happened is made public. Whatever feelings of elation and relief may dominate the airwaves," he said, "they must not be allowed to submerge core questions about the legality of the exercise, nor to permit vengeance or summary execution to become substitutes for justice."

The human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC argued that the killing risked undermining the rule of law. "The security council could have set up an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, with international judges (including Muslim jurists), to provide a fair trial and a reasoned verdict...This would have been the best way of demystifying this man, debunking his cause and de-brainwashing his followers."
That ever-useful task - the effort to persuade individuals and states against the use of violence, murder and the abrogation of law - will not be advanced in any way by Bin Laden's death.  Whether it's murder committed by 'outlaw' extremists or 'our-law' extremists, the taking of life, any person's life, achieves nothing of any moral or practical worth.

America and its shrill media are in an ecstatic froth about this 'final avenging' of 9/11.  But there's no talk of the millions of lost Afghan, Iraqi and other lives that came about as 'responses' to that act. 

 All that has now, according to the Guardian, become "Obama's War":
"In the end, it all now comes down to one man, Barack Obama. On 11 September 2001 he was an obscure senator who reacted to the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre by talking of the need to raise the hopes of embittered children across the globe. Almost a decade further on, the softest touch, in Dick Cheney's insulting view, has become the man who succeeded in hunting his quarry down. The irony will not be lost on Republicans who claim that America is now less safe under a Democrat president. There will undoubtedly be an al-Qaida response to their leader's death, and there is no shortage of evidence that plots are in the pipeline. A terrible life that brought misery to thousands is now over. Ending the legacy of that conflict will require all of Mr Obama's earliest and truest instincts. He now has the authority to carry them out."
How touchingly liberal of the Guardian to invest in Obama this 'legacy of responsibility', this 'mantle of redemption'.

The non-Guardian truth is that it's not just Obama's war, but America's 'law' that counts.

As the facile-named "Geronimo" action shows, Obama and his fellow sheriffs don't adhere to the law, they're above the law; America is the law, a self-proclaimed authority still imposing its Wild West version of patrol, capture and retribution on a long-suffering East.

Much is being made of Al Qaida's collapsing project against the current Middle East/North African revolutions, with popular demands for true participatory democracy rather than Islamic theocracy.

But - as with 'Nobel Obama's' extension of the war in Afghanistan and further violations into Pakistan - America's Cruise missile 'solution' for Libya and support for ruthless Saudi, Bahraini and other Gulf autocrats will, assuredly, not prevent or discourage even more Al Qaida-type responses.

Bin Laden may be gone, his killing officially witnessed (or not), his demise lauded on American streets.  But the greater risk, by far, to peace and human security lies with Obama, his posse of military 'avengers' and the media acolytes who iconise their gory executions.  


1 comment:

Sasha said...

Loved this post. Great analysis. The US acts as if it is above and beyond the law.