Akbayan! Youth Statement on the Murder of Osama bin Laden
Last Monday, May 2, 2011, the United States of America came out bearing the supposed good news for a world long-bedeviled by the specter of terrorism. Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, labeled number one enemy of the free world, has been killed, identified and buried by elements of the United States Armed Forces in Abbotabad, Pakistan. It is perceived a historic serving of justice for the man who claimed responsibility for the killing of countless lives in the destruction of the World Trade Center in September 11, 2001.
For many in the developed countries and their partisans, such a momentous event calls for a celebration of the triumph of liberty. Many have also considered it the triumph of Good over Evil. Already, the re-election prospects of incumbent United States President Barack Obama for 2012 have been projected optimistically. Moreover, it seems to have validated the War on Terror that the administration of George W. Bush has inaugurated in 2001.
Yet we at Akbayan! Youth ask, with disturbed consciences: what is there actually to celebrate? What is there actually to be happy and optimistic about in the death of one man? What is there to hope for in the perceived validation of a policy of persistent policing and obsession over security? What are we to glorify in a punitive form of international relations?
The killing of Osama bin Laden has only served one purpose: to highlight that the United States of America has not learned its lesson from its costly mistakes of intervention in the Philippines, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. In pursuing its supposed duty, responsibility and privilege as leader of the free world, it has justified its commission of atrocious acts of violence against the marginalized of the world. In the name of Liberty and Truth, it has sapped for itself and its rich allies in the Global North the wealth of the world. It left for the rest of humanity living spaces where fear, misery and poverty drive them towards extremes of attempts to validate their existence. It would be myopic to think that these terrorists are out there to solely sow fear and evil intents; they are there to fight for what they perceive to be a re-assertion of their identity. If any, we should disabuse ourselves of the idea that the Joker, the avatar of pure malice and chaos, can actually exist.
Jean Baudrillard, as early as immediately after the horrors of 9/11, considered the assault of Al Qaeda and the proliferation of terrorism in the world as fundamentally an event that America has brought upon itself. The violence of its introduction, proliferation and imposition of neoliberal capitalism, which has severely widened the gap between the haves and have-nots of the world, has left them no other space to be heard other than a violent upheaval of the current oppressive social order. Let us not forget that Osama bin Laden himself, trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency, was an ally of the United States during the Cold War, where Afghan mujahedeen fighters laid down their lives fighting off the perceived Soviet Red menace. That they could be prized allies for one moment, then considered acceptable targets the next, shows how capricious and ridiculous the extent to which the United States has gone to protect its hegemony, at the cost of development and lives in the Global South.
It is quite ironic, indeed, that the herald of white supremacist ideology at this point is an African American. It might be remembered that President Obama promised to close down the detention facilities of Guantanamo Bay and bring the fight against terror within the bounds of legality. The murder of Bin Laden, in a sense, mirrors his administration’s reversal of principles. Obama promised to bring the terrorists to formal and restorative justice, making them face trial and accorded all the rights of the accused. Obviously, this was ignored. The vigilantism of the United States, it must be made clear, does not know any bounds, as long as they are considered different and inimical to the American way of life.
We therefore ask that the United States, if it still has a sense of moral responsibility to the global system it has nurtured, to immediately withdraw all troops to Afghanistan and relieve the responsible citizens-at-arms of their decade-long sacrifices in the name of homeland security. They should not be made to suffer of the caprices of the adventurism of the Bush regime, with this war practically taking a fatal toll on the politico-economic stability of the country to date (a situation which, as Akbayan! Rep. Walden Bello noted, practically accords victory to the terrorists and Bin Laden), exploited upon for self-profiteering by the military industrialists. They must now deal with their own problems in their own backyard, such as the increasing unemployment rates and persisting class strife among their working classes. With Noam Chomsky’s highlighting of the overbearing ironies of America’s vigilantism (as well as the flames of anti-Americanism it has sparked all over the world), they can no longer afford to play the part of “superhero” which they have been playing at for decades now.
It is time that people condemn the persisting penchant of the United States towards unilateral impositions of policy, particularly on matters of war and security, at the international front. As part of a global progressive movement towards democratization in the world, we should strive to do our best to emancipate and empower communities, according to their own terms and cultural necessities, so that acts of terrorist violence may no longer become an option for them. In the long run, a situation of persistent violence on all fronts could only result in mutually-assured destruction and decay. The youth, in this sense, should play a key role in promoting dialogue, identification and socialization with people of different backgrounds, to promote an atmosphere of understanding and harmonious co-existence. A framework of tolerance will only go so far and can still trigger suspicions; we must continue to speak out and listen to the marginalized.
Akbayan! Youth believes that the killing of one man will only convince more to rise in their name. Far be it from us to justify violent reprisals (nor do we invalidate the victimization of those who perished in 9/11). Yet we believe that the murder of Bin Laden, justified by the American state’s monopoly of force, will only convince the terrorists to step up their assaults on perceived allies of America, which they consider the progenitor of the unjust world order which brings them misery. Vigilantism and imperial policing is in itself an act of terrorism, a disrespect for international laws and the sovereign capacity of nation-states. In a world where fear has been actively cultivated and suspicion of fellow human beings is validated, the oppressive institutions of American influence are similarly terrorists.