of Finding Osama
by Billy Wharton, Co-Chair Socialist Party
USA May 2, 2011
Doctor Faustus, author Christopher Marlowe described Helen of
Troy as the “face that launched a thousand ships.” Marlowe used
the phrase to describe the manner in which Helen’s beauty supposedly
motivated the Greek armies to attack Troy.
Taking a page from this Elizabethan play, we might describe the now
deceased Osama Bin-Laden as “the face that launched a million military
budget requests.” Though civilians throughout the world were left
to deal with the consequences, the figure of Osama was always a useful
one for the American Empire. This was just as true when he
received direct financial and military aid from the US in the 1980s as
when he was presented as an arch nemesis used to justify the escalating
military adventures of the 21st century. No surprise then, if his
death yields more benefits for the military industrial complex and even
greater hazards to peace loving people everywhere.
While Communism was still being presented as the great global enemy, as
the rationale for maintaining a bloated military industrial complex in
the 80s, Osama Bin-Laden proved a useful ally. His brand of
Islamic fundamentalism received support and funding from the US
government, despite the deeply reactionary politics it carried with
it. In Afghanistan Bin-Laden was able to establish an
international movement trained in the tactics of guerrilla warfare and
imbued with a backwards looking philosophy of Islamic jihad. All
while being funded by the American taxpayer.
After the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Osama was able to
claim the credentials of an Empire-killer. In the new post-Soviet
world, the US was the sole imperial force, wielding unchallenged
military power in the service of US-based corporations who aimed to be
the masters of the globe. Many in the underdeveloped world
experienced this globalization and looked to radical Islam as an
alternative. Enough support was organized to launch a series of
terrorist attacks such as those on September 11th, the US Embassy
bombing in Nairobi and the attack on the United Nations complex in
Iraq. Each of these acts proved that the ethics of Bin Laden
mirrored the ethics of the Empire – no civilian life was precious
enough to prevent an attack made in the name of your cause.
The September 11th attacks made Osama even more useful to an assortment
of political hawks, weapons manufacturers and military service
companies like Halliburton and Blackwater. In the tragic carnage
of that day, they saw an opportunity to create a post-Cold War
rationale to claim billions in public funds. The subsequent
invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the endless drone
bombings in Pakistan that were designed by the administration of former
President George W. Bush and are now operated by current President
Barack Obama, were done in the name of “finding Osama.” A traumatized
American public went along, as Bin-Laden enticed the US military to
indiscriminately kill civilians, set up torture camps and occupy
countries with large Muslim populations. All along fattening
corporate bottom lines and justifying the US war machine.
As always, it was civilians who suffered the consequences. The
families of the 911 victims, the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and
Pakistan and all of the millions who became entangled in the post-911
security state were trapped between two shades of reactionary
politics. By conservative estimates more than 130,000 civilians
were killed from 2003 until 2008 in Iraq as a result of the US
invasion. Thousands more have perished in Afghanistan as well as
nearly 6,000 US military personnel. The hunt for Osama became a
brutal blood letting which taught millions of people throughout the
world that they could expect no justice from the US.
In addition to the destruction of human lives, the Osama inspired US
military adventures allowed for a looting of public funds. At
last count, almost $1.2 trillion has been spent on invading Iraq and
Afghanistan. These public funds could have been used to provide 55
million children with healthcare. Or to give out 13 million
one-year university scholarships. Or to add 1.6 million
elementary teachers per year to our schools. Unfortunately in
this moment of economic crisis and budget cutting, the military budget
and the war profiteering it produces remain significant drains on
public funds. Nearly half of the entire Federal Budget is now
spent on the military industrial complex. This only serves to
deepen the economic inequalities in American society and poison
relations between Americans and people throughout the world.
What the death of Osama Bin-Laden should prove is that the Empire
cannot deliver justice. Socialists will certainly shed no tears
for Osama. Nor, however, will we celebrate his assassination at
the hands of the US military. Instead, we understand clearly that
the US military is a destroyer of human lives, a drain on public
budgets and is a chain hung around the neck of democracy. No
justice will come from it.
If there is anything positive to take from this moment, let it be that
the American people now begin to build a movement to dismantle the
post-911 war machine, to cry out for the restoration of our civil
liberties and to press for an immediate withdrawal of all troops from
Afghanistan and Iraq and an end to the drone bombings in Pakistan.
Simultaneously, voters should consider withdrawing their support from
President Obama when re-election time comes. Obama has time and
time again proven willing to use the war machine in a way that is every
bit as ruthless as his predecessor. A Socialist Party USA
candidate for the White House will place the dismantlement of the
military industrial complex on the top of their campaign agenda.
We will present a real candidate of peace.
Let us now build a world based on solidarity, peace and freedom – a
world that was so violently opposed by people like Bin-Laden and one
that is so deeply feared by those at the controls of the military
industrial complex here in the US.