Wednesday, May 04, 2011

America Finally Got Bin Laden, But Along The Way, We Lost Our Soul

By MARC McDONALD

I was unable to bring myself to join in the recent jubilant celebration over the death of Osama bin Laden. Nearly a decade after 9/11, I can't help but think that America is a nation that has lost its soul. Once, we were the good guys in the world. Now, we're not.

It's hard to fathom how much America has changed since 9/11. We've inflicted an enormous amount of senseless damage on other nations---far more damage than we ourselves suffered on that terrible day.

Yes, "we" finally got Bin Laden. We shot dead an unarmed man. A man who was never even charged with anything, much less tried or convicted. In fact, the FBI, in its "Most Wanted" list, never even mentioned the 9/11 attacks in its entry for Bin Laden.

Bin Laden was clearly no angel. But once upon a time in this country, we considered people innocent until proven guilty. And Bin Laden is hardly the only person America has killed in recent years, without any sort of charges or trial. It's now become routine for the U.S. to fire drone missile attacks in remote Pakistan, killing people we believe are "terrorists."

And just who says these people are terrorists? The CIA?

We all know what a stellar track record the CIA has for accurate information. After all, these are the incompetents who were completely blindsided by the 9/11 attacks, the most deadly terror attacks ever launched against any nation. The CIA also signed off on George W. Bush's case for war on Iraq.

It seems to me that, for all the hundreds of billions of dollars we've lavished on the likes of the CIA, this agency has been bumbling and incompetent for many years. I'm unclear what we've gotten back for all the billions we've spent on the CIA. Certainly not national security.

I can't help but think that the CIA has been symbolic in many ways of how much America has changed since 9/11.

Once, it was unthinkable that the U.S. would officially embrace torture as a means of policy. Now, it's routine. What's worse is that, an increasingly bloodthirsty public, fueled by HateWing radio and Fox News, now supports it.

Before 9/11, the Constitution was held with reverence. Maybe it wasn't always followed to the letter, but it was still regarded as the bedrock of our democracy.

Today, after eight years of Bush, the Constitution lies in shreds. Between blatantly illegal warrantless wiretaps, waterboarding, and the "Patriot" Act, it's clear that this nation simply no longer holds the Constitution in high regard. Of course, things are better under Obama, but the damage remains.

Yes, the U.S. finally took out Bin Laden. But how many innocent people did we murder along the way? Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghanistani civilian men, women and children have died violent deaths at America's hands for no good reason.

With the death of Bin Laden, Americans proclaim that "Justice Has Been Served."

But what about justice for the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghanistanis, slaughtered with American Predator drones, Tomahawks, and Hellfire missiles?

Watching the jubilant crowds celebrating Bin Laden's death frankly left me with a queasy feeling. Something, I thought, just didn't seem right. In fact, I've increasingly felt this way ever since 9/11. America is today a vastly changed place. It's no longer the America that I grew up with.

Once upon a time, the random execution of civilians without trial was something that other nations did----usually corrupt dictatorships. Torture was something that only occurred in places like Stalin's Gulags. Warrantless wiretaps only took place in totalitarian states, far away from America. Unprovoked warfare was something only other nations like Hitler's Germany engaged in.

But 9/11 changed all that.

We Americans could have responded to 9/11 like we've always done during crises in our nation's history. We could have shown the world that American democracy and respect for the rule of law is always stronger than any crisis.

But instead, America took a darker path after 9/11. In many ways, we became the bad guys.

So, yes, we did finally kill Bin Laden. But somewhere along the way, in the decade after 9/11, America lost its soul.

Update:In the piece above, I wrote: "America finally got Bin Laden, but along the way, we lost our soul."

Two days later, Michael Moore was being interviewed by CNN's Piers Morgan. Moore talked about the death of bin Laden and said, "We've lost something of our soul." In the interview, he made many of the same points I did in the article above.

Interesting. Clearly, Moore and I think alike.

26 comments:

Karla said...

Thank you for putting into words the feeling I've been having for the past 2+ days. I wanted to be happy about the raid, but haven't been able to.

Anonymous said...

You forgot the other casualties; 5000+ U.S. service people, our economy, and our self-respect. At best, BL's death is a Pyrrhic victory. We've been mired in a war without end in Afghanistan, hemorrhaging trillions of dollars that could've smoothed things over at home. Even if the POTUS and Senate somehow get enough votes to leave the catbox graveyard of empires, the damage is done, our psyche is burnt, and we'll never get our money back or be forgiven the money we borrowed from China to fight the war. Then the cycle will start all over again with the Taliban once we're gone. What's worse is that Al Qaeda made a martyr of BL, now we'll face someone more insanse than him using propaganda-fuelled zealots as a by-product. I'm not really optimistic about the future of the U.S., especially with news like this.

-WageslaveZ-

Deciminyan said...

Excellent post. The only good that can come out of this is if Obama uses it to end the senseless wars that are killing our kids and draining our economy. http://goo.gl/AK1NT

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Karla, thanks for your kind words, I appreciate it.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Wageslavez, always good to hear from you.

re:
>>BL's death is a Pyrrhic victory.
>>We've been mired in a war
>>without end in Afghanistan

You make a good point. I can't help but think that our disastrous military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will play a key role in the bankrupting, and eventually fall, of the American empire.

The American economic system essentially collapsed in Sept. 2008. We're running on fumes now.

We may be able to muddle on for a few more years, but essentially, it's over for America as a superpower. The dollar is melting down in value. With a worthless dollar, the U.S. will find it difficult to keep the military industrial complex going much longer.

I can't help but think that this was Bin Laden's intention all along.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Deciminyan, thanks for stopping by.

re:
>>The only good that can come out
>>of this is if Obama uses it to
>>end the senseless wars

You know, sometimes I wonder if Obama could end these wars, even if he wanted to.
Money has so corrupted the U.S. political system that I'm not sure that elected officials have the power to do whatever they want these days.
These multi-trillion-dollar war fiascos are bankrupting America. But on the other hand, the wars have been very profitable for the likes of rich and powerful corporations like Halliburton. If the latter really don't want the wars to end, I suspect they'll get their way (just like they do on everything else).

Divorced one like Bush said...

First time here. Thank you for this post. My girlfriend and I have thought the same thing. Celebrate? It just struck me as sick.

As to the money, Racheal Maddow, 5/3 show had a nice reminder the other night that BL's consistantly stated purpose was to cause America to spend as it has spent and thus hurt our economy. Mission accomplished I'ld say.

Lacywood said...

Most of what you say is true, but the truth is that a capture of OBL would have quickly turned to a domestic and international disaster. No matter how he was handled, right wing haters would have screamed he was being coddled, demand torture or summary "justice", while foreign hate groups would incite their groups with claims of torture. Obama did it precisely correctly. Right wing hate has in fact distorted the principle of right vs wrong in America.

Anonymous said...

It's a little late to be wasting tears over this nation.

America didn't change. It's been a violent rogue nation for at least 60 years. It has never been particularly strong in defending human rights, free speech rights, or any other human values at home or abroad.

I never understand my fellow countrymen's confessions of shock at a "changing" America - their (sincere?) sadness as they watch this nation lose its innocence before their eyes.

The United States government was a gang of war criminals long before George Bush came along, and it will be a gang of war criminals long after Barack Obama leaves. The only uncertainty is who the next victims will be. I'm betting Asians. We haven't properly focused on killing them for a few decades. I'm sure we'll take up killing Africans again as soon as they gather enough political clout to make it worth the effort.

fiver said...

Very well put, Marc.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The FBI entry on Bin Laden pre-dated the 9/11 attacks, when he killed other innocent US citizens.

This was not an innocent man. I am not one to rejoice in the killing of anyone, I think that is innapproapriate, and does make me feel queasy. But as one who was covered in the ashes of the WTC when it went down (while you were safe in Texas), I'm glad justice WAS finally served. I'm not throwing a party over it, but it was a fitting ending.

To be a realist, capturing him alive and trying him would have been a whole other nightmare.

Brian said...

"Of course, things are better under Obama, but the damage remains." How are things better constitution wise under Obama? He's continued and even expanded Bush's policies.

Anonymous said...

Unarmed? Not so much. Would you rather had a navy seal dead if they had hesitated? Or perhaps more navy seals dead?

Report: Bin Laden Had AK-47 And Pistol Within Arm's Reach

The New York Times reports that when U.S. forces entered Osama bin Laden's bedroom on Sunday, the terrorist leader had an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol in arm's reach.
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/live/bin_laden_wire/bin_laden_wire.html?ref=fpb

eve fromm said...

That is not fair."But as one who was covered in the ashes of the WTC when it went down (while you were safe in Texas)"as far as any body knew NOBODY WAS SAFE!We were under attack.So to suggest your experience was"more"authentic or "everyone else was safe except NY" is untrue.You guys have a close up,first hand understanding,the only difference.We were all victims that day Americans every one of us.New York does not have exclusive hold on 9/11 OBL is dead long after he watched America Turn on one Another,hate each other,denounce our own President.You are right things have changed.

Anonymous said...

USrael Uber ALLES! DEPRAVED!!

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Divorced one like Bush, thanks for your comment.

re:
>>Celebrate? It just struck me as
>>sick.

Thanks, it's a relief to me to know that I'm not alone in my views on this. Particularly, here in Texas (where Bush is still revered), I feel like I'm the only one who wasn't celebrating after OBL was killed.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Lacywood, thanks for your comment.

re:
>>No matter how he was handled,
>>right wing haters would have
>>screamed he was being coddled,
>>demand torture or
>>summary "justice"

Have you listened to any wingnut talk radio the past couple of days? The likes of Limbaugh and Levin are shouting their usual hate speech. Personally, I don't give a shit what they say---they're all insane----and I certainly hope that Obama would ignore these Nazi pigs, too.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Anon, thanks for your note.

re:
>>It's been a violent rogue nation
>>for at least 60 years.

Yes, you make a good point. I guess the difference is that, increasingly since 9/11, the U.S. has opened revelled in flouting international law (as well as ignoring our own Constitution). Once upon a time, we at least pretended that we gave a shit about human rights. Now we don't.

Batocchio said...

After reading The One Percent Doctrine and other books on the Bush administration, I'd blame the Bushies far more than the CIA, not that the CIA is completely blameless. But it's hard to disagree with most of the rest...

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Batocchio, thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

re:
>>I'd blame the Bushies far more
>>than the CIA

Yes, I definitely agree.
I've long been meaning to read "The One Percent Doctrine," it sounds like a good book. For a while there, I was punch-drunk on Bush books....it got to be overwhelming (and too depressing). But given that I sometimes get down about Obama's shortcomings, I suppose I ought to read "The One Percent Doctrine," just to remind myself just how much worse things were from 2000 to 2008.

Jack Jodell said...

Marc,
With all due respect, your description of our pre 9/11 days was not all that accurate. Rather, I believe you were describing some of our dreams and aspurations, not reality. For all its good points, we cannot forget or ignore that the U.S. was involved in genocide, exploitation, and imperialism before. We need only remember our shameful treatment of Native Americans, slavery as an institution that took years to eradicate, the behavior of the robber barons, and the Spanish-American War to shock us back into reality, and to recognize that the quest for fairness, truth, decency, and real honor is a never-ending task applicable to all eras in our history.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Jack,
re:
>>Rather, I believe you were
>>describing some of our dreams
>>and aspurations, not reality

Yes, you hit the nail on the head. Before the Bush era, we at least occasionally made an effort to live up to an American "ideal."

Carter, for example, pressed the Soviet Union on human rights. And given that the Carter administration was a rare brief era in which the U.S. made an effort to honor human rights, his words carried some weight in the eyes of the world.

By contrast, today, the U.S. lectures other nations about human rights (and they laugh in our face). The U.S. no longer has any moral standing.

Before Bush, I think that (at least on a few occasions) the U.S. tried to do the right thing. Today, we don't even try. We no longer even care about the rule of law.

Jack Jodell said...

Very good observation, Marc, and it is the supreme tragedy of our time.

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fourcats said...

Geez guys, how do we-all feel about a set up where the American president (any american president, now or in the future) has the right and authority to blow away anybody he chooses to designate as an enemy of the state?

The shade of Stalin is grinning indecently.

wellbeing said...

America got Bin Laden, You lost your soul but ... But what America got with BL death? ... NOTHING! What America Lost? We will see in the soon future.
Btw great post!