The picture above was taken sometime between 2004 and 2005 in Smyrna, Georgia. I remember being alarmed by the billboard, because it featured three of the biggest villains on the world stage. I thought it was inappropriate to have their photos so prominently displayed in an advertisement for a news radio station. They could have featured more positive people in the news. Seeing the billboard (and eating at the Kentucky Fried Chicken next to the sign) was a recipe for indigestion. Interestingly enough, two of the three men on that billboard are dead. Its rumoured that the guy in the middle, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, is in poor health and may not live for long. His son has already been named as his successor, though he is in his twenties and not considered capable enough to take over the reigns without a caretaker.
A week ago, on May Day, the eighth anniversary of pResident George W. Bush's cinematic Top Gun-esque landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln to proclaim "Mission Accomplished!" regarding the war in Iraq (a mere month and a half after our invasion), President Obama announced in an unusual late night speech that the most wanted terrorist in the world for the past ten years had been killed in a fantastical shoot-out at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about an hour north of the capital city of Islamabad. The day was also the 66th anniversary of the announcement that the dictator Adolf Hitler had committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Now, this stunning announcement places Osama Bin Laden into an interesting historical context.
Last Sunday, I was reading a biography on Princess Diana when my friends (the Ethiopian immigrant family) called me. I had just spoken to the wife about an hour or two earlier because I dropped their car off at the apartment and they weren't there, so I slipped the key under their door. I wanted to know that they saw the key and knew where I had parked their car. So, when they were calling an hour or two later, I was surprised. They were the ones who broke the news to me about Osama's death. I was stunned. Then they (both husband and wife) said, "Congratulations!" I said to them, "No, no...this is not what you say congratulations for. I didn't do anything regarding this." I explained that you would say "congratulations" to President Obama and the special forces team that did this, but to anyone else, I had no idea what you would say.
After the phone call, I turned on the TV to watch the news report and to hear the announcement. Because of the time difference between the east coast to the west coast, I read that the announcement had interrupted the final 20 minutes of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice for viewers on the east coast. Some online speculation think this was planned. It was convenient and a great end to an awesome week for the president (with the release of his long-form birth certificate that made a laughing stock out of Donald Trump and the annual Correspondence Dinner where Trump was indeed the well-deserved butt of jokes).
As I heard the announcement, I was relieved that our long national nightmare was over. However, I also have mixed feelings about Osama Bin Laden because I think he was made out to be more than what he really was. He is what the CIA have termed "blowback." They might disagree ("blowback" is the CIA term for what spiritualist would call "karma." What goes around, comes around. You get what you put out. People will do to you what you do to them). However, Bin Laden was a CIA-funded operative during the mujahadeen era of the 1980s when America saw the value in funding a rebellion of Islamists in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. American foreign policy wanted Afghanistan to be the USSR's Vietnam: an expensive, devastating defeat that leads to the economic collapse of our rival superpower nemesis.
After the Soviets withdrew troops from Afghanistan in 1989 after a decade-long occupation, the U.S. immediately cut loose our support of the mujahadeen, leaving a political vacuum that allowed the Taliban to come into power. The Taliban is so extreme in their fundamentalism that even the Iranian government (considered to be the most fundamentalist Muslim government in the world) thought they were extreme! Was it this withdrawal of support what helped turn Bin Laden against the U.S.?
In 1990, when the U.S. sent more than half a million troops to Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, this apparent act enraged Bin Laden because "infidels" were on the sacred soil where Muhammad had his most spiritual experiences in Mecca and Medina. This is what Bin Laden had cited as his reason for hating America. According to many articles I've read in the past decade, Bin Laden's strategy was to draw America into a costly, devastating war in the Middle East. Bin Laden supposedly took credit for helping to collapse the Soviet Union and he wanted to do the same thing to America. Bush had played perfectly into his schemes. I know Bush-lovers can't admit it (not even to themselves), but the reason why our economy is in such a mess is because we put two costly wars on credit and gave two tax cuts to the wealthy class, which squandered the surplus President Clinton left as part of his legacy. War is not cheap. A recent report I read estimates that our government has spent $3 trillion in the past 15 years trying to get after Bin Laden and his terrorist network known as al-Qaeda. Can you imagine what that money would have done for our education system, our national debt, a national health care system, or social security?
In high school, a teacher asked one of the most intriguing questions I've ever heard. I use this question whenever a complicated situation presents itself. The question is: "How does a sadist punish a masochist?" If you understand the question, then you know the answer. To use Bin Laden in this context, what was the best response to a terrorist wanting to draw us into a costly land war in the Middle East? The answer is to not fall for it. Terrorism needs to be dealt with through the intelligence agencies and surgical strikes, which is what President Obama's operation supposedly has shown.
My first reaction to the big announcement was giddiness because a Democratic president managed to do what the Republican president failed to do. All the chest-thumping of the Bush era and the mockery of Democrats being "girly men" at the 2004 Republican National Convention has been shown for the ridiculous posturing that it always was. There's a reason why nearly all of the key figures in the Bush administration were "chicken hawks." None of them served in Vietnam (except for Colin Powell). The Vice President was infamous for his five deferments, and when asked why he didn't serve in Vietnam, he said that he had other priorities. Yet, none of them thought anything of sending our young men and women to two never-ending wars in the Middle East. Some have served more than five tours of duty, which is an unfair burden. We have enough eligible young men to guarantee only one tour of duty. Why keep asking military careerists to keep sacrificing for the rest of us?
This operation will hopefully shut down the Republican lie that only they are tough on terrorism and national security issues. All talk of Obama's "inexperience" no longer has credibility (especially by the likes of Sarah Palin, who gave credit for the success to Bush!). In the past week, it has been hilarious to see how the rightwing talking heads have tried to spin this event. Rush resorted to sarcastic remarks and Fox News was up to its usual deceit of "accidentally" misspelling "Osama Bin Laden" as "Obama Bin Laden." A headline I like is: "Obama kills Osama."
Seeing the reactions on the news was stunning. Young looking frat boys wrapped in American flags and chanting "USA! USA! USA!" in Times Square and Lafayette Square (outside the White House) like they were at an Olympic event was disturbing to me. Yesterday's Saturday Night Live was awesome in mentioning how these college students used the news as an excuse to get drunk. Like they really care about foreign events or could even find Afghanistan or Pakistan on a map. Its difficult watching people be so cheerful about a death of another human being. My personal philosophy is that I don't celebrate the death of a person, but I don't mourn the death of evil people, either. Granted, its easy to say now, but I am curious about how my reaction will be when Dick Cheney finally dies. To me, he is the most villainous person in our world today. Its easy to look at Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and see evil. But the most dangerous evil is the one that pretends to have our values or to be a "Christian" like us, but in secret, has done things that have harmed our country or would be the kind of things that would horrify us if we knew what he was doing. The hidden evil that shuns the light of day. It astounds me that there are conservative Christians out there who think that Cheney is a righteous man. If any person is a perfect example of the Faust-story (man who sells his soul to Satan for wealth and power), Dick Cheney is that person.
Within two hours of Obama's announcement, I next heard the news report that Bin Laden's body was already dumped into the sea. I was shocked. This news made me feel uneasy. Why dispose of the evidence? I began to get suspicious of the whole operation. It went against the norm. Defenders were quick to point out that Islamic tradition expects a quick burial. I realize this, because in 2006, I heard on the evening news that a high school friend was murdered. So I went online the next day to see if there were any funeral plans so I could attend. I was shocked that the funeral had already happened. He was buried within 24 hours of his death. Yes, he was Muslim. That did not give enough time to get the word out. In the modern age, with embalming fluid to preserve the body and people spread out all over the country, there's no need to demand a quick burial. With Bin Laden's death, the need to kill him and bury his body before the world knew about his death just smacks as a cover-up or a hoax.
I posted my doubts on Facebook and I was stunned by the response. Several of my friends who share my liberal political views were quick to slap the "conspiracy theorist" label on me just for asking the questions and doubting the official story (at first, there was a massive shoot-out like some old Western movie; then the administration claimed that Bin Laden was unarmed and shot in the head). So, in debating this back and forth, I was stunned to see my friends buy the government line without having any doubts about the inconsistent details. What country do we live in where to question what we're told automatically gets the dismissive "conspiracy theorist" label? I thought we lived in a free country where we can examine any idea and debate the merits. How do we discover what is true if we can't question what we're being told? That we're expected to ignore the inconsistencies if we don't want to be dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. My questions might have alarmed my friends, but I did gain three new friends for comments I had posted on another friend's wall. I haven't lost any friends from my list over this.
Saturday evening, I attended the World Affairs Council tour of the Shanghai Tunnels of Portland. When I saw the discussion group's facilitator, I asked him if we would be talking about Bin Laden at Wednesday's meeting. He said, "Probably, but you better not talk about conspiracies." I was stunned that he read my comments, because he's not active on Facebook. I mentioned surprise that he read my comments and he replied, "You're all over my news feed!" Yet another liberal friend who has dismissed my doubts as part of a "conspiracy theorist"! I am baffled that no one dares question the official line. What are people afraid of? I'm not saying that I believe Bin Laden is alive. I think he's dead, but we just disagree about when it happened.
The photo above is of the Obama security team supposedly watching a video of the operation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the only one looking like she's gasping in horror at the images. She later came out and said that she had allergies and was trying to cover her coughing. What a crock! Why get embarrassed for having a very human reaction to watching a "snuff film"? Murder (no matter who you're killing) is a disturbing act. The person who murders another human being is basically putting himself in God's position and determining that the targeted person no longer deserves to live.
The execution of Bin Laden does leave a lot of questions for me. Namely, "Why did we have to kill him?" When Saddam Hussein was captured, we did not kill him. We have video footage of him, so there is no doubt that Saddam was captured, put on trial, and executed. The government also had no problem releasing the photos of the dead Uday and Qusay Hussein (Saddam's sons) in 2003. I remember that day well. I had gone to lunch with a few people at my last job in Atlanta and on the TV screens were pictures of these two dead villains. It was hard to eat my lunch with the TV screens in the pub showing that. And a co-worker tried to rub it in because she thought it justified Bush's war in Iraq (she was a Bush supporter) and knew that I was against the war and not a Bush supporter. To use other examples, our country did not kill Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kacinzinski (the Unabomber), Jeffrey Dahmer, Lee Harvey Oswald, or Mark David Chapman for their murderous deeds. They were brought into custody. It seems like Osama Bin Laden would be worth more alive, than dead. They could learn a lot by asking him questions. To have him killed and refusing to release photos of him or to turn over his body to his family in Saudi Arabia just raises all kinds of alarm bells. Its strange that no one else seems to be bothered by this. Shouldn't proof be demanded of our government?
I guess most people accept on faith that the government is telling the truth because to think otherwise means to believe in some preposterous "conspiracy theory." Yet, we've seen our government lie about the Gulf of Tonkin and My Lai in Vietnam. Our government lied about WMDs in Iraq and the connection between Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Our government lied about the Jessica Lynch rescue, Pat Tillman's death, the Abu Ghraib torture, and GITMO. Why wouldn't the government lie about the killing of Bin Laden? If the terrorist had been dead for years, as speculated by people online, wouldn't it be nice to have closure, finally? Especially before the upcoming ten year anniversary arrives?
Some of the details I heard in the past week just makes me go "hmmmmmmmm..." Such as, Obama claimed that he received word where Osama was hiding back in August. So, it took nine months (a human pregnancy) to get to Bin Laden? If they knew where he was, why did it take so long to set this scenario up? He might have plotted attacks in that time period. Would our government allow a serial killer nine months before they capture him?
I'm sorry to disappoint my friends, who think of me as an intelligent, aware guy and thus are shocked that this scenario has made me skeptical and flirting with the "conspiracy fringe." However, when something does not make logical sense to me, I cannot accept it. My personal theory is that Bin Laden has been dead for years (likely before Obama even ran for president, since no video had been released where Bin Laden comments about the president with a name that rhymes with his). I believe the reason why Bush never was serious about capturing Bin Laden is because everyone knew that the terrorist suffered from kidney disease and required dialysis treatment, which makes the whole cave dwelling meme to be a ridiculous proposition. Osama had an interest in not having his body found, because even if he died, remaining as a spectre to haunt America would have kept his followers hopes alive. Perhaps our government finally found credible evidence to where his body was buried and did a DNA match to the corpse and decided to stage an elaborate hoax about a fantastical shootout at a compound in Pakistan so we can finally put to rest this most wanted terrorist. That's why they refuse to show photos or turn over the body. We simply have to take the word of a government that has shown repeatedly in the past that it is willing to lie to the American people to keep us ignorant about the complexities of our foreign entanglements.
I want to believe the story, but I simply cannot at this time. I will continue to follow this story to see if anything makes sense with the info dump we're bound to get. It saddens me that we are a country where you are not allowed to ask questions without the dreaded "conspiracy theorist" label being applied to you. I would expect such a discrediting effort in the USSR, Nazi Germany, or any authoritarian state. In my life experience, I have found that most people have a conformist mindset and are not open minded enough to think beyond the box. They start with the premise that the government has no motive to lie, whereas I think the government has every motive to lie. Its better to concoct an elaborate scheme that our special forces had found Bin Laden and killed him rather than to believe that Bin Laden died a natural death some time ago, with his body hidden and death kept quiet so that al-Qaeda could remain a relevant threat to scare Americans indefinitely. Its a blessing to have closure. I'll give our government that. No more need for a boogey man. Hopefully, though, if Gadhafi gets captured, that he will be brought back alive and not killed on site with his body dumped into the Mediterranean. For the sake of transparency, we need actual evidence that Bin Laden was killed, not given the government's word.
Below is a video of an interview that Benazir Bhutto had with David Frost. In the interview, she mentioned that a man named Omar Sheikh had murdered Osama Bin Laden. Some say this was a slip of the tongue, as she had meant to say Daniel Pearl. However, what kind of journalist would drop the ball on this? Frost is the man who famously interviewed Richard Nixon (they even made a movie about the drama behind the interview). How could he not ask a follow-up question to Bhutto when she said this? Any Journalism 101 student would probably know to ask a follow-up question just to verify that she meant Bin Laden or if it was a slip of the tongue and she meant someone else. Also, if she had meant Bin Laden, then naturally, any journalist worth his reputation would ask her where she got her information. But this did not happen. Either Frost was incompetent or he did not ask a follow-up question because it was considered common knowledge among the elite that Bin Laden was dead. I have a hard time believing that the man who interviewed Richard Nixon is incompetent, so that means there is only one logical conclusion to draw from the interview. It was done in 2007, and by the end of the year, Bhutto was assassinated. How convenient. She was a great lady, the "mama of her country" (sorry, but I had to include some reference to mama for this Mother's Day post).
My only plea with this post is for people not to take everything at face value. Especially not politics. There are so many things that are kept hidden by the ruling class. If you doubt this, then ask yourself why politicians will speak to reporters "off the record." Speaking "on the record" is the official information that they want to convey for mass dissemination. Speaking "off the record" is considered to be the more honest view of a politician, but only the reporter is privy to this information, not the general public. That "off the record" talk is proof enough that there is a "conspiracy" to keep the public ignorant of the truth. Everything a politician says should be "on the record."