Osama Bin Laden is dead, but every other claim originally made by the Obama administration about his last minutes was a lie. To prove he's a tough guy, the U.S. President in whom so many invested so much hope is living down to his predecessors' morality. Welcome, macho Baracko!
Until they were forced to acknowledge the truth, the formidable Washington propaganda machine churned out an entire triumphalist narrative notable for being dishonest in every last respect. It claimed there was a fierce and prolonged firefight, that Bin Laden was armed, that he was shamefully hiding behind his wife, that their home was a luxurious million-dollar mansion. In fact, Bin Laden was murdered/executed in cold blood by Navy Seals carrying out a clear mandate to do exactly that. Capture or kill -- wink wink, nudge nudge.
The CIA had been closely monitoring the house for months so they surely knew there was only a single armed man within the run-down building. That couldn't have made for much of a firefight, since he was quickly killed. The Seals were never fired on again. Bin Laden himself was unarmed although, so it was reported, he had apparently been ready to resist, possibly -- who knows with these people? -- by hurling a deadly Koran at the most feared, best-equipped soldiers in the universe. He was unceremoniously gunned down. In all, five people were killed, including an unarmed woman and several unarmed men, while a Bin Laden wife and daughter, both unarmed, were wounded. You don't screw with the Seals, man!
Let's be clear what the Obama administration was doing here. We're not talking about the inevitable confusion caused by the fog of war. These were deliberate lies concocted by men -- Mr. Obama's men.
We're also talking about the premeditated violation of international law, the cold-blooded murder of four unarmed people, and the overwhelming support this illegal, primitive action has received from all sides. Sure the world is better off without Bin Laden. But if him, who else? It seems if you're powerful enough, you may kill anyone you want, for any reason you deem adequate, and the rule of law be damned.
I guess Bin Laden was even more evil than Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. Milosevic was accused of genocide. Saddam was compared by Americans to Hitler. Both Milosevic and Saddam were given trials. In fact Bin Laden was so evil that Time magazine's Fareed Zakaria lumps him with Hitler as "two of history's great mass murderers." This is saying something. Until now, history has recognized Hitler as one of the three greatest mass murders of the 20th century (with Stalin and Mao) responsible for as many as 40 million deaths by some calculations. And now Osama Bin Laden?
Oh yes -- estimates of Iraqis killed violently during the American war against Iraq, launched in part on the fraudulent pretext that Saddam and Bin Laden were allies, range from 100,000 to over a million.
It's also conveniently emerged that finding Bin Laden was attributable to information elicited by torturing an al-Qaeda operative. So Jack Bauer was right after all: Torture works. Except that this fellow was waterboarded in 2004, so it only took 11 years for his invaluable information to pay off (compared to Jack's much more efficient 50 minutes). Yet since Bin Laden's death the alleged effectiveness of torture has been given new life.
Maybe Mr. Obama learned the fine art of lying from a true expert, George W. Bush. Under Mr. Bush, every word uttered by the American government was a lie, including (as the writer Mary McCarthy once said of a rival) every "a" and "the." Every justification for invading Iraq was a lie. They lied about Saddam's ties to Bin Laden, weapons of mass destruction, yellowcake uranium and aluminum pipes. When these lies were exposed, they lied about the whistleblowers, like the United Nations' chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, former U.S. diplomat Joe Wilson and his CIA spouse Valerie Plame. Each has written hair-raising accounts documenting the cold-blooded campaigns to destroy their reputations by senior members of the Bush administration working hand-in-glove with prominent American journalists.
Or take the Bushies' treatment of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. Mr. Tillman walked away from a multimillion-dollar pro football contract to join the army. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 and was soon ostentatiously celebrated as a war hero, the best of America, an inspiration to the nation. Yet it was known from the get-go that he'd been killed by his own men -- so-called friendly fire. But the Bush administration and the Pentagon perpetuated their fraud for years until Mr. Tillman's own gutsy family forced the truth out of the government. The entire fraud is exposed by Jon Krakauer in his book Where Men Win Glory.
Jessica Lynch was another perfect embodiment of the Mary McCarthy syndrome. In 2003, Ms. Lynch famously became the poster girl for the American way of courage, integrity and patriotism. A U.S. Army private, she was ambushed in Iraq, fought valiantly until her last bullet, was likely wounded when held captive by cruel Iraqi militias, suffered inhumane treatment at a local hospital and then was finally rescued in a daring night-time raid by those ubiquitous Navy Seals.
Every syllable was a lie, as Ms. Lynch herself publicly testified when she recovered from her ordeal and as the military knew from the first moment they began inventing her legend. They concocted her fake rescue from the hospital where there were no Iraqi soldiers, where the Iraqi health team had given her the best care possible and had even tried to help her return to the American side two day earlier.
Whether by Mr. Bush or Mr. Obama, all means however cynical, squalid and lethal to achieve America's ends are justified. The greater good must prevail. Some innocents are even called on to pay the supreme price for the greater good, like Moammar Gaddafi's son and three grandchildren in Libya. NATO swears it's not trying to kill Mr. Gaddafi and the UN resolution doesn't sanction his killing. Yet his family were killed last week when a compound he was thought to be in was bombed by NATO.
No one has bothered explaining why the building was attacked at all and hardly anyone has written a single word about his grandchildren. By all accounts, unlike his brothers, the dead son couldn't care less about politics or government. Information on his grandchildren is hard to come by; no one seems much interested. Maybe it doesn't matter as much when they're Arabs. I'm giving the grandchildren the benefit of the doubt and assuming they were not complicit in Mr. Gaddafi's crimes since two of them were apparently toddlers and one was an infant. But for the life of me I can't even find their names or gender. Just three small nameless children, neither girls nor boys, the usual collateral damage of war, killed by our side.
So far I've come across no apologies.
This article was first published in the Globe and Mail.
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