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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Latest From Alan Grayson

(I belong to Alan Grayson's mailing list. This is Congressman Grayson's newest letter on the assassination of Osama bin Laden. My unitalicized comments will follow below.)

About a year after 9/11, I was sitting in an airport terminal, waiting for a flight, when nature called. I turned to the young lady sitting next to me, and asked her if she would watch my carry-on baggage while I went to the restroom.

She looked at me, she hesitated, and then she asked, “How do I know that you’re not a terrorist?”

She wasn’t kidding. She looked a little scared.

I thought about delivering some snappy retort, like “I used to be a suicide bomber, but I quit, because I didn’t like the pension benefits.” I could see, though, that she was actually feeling some fear, so I looked her in the eye and said, “I’m not a terrorist.” She thought for a moment, and then she said, “OK, I’ll watch your bags.”

And off I went.

After that conversation, I realized that 9/11 had not only radically altered our national security priorities, but also the way that many people thought about others. And the weird possibility grew in many people’s minds that any stranger could be a killer.

Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead, I hope that that feeling also is dead. The feeling that we live in fear. Judging by all the spontaneous celebrations, maybe that feeling is dead.

We have often heard the phrase, “if xxxxxxx, then the terrorists have won.” Martha Stewart once told her employees that if not enough of them attended her company Christmas parties, then “the terrorists have certainly succeeded.”

Here is one formulation of that formula that we didn’t hear: “If the terrorists make you feel terror, if they make you fear them, then the terrorists have won.”

I hope that that’s over, now.

We spend roughly $3000 for every American each year on the U.S. military. There is a theory that the reason for this is that the military-industrial complex controls our foreign policy, in much the same way that the medical-industrial complex controls our health policy, and Wall Street’s money-industrial complex controls our economic policy. That public opinion is simply irrelevant.

Maybe. But public opinion since 9/11 has been skewed by the real fear that many Americans have felt. Urged on, of course, by certain parasites in the body politic who want us to believe that they are the only ones who can save us from the threat.

In George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the fundamental basis for the totalitarian state that he portrays is the fear and hatred of the foreign enemy, Oceania. A siege mentality, brought about by endless war.

I hope that the death of Osama Bin Laden will mean the death of the siege mentality. The end of the perceived need for foreign occupations, and the end of foreign occupations.

I hope for peace.

Some things need to be said here, things that, once again, the yellow-legged, yellow journalists who are trying to piss and shit red, white and blue will, as usual, never tell you.

First off, this was an assassination, plain and simple. As with the nearly 3000 who were killed at Ground Zero, the evidence was carted away with no real forensic analysis and no peer-reviewed findings presented to the public. Osama bin Laden's body, we're told, was buried at sea and a DNA analysis was supposedly done within hours of his extra-judicial killing. A full DNA analysis, especially when mitochondrial DNA is involved, takes days.

Secondly, among the first stories we heard after the shooting was the ROE or rules of engagement. No Navy Seal worth his weight in MREs is going to go into a tactical situation without first learning what exactly the ROE are. That's not to say they don't change during the op but no operator is going to engage an enemy without knowing what they can or can't do.

The ROE we were told was that bin Laden was to be taken alive unless he resisted. First we heard that bin Laden engaged the erroneously-named SEAL Team 6 then was shot in the left eye. Then we heard that bin Laden may not have gotten off a shot. By today, we were hearing that bin Laden may not have even had a gun but that he nonetheless resisted.

OK, question: How do you resist a SEAL team without a gun? How did he resist? By using harsh language? Giving them the finger?

This was an assassination, an extra-judicial killing that the Obama administration OK'd way back in 2009. We criticized him when we found out he'd ordered a hit on an American citizen who'd become a radical Muslim. But when bin Laden is concerned, we're suddenly OK with this because he wasn't an American.

I can't imagone what actually went on in Abbotabad, Pakistan that night but considering that five terrorists were allegedly killed without even so much as an American injury, one must conclude that the Navy SEAL and CIA operators had the situation fully under control from the beginning. In fact, it seemed they exerted so much control, they could've taken bin Laden alive to be interrogated.

One could make the argument that al Qaeda's longtime leader wouldn't have given them actionable intelligence. But then again, we could make that argument with any terrorist and use that as a rationale for extrajudicial assassinations. God knows we've done that before.

Our country shouldn't go around killing high value criminals such as bin Laden on the assumption we would never get actionable intelligence. We took Saddam Hussein into custody, got no information from him then executed him. We could've done that with bin Laden. But we'll never know what we could've gotten from him because bin Laden is fish food.

Congressman Grayson hopes, naively, that the end of bin Laden will mark the end of the era of fear that has warped this nation's sensibilities and priorities since 9/11. But what I'm hearing, starting with the top, is the exact opposite. All US military installations were ordered by the president to a higher state of readiness. Security has been beefed up in state and federal buildings, airports. The death of bin Laden, ironically, has had opposite the desired effect. Rather than putting us at ease, we're being told by our highest elected officials that our vigilance must not waver and that reprisals may be in the offing. Years ago we were told that we should be very, very afraid when bin Laden was alive. Today, we're being told we should be very, very afraid now that he's dead. When will it end?

Sorry, Congressman Grayson. The fear will never end. In fact, I can perfectly see the Department of Defense, still under pressure to feed the bottomless meat grinders in Iraq and Afghanistan, to note the young people in New York and Washington and to cynically use this as a recruiting tool.

The boy pictured above is Kevin Van Orden, who is shown in full military uniform near Ground Zero the night bin Laden was killed, even though he's not in the military. His brother is in the Army and it gives me chills to think that recruiting will once again see an upsurge as a result of the false patriotism that bin Laden's death is bringing about. It keeps me up at night thinking that bin Laden's extrajudicial killing could be cynically used as a selling point by a Department of Defense that's still fighting and feeding two wars that never should've been started in the first place. It keeps me awake at night thinking that kids like Van Orden, perhaps intent on following their older siblings into military service, may be fooled into enlisting, thinking perhaps that the world really is safer without bin Laden in it, fooled into believing in our nation's invincibility, an invincibility that was forever ended on 9/11.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Mitochondrial DNA is much less complex than regular DNA. Also, I don't think it can be used to ID a person; if memory serves, it's identical to the mother's mitochondrial DNA.

My big question is: what do they have to compare the dead Bin Laden's DNA to in order to make a positive identification? They just happened to have a sample of the real Osama Bin Laden's DNA handy?

Anonymous Charlie O said...
An American is eight times more likely to be killed by law enforcement in the United States than by a terrorist according to a 2004 report by the National Safety Council. Who are the real terrorists?