A year has passed since the U.S. Army killed Osama Bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, and dumped his body in the sea.
At the time, Washington was not concerned by the campaign of criticism launched against it, regarding the principle of state sponsored assassination without trial, or throwing the dead body into the ocean. What was important for Washington at the time was revenge for the 3,000 victims who were killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The U.S. Administration has now restored interest in the incident on its first anniversary, by placing it at the heart of President Barack Obama’s achievements. It is investing in this to the fullest extent by allowing journalists into the secret war room where the operation was carried out, and through propaganda videos aiming to say that Obama did it and killed Bin Laden, and that his republican rival Mitt Romney would not have taken the decision.
The operation to kill Bin Laden is being used in this manner as electoral propaganda, and as part of the internal American debate coinciding with Obama signing resolutions to expand US drone strikes as part of its campaign to target al-Qaeda, which gives the CIA the authority to target and kill suspects without first verifying the identity of the intended targets.
These decisions, which are covered up in a boastful propaganda campaign regarding the killing of Bin Laden, represent a significant expansion of the continuing American war, which is based on the principle of killing rather than pursuing, and assassinations through drone strikes.
However, these assassinations also kill innocents, and already there have been many victims. This happened last year with the killing of Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the son of the accused Yemeni cleric who was also killed. Abdul Rahman was only a boy, no more than 15 years old, and was killed by a drone attack. This is the same unmanned aircraft that has killed at least 160 children in Pakistan.
In celebrating the anniversary of killing Bin Laden, is this anything more than an electoral propaganda tactic? It is no exaggeration to say that celebrating a death and bragging about it, even if the victim was a mass murderer like Bin Laden, is an acknowledgement of the inability to deliver justice without targeted assassinations.
The renewed celebrations about Bin Laden being killed and thrown into the sea are not greatly different from U.S. soldiers celebrating killing members of the Taliban and urinating on their bodies, or an American soldier standing near the body of an Afghan boy, which is stained in blood, and smiling in front of the camera.
Making the act of killing an occasion for celebration in an electoral propaganda campaign is part of a wider endeavor to incorporate state sponsored assassination into government programs that are supposed to aspire to better standards of living. With electoral programs, the candidates promise to make their voters lives better. It is unwise to directly link organized killings to improving living standards. And what about deaths by drone strike? This is a mechanical killing merely directed by a human…a machine that a human tells to kill, but it also strikes unintended targets…It kills children and civilians, and this should not be celebrated.
Perhaps Bin Laden is smiling today at the bottom of the ocean after we have all become like him, professional killers who boast of murder and laugh at the camera after doing so!
Published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on May 3, 2012