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Ding, dong, the witch is dead!

Richard Abrams, professor emeritus of history | May 4, 2011

Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead!  Which old witch?  The wicked old witch.  The self-righteous, pathological murderer, Osama bin Laden, took a bullet in the head and is now gone. Riotous celebrations in the streets of many American cities with television images of (mostly young people) flashing “Victory!” signs, and robotically chanting, “USA! USA! USA! USA!” Front-page headlines that have outdone the announcements of the end of World War II, many of them inanely exulting, “Mission Accomplished!”

“Victory”? What “victory”? Bin Laden’s al Qaeda triumphed in the aftermath of the successful attacks in New York City and the nation’s capital. When official America and the country’s media immediately announced, “Nine-eleven changed everything,” it signified bin Laden’s victory.

Nothing any longer can overcome that. The authoritarians of the Bush Administration and their allies in the judiciary, with the pusillanimous acquiescence of Congress and the at-least-tacit approval of the American public, quickly went into action to shred the U.S. Constitution, override the rules of law, and transgress upon standards of human decency so hard won over the past century among modern nations around the world regarding the treatment of declared or merely suspected “enemies.”

In 2001, bin Laden’s al Qaeda successfully inspired America’s self-immolation. It will be a very long time, if ever, that Americans may overcome the damage of the so-called Patriot Act, the unapologetic use of torture, the images of Abu Ghraib and of abuses of Guantanamo, the secret prisons overseas, the overriding of habeas corpus, the stealthy, unwarranted surveillance of Americans, the sophistic efforts to justify it all in the name of “national security.”

And perhaps worst of all, the implicit endorsement and legitimation of the Bush policies by the Obama Administration, thereby engraving the mean-spirited authoritarian character of the past decade into the heart of America life.

Reports of reactions from (some?) Arab countries seem far more mature. It was sort of “ho hum.” Osama bin Laden for them was simply yesterday.  The radical Islamic insurgency had long moved on without and beyond him.  What’s more, we have not yet accounted for the gut reaction of “the street” over the killing of a fellow Arab and Muslim — however much a miserable child-killing wretch that he was — by the gun-slingers of the Great White Superpower from far across the sea.

The slaying of bin Laden was an act of vengeance, carried out in the form of a gang killing. It had little to do with fighting today’s terrorists.

Am I glad that he is dead?  Of course.  But it changes nothing.

Victory?  No, the victory was bin Laden’s a decade ago.  And so far we have done nothing to overcome it.