Categorized | USA




If these dancing Americans, however, were to transform their fear and fas­ci­na­tion with violence into rage and courage to occupy the same streets in protest, against the ruling elite that has profited from the loss and grief of 9/11 and the wars that followed, and the unde­mo­c­ra­tic corporate interests running their lives, they might find the arms of other ordinary working people from around the world extended in solidarity.

– Sarah Hawas, Egyptian rev­o­lu­tion­ary (Mondoweiss)*

That was the chant a group of delighted uni­ver­sity students were repeating as they marched in cel­e­bra­tion past my window around 1 in the morning last night upon news that Osama bin Laden had been assas­si­nated earlier that night in Pakistan. The students were most likely 11 years old when the September 11 attacks occurred – attacks that 8 months later the CIA was unable to link to bin Laden. I don’t find much to celebrate or mourn in the “death” of an old man on dialysis sitting in a compound in western Pakistan where pre­sum­ably the Pakistani ISI had been conniving in harboring him. I do find something to mourn in the mindsets of the young jingoes popping champagne on the occasion of an American death squad assas­si­nat­ing a suspected criminal on foreign territory.

For genuinely insight­ful com­men­tary, you can start here. For my purposes, I find the death of bin Laden a useful Rorschach test for an intel­lec­tual culture that would rather die – or have brown people die – than exert itself to think, a thought­less­ness that then filters down to the jin­go­is­tic little twits parading around my campus in the form of chants that go, USA! USA! Nation­al­ism is cute, isn’t it? How facilely we forget that the ruling class is the one that gets to define the National Interest. Always.

So. Mirror mirror on the wall who is the dumbest of them all? In only vaguely par­tic­u­lar order: Genocidaire-in-Chief Obama blathers that “the world is safer” with the death of Osama. Frankly I think the world would be safer with the death of Obama, who has the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Africans running in rivers under his feet. Or it would be safer if we lived in a world in which people were making policy and we were those people and struc­tures weren’t selecting people to make policy. Not this world.

Next, Nicholas Kristof, forever virginal when it comes to history, par­tic­u­larly that of American meddling in the Middle East, writes that “Bin Laden’s ability to escape from the U.S., and his apparent impunity, fed an image in some Islamist quarters of America as a paper tiger — and that encour­aged extrem­ists”; “extrem­ists” of course have never found human fodder due to ongoing US occu­pa­tions of Muslim and Arab lands, nor succor from US black-ops as in the case of the US-assisted Pakistani ISI that….helped to create bin Laden. Roger Cohen, whose brain occa­sion­ally thrums at a tempo nearing intel­li­gence, also considers history irrel­e­vant, writing that bin Laden “came of age as the Arab world shifted from Nasserite nation­al­ism to the discovery of identity in political Islamism,” a deft chrono­log­i­cal sleight-of-hand that hides one of the causal agents in the tran­si­tion from “nation­al­ism” to “Islamism”: the forceful American-Israeli destruc­tion of Arab nation­al­ism and Arab communism and the erasure of the Afghan Marxists with the help of – guess! – bin Laden’s reac­tionary extremism. Never mind too that Israel helped create Hamas, or that America’s main ally in the region is the reac­tionary medieval despotism known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

(Cohen’s stupidity merits extended exegesis: he goes on to write that this assas­si­na­tion occurs “as post-Islamist rev­o­lu­tions from Tunis to Cairo topple despotism in the name of demo­c­ra­tic values long denied Arabs”; it is the Nahda party that is poised to take power in post-revolutionary Tunisia, while “post-Islamist” is just a silly bene­dic­tion Cohen utters in front of his secular fun­da­men­tal­ist read­er­ship to suggest that perhaps these Ay-rabs are under control, unlike the filthy rabble sporting rocket launchers and spitting out Koranic slogans in Gaza and Lebanon, while iron­i­cally the demo­c­ra­tic values he is pre­tend­ing to espouse are the ones the bottom layers of the Egyptian Muslim Broth­er­hood also embrace while the upper layers hew true to the more important creed in Egyptian cap­i­tal­ist society – making money. Religion “explains” nothing here. Cohen caps off this try at playing smart with the invo­ca­tion of “West­ox­i­fi­ca­tion,” according to him “the sense of humil­i­a­tion among Arabs at perceived Western dominance and aggres­sion.” The term was Iranian c. 1980 and is no longer broadly used, but perhaps not knowing the dif­fer­ence between Persians and Arabs is what secures you a colum­nists’ spot in theNYT ).

Robert Dreyfuss, on his better days capable of real insight, offers us the Nation magazine’s oblig­a­tory act of ritual excretion on the Hamas gov­ern­ment, calling Ismail Haniyeh’s (dumb) comment on bin Laden, in which Haniyeh called him a “holy warrior,” “the stupidest and most inex­cus­able” of the froth of idiocy bubbling in the wake of the murder. Actually I am waiting for Eric Alterman and Thomas Friedman to hold forth before I start handing out laurels for “stupidest,” since they are shoo-ins for first prize, always. Given the non-existent political integrity of American lib­er­al­ism and political impotence of the American left, Haniyeh hardly needs to tack to the winds of decent public opinion in the United States anyway. No excuse, but not quite as dumb as Dreyfuss wants the silly lead­er­ship of the silly denizens to Gaza to be.

Descend­ing down the food chain, Paul Woodward, a mediocre gossip who thinks of himself as an intel­lec­tual, has nothing at all to say, which is kind of perfectly appro­pri­ate. He likes killing Arabs anyway. Next, Idrees Ahmad, presaged by (actually I’ll pretend he didn’t say it, I keep on hoping he’ll change course one of these days) fixates, eyes a-glaze, on “neo­con­ser­v­a­tives and other elements of the Israel lobby,” who “have drawn different, if pre­dictable, con­clu­sions,” namely that the assas­si­na­tion was good policy and that some of the neo-cons/lobbyists think Israel even pioneered the American policy of targeted assas­si­na­tions. So the lobby’s organic intel­li­gentsia says the same thing as the rest of the cap­i­tal­ist class’s organic intel­li­gentsia, while smearing on the addi­tional claim that targeted killings, such as the Phoenix Program, the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the slaying of Martin Luther King Jr., and the ruinous repres­sion of the Blank Panthers, are an Israeli export to the United States, thereby neatly tying up cap­i­tal­ism, impe­ri­al­ism and Zionism with Judaism, a nice service to Zionist pro­pa­ganda but now with the overt if sleep-walking con­nivance of “dis­si­dents.” (Thanks for staying alert, Idrees. God’s work you’re doing).

Moving now up a different food chain, with com­men­tary that will be duly ignored, Gabriel Ashcomments on the “death of a master signifier” and the exuberant joy some of the American people feel – even, perhaps, “the people whose houses were fore­closed in the last three years.” But nin­com­poop Ash is talking about class and power. In this post-modern post-Marxist post-materialism world, we should ignore him for sure for spoiling a party to which only meta­phys­i­cal expla­na­tions were invited. In a similar vein, Richard Estes writes of the “perverse, unac­knowl­edged alliance between al-Qaeda, neolib­er­als and neo­con­ser­v­a­tives, as all three groups are in agreement about the urgency asso­ci­ated with the need to mar­gin­al­ize and impov­er­ish workers even if it is in the service of strik­ingly different visions of the future,” neatly tying up in a bundle what the forceful destruc­tion of the left in the Arab world and the withering away of the left in the Anglo-American world has left us with: various dystopias and demagogic rabble-rousing to get us to them, as poor as possible. Forget Osama. Do I feel safer when the louder the voice is the stupider it is? No, not really. Neither should you.

*To whom I give real thanks for the good

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