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What did Killing Osama Actually Accomplish?

Article by William Pfaff.
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PARIS — Many if not most Americans seem to think that the assassination of Osama bin Laden solved something.

What did this accomplish? The man who organized the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington is dead, but so what? He no doubt was pleased to see death arrive. He professed to await it with equanimity, knowing that it was inevitable, probably would be violent, and that he would be rewarded in another world for his service to Islam in mobilizing a formidable organization to oppose what he saw as Islam’s great enemy — “the Great Satan,” as the Iranians have named the United States.

He supposedly planned and ordered the New York and Washington attacks, and he is attributed responsibility for the subsequent bombings of Madrid’s railroad station and the London Underground, although it remains unclear whether he was directly associated with them or merely inspired them.

He also sent a very large number, if not most, of the American people into a frenzy of fear, outrage and political paranoia, and inspired the U.S. government’s useless destruction or displacement of undoubtedly more than a million Iraqis, other Arabs, Afghans, Pakistanis, and their allies and sympathizers. This in turn inspired still more reciprocal violence.

These actions deeply altered for the worse the civic morality of the American government and people, convincing them to accept the Bush administration’s decision, now supported and sustained by the Obama government, to jettison international law in America’s pursuit and treatment of its enemies, reintroducing torture, the abuse of prisoners and assassination as state policy into the practice of a major western power for the first time — overtly and officially, at least — since Nazi practice in the Second World War.

The advance achieved by West European and American civilization during the 19th and early 20th centuries to reintroduce the Christian and chivalrous values of the past into modern war was deliberately reversed during that war. The “barbarism” of the First World War was mainly the result of introducing industrial and chemical methods and innovations into warfare between 1914 and 1918. Aerial bombardment of civilians was to a limited extent reintroduced.

During the Second World War, these became the principal methods of warfare for the western Allies. After the fall of France, London had no way to come to grips with the Germans except through the air. It had credulously accepted, from the early bomber enthusiasts, that aerial bombing would be precise and effective. It was anything but. The British in desperation turned to nighttime area bombing of worker housing, rationalizing to themselves that workers after all were soldiers, too (and that it demoralized the enemy home front to bomb wives, children and relatives.)

The U.S., equally credulous about air power, had built the presumably invulnerable “flying fortress” daylight bomber. These were shot out of the skies without fighter escorts. American fighter planes were also vulnerable until Britain gave the U.S. the Rolls Royce Merlin engine to use in the otherwise inadequately powered P-51 escort fighter.

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