Mark Weisbrot: Osama bin Laden ... cold war veteran
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, DC.
The killing of Osama bin Laden is being celebrated by the US media and government officials who spin it as one of the most important events since 11 September 2001. To the extent that it weakens al-Qaida, that would certainly be a gain. But it is worth taking a sober look at the reality behind all the hype.
Bin Laden, who – like Saddam Hussein and other infamous mass murderers – was supported by the United Stated government for years before he turned against it, changed the world with the most destructive terrorist act ever committed on US soil. But the reasons that he was able to do that have as much to do with US foreign policy at that particular juncture as with his own strategy and goals.
Bin Laden's goal was not, as some think, simply to bring down the US empire. That is a goal shared by most of the world, who – fortunately for us – would not use terrorist violence to further this outcome. His specific goal was to transform the struggle between the United States and popular aspirations in the Muslim world into a war against Islam, or at least create the impression for many millions of people that this was the case. As we look around the world 10 years after the attack, we can see that he had considerable success in this goal. The United States is occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing Pakistan and Libya, and threatening Iran – all Muslim countries. To a huge part of the Muslim world, it looks like the United States is carrying out a modern-day crusade against them, despite President Obama's assertions to contrary Sunday night...
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