I watched Obama’s speech last night on Al Jazeera, online naturally, since a decade into the war Americans are still not allowed to receive televised coverage from the vantage point of those on the receiving end of the bombs. I was repulsed.
There wasn’t one word of Obama’s speech that George W. Bush wouldn’t have said. Not one utterance of critique about wars that have displaced millions, killed at least hundreds of thousands and cost trillions. In fact, President Obama called it “justice.”
Al Jazeera had Middle East expert, author and journalist Robert Fisk explaining the significance—or lack thereof—of bin Laden’s death in the minutes leading up to Obama’s unequivocal and unapologetic defense of murder and mayhem in the Arab world.
Fisk rightly argued that bin Laden has long since ceased to be of central importance, even to Al-Qaeda. Further, he argued that the secular upheavals across the Middle East these last months have shown how peripheral Al-Qaeda is to the world-changing events that are reshaping North Africa and the Middle East.
While no leftists can shed a tear for bin Laden, the central importance of his assassination is to provide some sort of acceptable veneer for the expansion of imperial wars and interventions. The speech was reminiscent of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s comment in response to the news of up to a million dead Iraqi children due to U.S. sanctions in the nineties. “We think the price is worth it,” she notoriously responded.
I’m rushing off to work and have no time to expound, but there’s sure to be much debate over coming weeks about the meaning of bin Laden’s murder. But for all those who are queasy over the official exuberance in the face of so much ongoing misery, there is one gathering that is not to be missed—where Egyptian revolutionaries, independent reporters from Afghanistan, environmental activists, labor militants, student leaders and around 1,500 socialists will be debating and educating one another.
The Web site for Socialism 2011: Revolution in the Air (July 1–4) in Chicago is up and running and now includes a full list of talks. I will be there speaking on The Myths of Zionism. Don’t sit fuming at the status quo. And don’t deny yourself the best opportunity this year for a weekend of thoughtful analysis, accessible debate and fun with others who feel like you do about the world.
Check it out and register now—http://www.socialismconference.org/info.