by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash
Before Bin Laden did 9/11, America had a kind of reputation as a moral leader of the world: the bastion of freedom. We had faced down the Soviet Empire, and when it fell apart, there was only one hegemon left: us.
Our system had prevailed. In the end, we had won the Cold War. Communism had been defeated. Even China turned to capitalism. We had been right all along. And with our insistence on freedom and human rights, we were morally respectable (forget for a moment that we were propping up despots everywhere).
Today things look very different. Because of Bin Laden, we got involved in two unnecessary wars, tortured people, and ended up with a hugely expensive surveillance state.
Bin Laden brought fear into our lives, and turned the United States into a parody of Big Brother, spying big-time on its own citizens.
Think of America before 9/11: the world's undisputed and admired leader. Think of America just after 9/11: the world sympathized with us. Even in Iran, where we had installed the torturous regime of the Shah before he was overthrown in 1979, folks held candle-lit vigils for us.
Then think of us a few years later, when the biggest protests in human history took place all over the world against our imminent invasion of Iraq.
Over a million people in Rome marched against our proposed war with Iraq: that's just one example. And were they ever right to protest. Our war of aggression against an innocent nation that was not threatening us in any way, ended up with over 100,000 Iraqis murdered. And the scandals and atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay brought our moral superiority into disrepute forever. Moreover, the Iraq War became an ideal recruitment tool for Al Qaeda, and multiplied the number of terrorists in the world by the thousands. We ended up creating terrorists instead of diminishing their number.
Of course, Bin Laden also got lucky, because he struck us when two of the biggest idiots serving in government since Caligula appointed his horse as a Roman Senator, were running the country: the mediocre C-student George W. Bush and the eternally paranoid bird-killer Dick Cheney. If Al Gore had been president during and after 9/11, we certainly would not have started a war with Iraq, and might have made a deal with Afghanistan's Taliban for them to hand over Bin Laden, as they were apparently prepared to do, except that Bush/Cheney were so bent on war, they were in no mood to make a deal with the Taliban, even though they used to make deals with the Taliban before 9/11.
Question: did Bin Laden change us for the worse, or did he merely expose us for what we were anyway, a nation of potential mass murderers and torturers?
We had certainly been training military personnel in Latin America in methods of torture for many years back in the good old days when we exercised military dominance over Latin America, the way the other evil empire, Russia, exercised military dominance over Eastern Europe.
It was probably easy for Bin Laden to bring us down because the fault was in our own stars; because we were a bad lot to begin with. After all, since the end of WW2, we had started more wars than any other state on earth. We were a nation of killers already. In Vietnam and Cambodia we killed more than a million people. 9/11 simply brought our existing killer urges to the fore again.
The other side of our killer urge is of course our fear. Americans are easily scared. Reds under the bed, black urban youth, transsexuals: you name it, we fear it. Being so easily scared — cowards, in fact — we easily turn to killing and torture and illegality. Because that is who we are: cowardly killers and torturers, big abrogators of human rights.
The world may be better off now that we've been exposed as a nation of killers and torturers. The world is not prepared to listen to us anymore, the way they used to, because Bin Laden has exposed us as morally bankrupt. And maybe that's a good thing.
Maybe it's a good thing that the world sees us convict Chelsea Manning to 35 years in jail for helping us see what really happened in Iraq, while letting the war criminals who lied us into that war — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz — get off scot-free; while letting those who ordered our people to torture folks, get off scot-free. We don't even have the moral standards to prosecute senior Wall Street banksters for defrauding us and dumping our economy in the toilet.
Just imagine: today we are witnessing the bizarre spectacle of Attorney-General Eric Holder begging Putin to hand over whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who has done us the favor of exposing what a massive surveillance state we have become. Snowden, a brave man of conscience — a rather rare commodity in our public life — has fled to Russia, where they will keep him safe, because we in America, instead of welcoming him as a hero, who should be invited to testify in front of Congress about our government's transgressions … we want to prosecute him instead. Lock him up and shut him up.
Russia, hardly a paragon of human rights, is keeping Edward Snowden safe out of our clutches. An irony beyond ironies. And in order to make it easier for Putin to hand over Snowden, Holder is promising Putin that we will not execute or torture Snowden.
Imagine that: this is how far we have fallen. We are telling Russia that we won't execute or torture one of our citizens if they would just please hand him over. Don't worry, we're saying, you can trust us not to kill or torture him. That's a promise. We may do that to others, but we won't do it to him. Pinkie promise.
How the mighty have fallen.
And we have one man to thank for that, the man who plunged us into the immoral morass into which we have sunk, the man who covered us in our own excrement for all the world to see what shits we are, the man who brought us lower than we even knew we were: Osama Bin Laden.
Could be he did us a favor. Could be we might learn something about ourselves if we just look long and hard and deep into the mirror.
Could be, but I somehow doubt it. We're just too far gone.