Monday, May 02, 2011

Full Circle

A few minutes ago I woke and heard that Osama Bin Laden has been killed by American special forces in Pakistan.

There's a real sense the wheel has come full circle. Almost ten years ago, I was sitting in my flat in Lowell Massachusetts on a lovely sunny morning, looking forward to a day off and to a trip to Las Vegas scheduled for the end of the week. See my memories of that day three years after the event here.

Today is a lovely sunny morning in Britain, it's a holiday, and I'm looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas scheduled for the end of the week.

The death of any human being is a tragedy, no matter how evil or deserving they may be, but the death of Bin Laden evokes justice and satisfaction. But how I wish we could have got this news early on in 2002, rather than nearly a decade after the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

It's no secret that I love the United States, enjoy its culture and find it's people warm and friendly. I love it's vastness, and the way through film in particular it's a sort of a second home, even for people who've never been there. For those who have, I'm sure every visitor has experienced that sense of deja vue, particularly if you've been to one of the major cities associated with film such as Los Angles and places like New York and Washington. Driving around LA in particular, you get a constant sense of 'I've been here before' as a particular building or 'location' sparks off some recollection of a film scene that (often as not) you no longer remember.

In spite of my fondness of the USA and it's people, the elite of the country went collectively insane for a period of about three years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. A naive and unintelligent President whose main area of expertise was baseball allowed himself to be heavily influenced by an evil group of men whose primary loyalty was to the State of Israel. They persuaded him that the root of all evil was in the Middle East, and that by invading and occupying various countries there, which had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks, democracy could be established, stability imposed, and a long term solution to terrorism established.

The country they chose for the first step of this process was Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, it posed a potentially serious threat to Israel, and had the advantage of being led by a particularly loathsome dictator. Of course we all know what followed. With no proper mandate or justification, the Americans cobbled together an alliance and invaded Iraq. A brilliant military campaign succeded in three weeks, but then an evil and stupid series of decisions led to a brutal war of occupation and the ruining of Bush's presidency. In Britain, Tony Blair, hitherto a popular and competent Prime Minister, made a fatal decision to support the invasion, and so destroyed his reputation along the way. He's now so unpopular that he can't hold book signings for fear of riots, and spends much of his time abroad.

Estimates are hotly disputed, but at least 100,000 Iraqis died as a result of the war, and several million others left the country as refugees. Personally I believe the death toll could be much higher than that, especially as procedures for recording the numbers of Iraqi dead were expressly discouraged by the occupying forces.

Elsewhere, places that should have been the focus of the American thrust such as Afghanistan and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict were neglected. There was a close shave for Bin Laden in December 2001, and doubtless a few other times when through chance or judgement, Allied forces came close to capturing him. But in general as things went from bad to worse in Iraq, Afghanistan became a sideshow, allowing the fundamentalist and very extreme Taliban to reposition itself as a national resistance army.

George W Bush always maintained that his father lost the election of 1992 because he'd stood up to Israel and pissed off the powerful and extremely vindictive pro-Israel lobby in the United States. Whatever the truth of that he was determined not to make the same mistake. He became the most pro-Israel president in history, and Israel interpreted his support (or was it simply benign indifference?) as a green light to go on an eight year killing spree that included the Second Intifada, the Invasion of the Lebanon in 2006, and culminated in Operation Cast Lead which was halted just as Bush left office.

How different the last decade would have been had Osama Bin Laden been killed or captured before the Spring of 2003! At least some of the mass slaughters above wouldn't have happened, maybe none of them.

Bush himself gradually realised what the neocons were. Towards the end of his presidency, he mockingly started to call Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol The Bomber Boys. The realisation came too late.

Lets hope the death of Osama Bin Laden hasn't also come too late to change policy and influence events in a peaceful direction.