Motion to adjourn
So the announcement has been made that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Of course he always intended for his organization to survive him, and his popularity in some quarters of the Islamic world certainly does. So nothing has changed.
Still, people are celebrating all over the country. Here in Normal college students who were eight years old on 9/11 are out on the quad in the middle of the night whooping it up. You could hear them from my house half a mile away.
Politicians, wary that people may lose their enthusiasm for war, are giving cautious speeches about the need for continued vigilance. By which they mean of course, a continued standoff in the war with Oceana Eastasia. And FOX News showed a screen scroll which read; “Obama Bin Laden Dead”. Yes you read that correctly.
Hundreds of thousands of people, maybe over a million, are dead, and hundreds of millions of lives affected in ways ranging from a sad picture over the mantlepiece to living as refugees in a shattered land. Many of our freedoms – the ones Al Qaeda supposedly hated us for – lie in tatters and we have spent over a trillion dollars of our children’s money. Our country could hardly be more polarized. Certainly the fundamental tensions that led to 9/11 remain.
Almost every war ends this way – the gradual realization that not much has changed and that the suffering and destruction was for not much at all, and making ever-louder celebrations to drown out that feeling. Yes the end of any war is something to celebrate, in much the same way as it feels good to stop hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. Stop anytime then. Stop now.
Even “The Great War” ended with the realization that fundamental tensions that lead to the war must be addressed. We called it the Marshall Plan. But there will be no addressing of the insatiable addiction for oil that made it so important to bring our guns and money to bear on another culture and land. That will actually get worse. These are wars of economics, not (as the right wing seems to prefer) religion. We are in three wars that derive at least indirectly from oil and it is folly to think there will not be more. We seem to take a perverse pride in using more of the stuff. How did waste get to be patriotic? How did we get to television personalities bragging about the lousy mileage on the SUV’s?
And yes, Osama is dead. He could never have acquired a following and become powerful if we did not have a strategic need to control the oil supply. We want to think of him as evil – desperately need to think of him as evil. And he was evil but our need to see him that way is blinding us to some other things we ought to see.
Does anyone doubt that if we waited another ten years to bring our troops home, a bloodbath would result? Or five years or fifteen years? Wars leave permanent scars and violence and the seeds of future wars in their wake. Hell, our own country isn’t over the Civil War yet. We sure as hell aren’t over Vietnam. But in such adventures, “a motion to adjourn is always in order”.