Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Turning the Page?

By Reginald Johnson
May 3, 2011

So Osama Bin Laden is dead, reportedly killed by U.S. special forces in a commando raid on a compound in a city not far from Islamabad, Pakistan.

If this is true, that the alleged perpetrator of the 911 terror attacks on the U.S. is gone, then it is a time to breath a sigh of relief, close the chapter on this book and declare victory over al-Qaeda.

We can now say our mission in Afghanistan is over, we won, time to pack our bags. We can stop bombing the heck out of civilians, losing our own soldiers, and spending billions in the process. We can bring the troops home and start spending money not for war, but for addressing many domestic needs --- rebuilding our infrastructure, building new schools, building a better energy system, and widening health care opportunities.

I do hope the death of Bin Laden will be used by President Obama in a positive way to change American foreign policy and pull back from our massive involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I think it would do our country --- and the world --- tremendous good.

But something tells me, it won’t happen that way. A couple of reasons for skepticism. First, history. Remember the “peace dividend?” That was the money that was supposed to be freed up when the old Soviet Union and communist countries in eastern Europe collapsed. That was the end of the Cold War, and the near elimination of communism --- after a 50-year struggle.

There was talk of substantial cutbacks in military spending and reducing our military presence around the globe. Not needed now.

Wrong. There were some modest cuts in defense spending, but nothing huge. In a few years, there was talk of new threats, this time from world-wide terrorism and new enemy states. By the end of the 1990s, we were hectoring Iraq over alleged weapons of mass destruction, expressing fear over Iran and sending missiles into Afghanistan to knock out a previous ally and now Islamic terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. And defense spending was back to the old clip.

Based on what happened then, you can expect right-wing politicians and many wormy Democrats to sound the alarm now that "the threat's not over" and "there's still enemies out there," and we can't pull back. These calls will create political pressure on Obama to "not pull out precipitously."

The other more subtle reason why the U.S. will remain parked in Afghanistan and Iraq --- albeit at a somewhat lower profile, but still with a substantial presence --- is oil. Iraq has lots of it, and Afghanistan is a key location for access to the vast oil and gas reserves of Central Asia. The U.S. does not want to lose out on its ability to tap this area and bring oil out via pipelines through Afghanistan. Chinese interests are involved in Central Asia to gain oil, and this is seen as a threat.

I never believed terrorism was the only reason for the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a lot about energy --- particularly in the case of Iraq --- and this fact has been covered up, even to this day. Revenge for 911 was the other part of it. There certainly was good reason to believe al-Qaeda and Bin Laden --- based in Afghanistan --- were the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, given previous terrorist incidents and public statements. American officials, including former President George W. Bush, claim they had enough information to justify the October 2001 attack on Afghanistan. ( It must be noted, however, that charges were never brought against Bin Laden, and the FBI said they had “no concrete evidence” linking him to 911).

I’m hoping against hope that there will be a page turning now. Let’s get back to focusing on our own country and providing jobs for everyone and rebuilding our economy.

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