Osama Won


In The Looming Tower, the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden's motivation for the attacks that he planned in the 1990s, and then the September 11 attacks, was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war—an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.

Osama got both. And we gave him a prolonged war in Iraq to boot. By the end of Obama's first term, we'll probably top 6,000 dead U.S. troops in those two wars, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. The cost for both wars is also now well over $1 trillion.

We have also fundamentally altered who we are. A partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of how we've changed since September 11 . . .

  • We've sent terrorist suspects to "black sites" to be detained without trial and tortured.
  • We've turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they'd be tortured.
  • In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
  • We've abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
  • The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are implicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
  • The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.
  • Presidents from both of the two major political parties have claimed the power to detain suspected terrorists and hold them indefinitely without trial, based solely on the president's designation of them as an "enemy combatant," essentially making the president prosecutor, judge, and jury. (I'd also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn't have been tolerated before September 11.)
  • The current president has also claimed the power to execute U.S. citizens, off the battlefield, without a trial, and to prevent anyone from knowing about it after the fact.
  • The Congress approved, the president signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a broadly written law making it a crime to advocate for any organization the government deems sympathetic to terrorism. This includes challenging the "terrorist" designation in the first place.
  • Flying in America now means enduring a humiliating and hassling ritual that does little if anything to actually make flying any safer. Every time the government fails to catch an attempt at terrorism, it punishes the public for its failure by adding to the ritual.
  • American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.
  • Without a warrant, the government can search and seize indefinitely the laptops and other personal electronic devices of anyone entering the country.
  • The Department of Homeland Security now gives terrorism-fighting grants for local police departments across the country to purchase military equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, which is then used against U.S. citizens, mostly to serve drug warrants.

I'm relieved that bin Laden is dead. And the Navy SEALs who carried out the harrowing raid that ended his life have my respect and admiration. And for all the massive waste and abuse our government has perpetrated in the name of fighting terrorism over the last decade, there's something satisfying in knowing that he was killed in a limited, targeted operation based on specific intelligence.

But because of the actions of one guy, we allowed all the bullet points above to happen. That we managed to kill him a decade after the September 11 attacks is symbolically important, but hardly seems worth the celebrations we saw across the country last night. There was something unsettling about watching giddy crowds bounce around beach balls and climb telephone polls last night, as if they were in the lawn seats at a rock festival. Solemn and somber appreciation that an evil man is gone seemed like the more appropriate reaction.

Yes, bin Laden the man is dead. But he achieved all he set out to achieve, and a hell of a lot more. He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn't something a special ops team can fix.

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  1. Right on Balko!

    1. Osama didn’t win (yet). We were willing to come together and sacrifice for the betterment of the country. Strange crowds I saw last night in NY and DC, kids that after 10 years understood, and not some 40 year old brat that never had to live through a downturn and some rough times. Good for them and it was great to see the fans in Philly, you know that’s real and not a Luntz, Daley fundraising Amway deal.

      1. Wait, what?

        1. Don’t even try.

    2. You know who else won?

    3. Those who would sacrifice a little liberty to gain a little security deserve neither and lose both

    4. I pity all you plebs who have no clue how to react to any of it.

      You don’t win by getting someone to spend money killing you and your other delusions co-maniacs.

      Osama bin-Who(?) intended to “bankrupt the empire.’ He never understood the west to begin with.

      He sees the west help the natives fight the Soviets, and then expect to do the same against those who just helped him. What does that tell you? He thinks the west we irrelevant in Afghanistan. He was an ignorant peasant who thinks that allah the moon god was going to greet him with wine and virgins and you all take him seriously as though he is a doctor of economics who put together a realistic plan to bankrupt “the west.”

      The enemy is ignorance, and it isn’t even close to dead. Until we take on the challenge of educating the world that Islam is a religion, and we are sorry but since it is so destructive we have to treat it as we did Shinto.

      At least the Bible has plausible arguments considering that every word of history that can be confirmed shows it to be backed by archeology. That same Bible was denounced by Mohamed as “corrupted.”

      Now that we see what it leads to, and that it is simply not even possible to be true, it’s time to pack it away next to Shinto and for the same reasons.

    5. I’m relieved that bin Laden is dead. And the Navy SEALs who carried out the harrowing raid that ended his life have my respect and admiration. And for all the massive waste and abuse our government has perpetrated in the name of fighting terrorism over the last decade, there’s something satisfying in knowing that he was killed in a limited, targeted operation based on specific intelligence.

  2. Awesome, Radley.

  3. That we managed to kill him a decade after the September 11

    It has not been a decade yet.

    1. WTF? Seriously?? You’re quibbling with referring to 9.6 years as a decade!? This might take the award for most inane comment of the year and it’s only May.

      1. most inane comment of the year

        You do not read the comments at Hit and Run much do you.

        Realistically my comment was probably the most inane of the last 30 min period.

        The only reason anyone gave a shit is because it ended up being so close to the top of the comments.

    2. Five months short. Speaking in general terms, it’s pretty much 10 years.

    3. Easy now, autism has no cure…

    4. Do we have to call Obama the “Good” Assassin-in-Chief, now?

  4. Osama had very defined clear goals in mind when planning the several different terrorist attacks including 9/11 for the last two decades. He preached at length of his desire to topple the house of saud (failed) restore the caliphate to east anglia (failed) and to topple the USA from within (giant fail).

    I agree that we over reacted in terms of the crippling of civil liberties and the ridiculousness of the security theater in airports and other places, but to argue that Obama “won” or achieved any of the goals he clearly defined early on is to completely deny the evidence.

    1. Damn, great minds think alike!

    2. and to topple the USA from within (giant fail).

      I know I don’t like what the USA has become since 2001….

      So much so that when I heard Superman giving up his citizen ship my first reaction was “Good for him”.

      1. The criticism of our over reaction to 9/11 is understandable, but in the context of previous wars that forced the US to react after a hit on our shores this was relatively benign. Internment camps? Hello?

        I agree we definitely went too far and diluted many of the principles that make our nation as strong as it is, but that wasn’t exactly the “victory” OBL had in mind.

        1. Internment camps went away, and everyone knew they would go away.

          Many of the things Radley listed will never go away. It’s not good.

          1. If internment camps can go away, so can the things Balko listed.

            1. Tell that to the TSA, and all of the local and state police now on the federal teat for even more money and perverse incentives.

              1. All the more reason to support candidates who will work to disassemble the TSA and other various security theater that isn’t working.

                1. Your faith in an utterly broken system would be cute if it weren’t so pointless.

                  1. I don’t have “faith” in this so-called “utterly borken system”, it’s more a summation of the reality- this system is the best chance we have to fight against tyranny against the individual.

                    I agree that it’s “broken” and we have a multitude of problems, but it’s still the best hope we have for liberty, and the blueprint for our system is the closest anyone has come to realizing these goals.

                    Except for Somalia, of course.

                    1. “and the blueprint for our system”

                      Funny how our “system” looks nothing like its blueprint.

                      Nothing at all.

            2. Internment camps for Japanese people went away when we were no longer at war with Japan.

              The war with Japan was a winnable war, declared by Congress, with a definable goal.

              The things Balko listed might possibly go away when “terror” is defeated.

              Except that “terror” will never be defeated.

              It will be used as an excuse to use military force against “enemies”, both domestic and abroad, forever.

              It is the ultimate tool for tyranny.

            3. If internment camps can go away, so can the things Balko listed.

              Last night my wife asked me, “So, do you think the TSA will let up on their procedures?” (Because she is getting kinda peeved at my adamant refusal to take a plane anywhere due to my “no molesting” policy.)

              And I gave her a not-quite-eyes-rolling look and said, “Do you really think an agency of the federal government will voluntarily give up powers over us they take taken, and voluntarily fire some of their employees?”

              End of discussion.

              1. damn dude you never used common showers either playing sports & or maybe in the military? a pat-down aint nothing

                1. Good grief, man!

                  What exactly went on in your showers?

                2. damn dude you never used common showers either playing sports & or maybe in the military? a pat-down aint nothing

                  There is something profoundly enraging about how flippantly stupid you are, Orrin.

              2. So, we just give up then?

                It’s “too hard” to fight back?

                Sorry, that’s not our nature. We can and will fight against government over reach. I’m not throwing in the towel because this is the best place to win this fight.

            4. “”If internment camps can go away, so can the things Balko listed.””

              Maybe you just don’t get it. The things listed were not about Osama per se. They are about fighting an organization. The fight isn’t over. It’s always been about what Osama followers will do, not Osama himself. So as long as someone can claim to be the leader of AQ, there’s a reason to defend against a threat.

              I’ll gladly eat crow if we pull out of Afghanistan, do away with virtual strip searches/TSA crotch grabbin, Subway bag inspections, the repeal of the P.A.T.R.I.O.T Act, ect.

              1. The things listed were not about Osama per se.

                The title to this post is “Osama won”.

                You and I probably both agree that the “war” is still ongoing and it would be premature at best to declare Osama the victor.

                1. My comment was about an expectation that all the new tools give to government to fight terrorism will go the way of internment camps. The fact that the war isn’t over, means they will stay in place. The GWoT will be around long after all of us pass away.

                2. In his remaining lifetime, he saw the wheels set in motion in exactly the way he intended. He’s playing the long game, and probably never intended to see the end of it. His part in the struggle succeeded beyond his wildest fantasies.

                  We’ve lost a lot of what created our identity as an exceptional nation, while getting mired in The Grave Of Empires for an entire generation (at least.) All from getting a handful of fanatics to hijack a few planes with box-cutters.

                  As much as I would like to believe otherwise, there’s little question he died content that he had accomplished what he set out to do.

                  1. You are completely correct in your assessment, Tara.

                    1. I agree with Tara also. All of this over 19 guys with box cutters and our own airplanes. We could have gotten by with better immigration control from the ME, stronger and locked cockpit doors, and smarter diplomacy….we should never have ended our soft power tactics. We rule the ME with an iron fist like the Soviets did. Our empire will collapse for financial reasons. it is just a matter of time.
                      We lost 4 thousand people in the attacks. We lose 50,000 a year in car accidents. We lose 100,000 a year from complications from hospital staph infections. If we were actually concerned about saving American lives I would think the 1 trillion a year we spend on bombing and killing brown skinned people could have been better spent. Can you say risk analysis?

                      Chris Hedges had a great point.
                      “We make our heroes out of clay. We laud their gallant deeds and give them uniforms with colored ribbons on their chests for the acts of violence they committed or endured. They are our false repositories of glory and honor, of power, of self-righteousness, of patriotism and self-worship, all that we want to believe about ourselves. They are our plaster saints of war, the icons we cheer to defend us and make us and our nation great. They are the props of our civic religion, our love of power and force, our belief in our right as a chosen nation to wield this force against the weak, and rule. This is our nation’s idolatry of itself. And this idolatry has corrupted religious institutions, not only here but in most nations, making it impossible for us to separate the will of God from the will of the state.”

      2. Where else are you going to go? Of which country would it be preferable to be a citizen?

        1. The argument hasn’t changed. “we don’t need freedom, as long as someone else is more overtly authoritarian, complaints about our own authoritarian streak can be ignored.”

          1. Not my point whatsoever. You’ve made that up yourself out of whole straw.

        2. France — I hate fat chicks.

        3. If the Aussies had a sensible gun policy…

          1. I don’t know, their beaches are kind of ‘sharky’, and the place is home to the deadliest, nastiest, snakes, insects and plants on the planet.

        4. Where else are you going to go? Of which country would it be preferable to be a citizen?

          The US in 1995.

          1. 1860

            1. Only as long as your skin wasn’t too dark!

        5. Just a few suggestions for countries which don’t randomly lock up their citizens without trial, or carry out assassinations on a whim.

          Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Iceland, Estonia, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, and the list goes on

          1. Yeah, have fun defending your house against a burglar – or the jackbooted tac police when they think you are in possession of a handgun- in those countries.

          2. Come on really? Spain has over 20% unemployment right now and you included them on your list. I’m gonna say you just pulled random countries out of a hat without any knowledge of what its like to actually live in them.

            1. The obvious choice is Switzerland

    3. “and to topple the USA from within (giant fail).”

      If you say so. Though, if it makes you feel any better, it was probably going to happen regardless of bin Laden’s actions, so I don’t know that he could have taken credit.

      1. I’m not willing to say our country is “over” and Bin Laden “won”. This is ridiculous hyperbole that makes it appear that unless we live in a libertarian fantasy land then we are all slaves and chattel or something.

        Yes, we fucked up with all the TSA garbage and executive power restraints (or lack thereof). But these are fixable.

        Osama failed miserably in winning any “war” with the west. Al-qaeda is nowhere near the threat they were ten years ago, and none of his stated goals were achieved. How one can spin this as a “win” eludes me.

        1. They don’t need to defeat us militarily to “win”. That’s not the nature of asymmetric warfare. They just need to keep a couple thousand true believers to plinking at us with AKs and mortars for a decade or two while we spend trillions trying to keep up an occupational force.

        2. I believe cynical’s point is that, regardless of whether or not 9/11 happened, our inability to contrain entitlement spending will spell our demise.

    4. He preached at length of his desire to topple the house of saud

      Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Hopefully he’ll get his wish in the future.

    5. Obama did win–he’s president. Or did you mean Osama?

      This recurring confusion of the two is fascinating to behold. I’ve done it myself in the past.

      1. My father, who sadly did not live to see Obama elected or anything else that has happened in the last two and a half years, used to refer to Obama as “Borat Osama”. And he considered himself a “Christian socialist”.

        1. Borat Osama. That’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are.

        2. Borat Osama. That’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are.

      2. Good thing these were SEALs and not local PD. Raid the White House instead of Pakistan? What if they shot the White House dog?

  5. Total, pure, unadulterated bullcrap. Bin Laden’s three highest priority things he sought out to achieve were: the overthrowing of the ruling House of Saud government, the uniting of the entire Islamic world to go to war against the west, and the re-establishment of the Caliphate.

    Needless to say, he didn’t come close to achieving any of these things. Epic fail, my friend.

    1. the uniting of the entire Islamic world to go to war against the west….he didn’t come close to achieving any of these things.

      We have a lot more people in the Islamic world fighting us than we did 10 years ago…

      1. We have a lot more people in the Islamic world fighting us than we did 10 years ago…

        A nice assertion, but you have no concrete evidence of any kind to back this up.

        1. 10 years ago, it was approximately zero.

          Now, it is however many people are fighting us in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, which is more than approximately zero.

          1. 10 years ago, it was approximately zero.

            Bull. The people in the Islamic world fighting against us existed well before 9/11, whether you want to acknowledge their existence or not.

            The only real difference is that the combat became up close and personal once we finally decided that we had had enough after 9/11.

            1. They werent fighting is back then, they couldnt get to us.

              1. spoken like a civilian. just duck behind the wall now

          2. 10 years ago, it was approximately zero.

            I can think of many attacks a decade or so ago: Khobar towers (1996), African embassies (1998), USS Cole (2000), first WTC bombing (1993). Maybe you meant 20 years?

            1. Pan-Am Flight 103 (1988), Berlin disco (1986), TWA Flight 840 (1986), Achille Lauro, Rome Airport, TWA 847 (1985), Beirut Embassy and Kuwiat Airways 221 (1984), U.S. Embassies in Kuwait, and Beruit, and USMC barracks bombed (1983), Hostages taken in Lebanon (1982), Hostages taken in Iran (1979).

              Maybe he meant 30 years.

    2. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t win complete equality for black Americans either, but he can hardly be said to have failed. Similarly, bin Laden did not accomplish all of his goals, but the consequences of his actions did damage the United States, in some ways likely irreperably. Arguing that he was a failure in his mission because he didn’t achieve 100% success in his goals is not living in a realistic world. I don’t know of anyone who achieved 100% of their goals, except those who set their goals really low.

      1. he didnt acheive 1/3d of his goals

  6. Randolph Boorne’s words are as true today as when he first put them to paper :


  7. Toppling the House of Saud and re-establishing the caliphate aside, Osama did accomplish much to ruin American society. I hate the fucker and all the fuckers in the government who exploited this fucker’s attack to bring about their fucked-up government policies. Fuck ’em.

    1. Don’t hold back. Tell us how you really feel.


        1. AND TITS!

  8. This country has a lot of stupid people who like any reason to act stupid in public. That explains the celebrations.

    1. No, booze explains the celebration.

      1. Chicken, Egg, etc.

  9. God damn Radley, thank you for making this post. It needed to be said.

  10. Hate to rain on anyone’s parade here, but seriously, a lot of this stuff was going on before 9/11. Excessive government behavior has been well documented: WWI and WWII, the Cold War, the reactions to the Civil Rights Movement. It was only a matter of time until the government caught up to the possibilities of the internet and jumped all over that. Muslims were already discriminated against in this country. And police have been buying military equipment for years and years–watch the TV show SWAT or the movie Die Hard for examples in popular entertainment.

    I don’t want to sound cynical. However, aside from the asinine rules of the TSA, how much has really changed in this country?

    1. the defense budget sure has changed

    2. I think the idea that Balko is trying to get across is that the biggest thing we could’ve done to fight back against bin Laden would have been to expand our freedoms and protect our liberty. Instead, we gave in to terror and gave up a bit of our freedom. We haven’t won anything, but we’ve lost plenty.

      1. Although, I do think we’ve seen a net gain in freedom from technology. The government doesn’t give a shit about our freedom anymore. We had to expand it ourselves.

    3. However, aside from the asinine rules of the TSA, how much has really changed in this country?

      The warrantless wiretapping is one example. Nixon was forced from office for far less, and Bush’s immediate predecessor was nearly removed for lying to a prosecutor pursuing a fruitless land-deal probe. My immediate reaction when I heard the wiretapping story was that it would cripple Bush’s presidency. That everyone nodded and went along with it spoke volumes about how deferential to authority we’ve become.

      1. didnt realize that conspiracy to break n enter, theft, perjury, & obstruction were “far less” than wiretapping.

      2. “Bush’s immediate predecessor was nearly removed for lying to a prosecutor pursuing a fruitless land-deal probe”

        Clinton was never in any real danger of being removed from office. For whatever reasons, the Senate was not willing to even have a real trial (they set up a “trial” with no witness testimony, a time limit and rules that allowed the Democrats to run out the clock) for his removal. Furthermore, suborning perjury was only the on-paper reason for seeking Clinton’s removal, there were many other legitimate reasons for doing so including the theft of hundreds of FBI files on his opponents and high treason associated with weapons technology transfers to China. I suspect the real reason Clinton was impeached was that he violated the gentlemen’s rules of the political class by cutting deals in private and then reneging on and lying about the deals publicly. The GOP went after Clinton for suborning perjury because it knew that the national media would stop at nothing to protect him and they wanted to accuse him of a crime which he unambiguously committed.

  11. So, have the terrorists won or not? I need to get back to American Idol.

  12. We have altered who we are? For starters, didn’t we slaughter the native population and move them onto reservations? Did import and exploit slaves from Africa? Don’t we continue to degrade, lynch, and imprison their descendents? Didn’t we participate in the fire bombing of Dresden and drop two atomic bombs on large Japanese cities? Didn’t we use napalm on Vietnamese villages? Balko thinks history srarted sometime after he reached the age of reason.

    1. Balko thinks history srarted sometime after he reached the age of reason.


    2. We? Do you have a mouse in your pocket? I did none of those things. They all happened before I was born. According to my family history one of my ancestors was a horse thief. Should I go to jail for that?

      1. original sin my boy. its a bee yoch

      2. The current generation of Germans didn’t commit the war crimes of the Nazis either and yet they still have to mail checks to Israel for some reason. They’re probably pretty POed about that.

        1. I agree, they should not have to continue to do that. Some people forget that the origins of WW2 are in reparations the German people were forced to make as a result of WW1.

          I don’t want THAT particular bit of history to repeat itself.

        2. Get your own handle, damn it.

    3. Way to see the glass half empty, dickweed. Damn, makes me wonder what you would say about a country you hadn’t DEIGNED to live in… sheesh

      1. BTW, That was @ Max’s comment about how awful all we Americans are. (Ok, I’ve trafficked in slaves, but they were little white boys – doesn’t that mitigate it some?)

  13. Balko is on a good track here but he fails (as had every other media outlet I read) to realize how quickly or passionately Al Quaida will replace Bin Laden. It took 9.5 years, 2 unfunded wars, the greatest recession in the United States in almost 30 years, a classic Eisenhowerian M.I.C., the continued support of the Patriot Act by our government, and a social contract altered to include any accusation of anyone as a “Terroriist” to be deemed a credible.

    1. If he wasn’t replaced already before his illness put him to the sidelines, or if Al-Quaida is truly a single hierarchical operation. Maybe he was just a PR-person in last couple of years? (If I were a leader of a criminal organisation, I’d make sure the heat wasn’t on or near me.)

  14. I’m thinking Obama’s rapidly broiling ghost would be puzzled at the idea that inconveniencing Americans and making our government a bit more tight-assed security-wise were his goals.

    I’m thinking he was going for millions more dead kafirs, a restored caliphate, and global salafism.

    1. This is great. I may start keeping hash marks for each Osama-Obama mangling.

      1. Seriously, I’ve just been using OBL so I don’t add to the count.

  15. Just curious, what should have been the response to 9/11?

    1. Tractor pulls, obviously.

      1. FTW!!!

      2. I find that a 1967 International provides the most power for pulling apart terrorists.

        1. Now that’s a PPV show I would break out my Walmart popcorn for!

          1. You know they have a great deal on plasma tvs?

    2. One option: Offer a billion dollar bounty on his head, and lesser ones on the other members of Al Qaeda.

      1. Didn’t we have huge prices on his turbaned head?

        1. I think it was on the order of magnitude of $25 million dollars for information resulting in his capture.

          As i initially wrote this I was in agreement that it wouldn’t have made a difference, but now I wonder how much of an effect 1 billion vs. 25 million would have had. That’s A LOT of money, and money that wouldn’t easily have been matched by the wealth of osama and his supporters

        2. A quick google says it was $25 million.

        3. MNG,

          Imagine if all of the money we had put into bombs and tanks and ships instead weant to that bounty. Don’t you think that would be tempting enough to someone?

          1. Yeah but you also wonder what would happen with that money and if osama may have just let himself be “martyrd” to give his supporters incredible amounts of funding.

            1. This tactic would not have created as much future blowback however. AND there is the point that all that money may have resulted in the remaining AQ leadership fighting among themselves over the lotter ticket they just got.

              1. absolutely, i was just throwing something out for consideration, not saying it was a bad idea by any means, and incredibly attractive compared to the current alternative.

    3. I mean, of course Iraq was silly, and we should not have compromised our ideals in matters such as waterboarding, rendition etc. But given the Taliban was haboring an organization which directly attacked us I don’t think we could have avoided toppling the regime there and making sure it stayed toppled, and we would have had to step up security.

      1. Give me control of the US military and I will topple a third world regime and keep it toppled for a lot less than $1 trillion and thousands of dead Americans.

      2. making sure it stayed toppled

        Not remotely a necessary requirement. Topple and leave would’ve been perfectly acceptable.

        1. Yup. We can always send more JDAMs and Tomahawks if they get restive.

          1. That was my plan for keeping it toppled in my 2:30 post.

        2. Wasn’t it? Topple and leave and then either another unfriendly regime which harbors our attackers or a power vaccum which they enjoy.

          1. Oh yeah, and US backed puppet regimes in the Middle East have fared oh so well in the past.

            And considering that OBL was in Pakistan, and we took care of business, undercuts the whole assumption that we can’t go in and clean out terror enclaves when necessary without having to take control of the country in which the enclave is found.. All it takes is an ounce of will.

            I see zero evidence that nine years of mountain humping have achieved anything of permanent significance. Once our puppet Karzai was installed, we should’ve pulled out and put the responsibility of managing Afghanistan back onto the Afghani populace.

      3. You can’t make sure it stayed toppled unless you plan to occupy Afghanistan indefinitely. And VGO’s suggestion would have cost us a hell of a lot less.

      4. How do you “topple” the Taliban? They’re not a government, per se, just a bunch of roving gangs of thugs.

        1. They used to be the government before they were toppled. And get your own handle.

    4. Initial response? or the response 5 to 10 years later and it was obvious that the response was not working?

      Or do you mean the response 5 years or more earlier in which we ignored Osama declaring war on us?

      Here are some things we should have done:

      After the end of the cold war in 1995ish Stop giving aid to dictators.

      In the 1950s we should have not supported reinstalling the Shaw.

      We should have threatened to withdraw support from Israel unless they set up a Palestinian state in Gasa and the West Bank.

      Should have kept no troops in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War.

      After first gulf war we should have split Iraq into 3 states.

      Should have assassinated Gadaffi after Lockerby. Using letters of marquee would have been a nice touch.

      Should have allowed more nuclear power plants in the US. and sold all government owned lands within the US including mineral rights along with mineral rights off shore.

      Should have ended the Drug war.

      Should have eliminated all food subsidies including ethanol bullshit.

      Should have removed military presence in Germany, Japan, and Korea after the end of the cold war if not sooner.

      There is a shit pot more but you get the idea.

      1. Oh yeah I forgot a big one.

        After the cold war we should have dissolved the UN.

        1. After first gulf war we should have split Iraq into 3 states.

          Just how would you have done that without a prolonged occupation?

          1. Suddam signed an unconditional surrender.

            Make him sign one that splits the country into 3 states.

            The Kurds and the Shia sure as hell would not have disagreed.

            By the way we did have a no fly zone and had troops in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

            I fail to see how what I proposed would be called an occupation yet what we actually did was not an occupation.

        2. and NATO.

    5. I say bomb the fuck out of Afghanistan and then say “don’t let it happen again, or it will be much worse next time.” Then reinforce cockpit doors and get on with life.

    6. Porn. Free porn flooding the Arab world. With high-end CGI that inserts every principal of al Qaeda and other terror groups right into the porn action.

  16. Thanks Radley. I’m sharing this with everyone I know. The hangover from last night’s news kicked in when I woke up this morning and realized that nothing has changed with OBL being dead other than fulfilling our collective revenge fantasy that’s been waiting for ten years.
    Governmental overreach in the aftermath of 9/11 is here to stay. The TSA, DHS, blowing up suspicious toy ponies, all of it will continue with or without Osama to be our bogeyman.

    1. To Nipplemancer,

      Finally another who understands!

      My first wish last night when I heard about Bin Laden was that the U.S. had nothing to do with his death (I know, what was I thinking? Right?)

      Bin Laden definitely has/had the upper hand and until the U.S. Government understands that the U.S. has fallen to extremists (because they control our government’s every move).

  17. Nice work, Radley. You hit the nail on the head much better than we did last night.

    I’m glad bin Laden is gone, but the price we paid to get him was too high. And continuing on with the same military adventurism and domestic security policies will only underscore that we don’t really know who or why we’re fighting anymore.

  18. But he achieved all he set out to achieve

    Oh come on Radley. That is just ludacris. He set out to become King of Saudi Arabia and establish a caliphate accross the Islamic world. He just attacked the US figuring that if he killed a bunch of Americans we would leave the middle east and stop supporting the Saudi Royals allowing him to take over. If you think he pulled of 9-11 in hopes of the TSA someday feeling up six year olds, you are fucking dellusional.

    And all of the stuff regarding terror suspects we either were already doing or had done as bad or worse in previous wars. I would encourage you to read about US detainee operations in Vietnam. We did things that made Bagrham seem like child’s play. And did it on a systematic and routine level. And do you think that we managed to turn every single German agent in Britain because we read them their rights and asked them nicely when we captured them?

    This is not to justify it. But to pretend that the US was some kind of pristine country who had never done such things out of love of liberty before we were corrupted by 9-11 is just fucking idiotic and completely ignorant of history.

    As far as the use of police and the growth of big government, we were headed down that road for decades before 9-11. Did you miss Ruby Ridge and Waco? All of that shit was happening anyway. Again, that doesn’t make it right. But to blame our pathos on 9-11 and Bin Ladin is to deny real responsibility. We were militarizing our police long before 9-11 and would have done so without 9-11. If only it were because of 9-11. It is much worse than that.

    1. That may have been going on before hand, but 9/11 dramatically accelerated the growth of the state in almost every angle I can think of. Saying “yeah we were losing our freedoms before” is giving a terrible exercise in authoritarianism an excuse.

      Seriously John, feeling up 3 year olds on airplanes? Nude Xrays?

      1. I am not going to defend that Bingo. I am just saying you are kidding yourself if you think that shit is the result of us going crazy after 9-11. I am old enough to remember the 1990s. It is just a culmination of where we were headed anyway.

        1. John has a point that most of this shit was in the works anyway, for example most of the Patriot Act consisted of a wish list that law enforcement had wanted for years. It is also true however that 9/11 provided the ‘crisis’ needed to get the shit in place on an accelerated basis.

          1. Exactly. Everything had been attempted before and had failed. With 9/11 and pretty packaging inside the Patriot Act, it was able to finally get thru.

        2. Of course I remember Ruby Ridge and Waco. I remember a lot of the same right-wingers that bitched about those godawful incidents cheering gleefully every expansive policy of the police state after 9/11. 9/11 changed the GOP from the party of small government and humble(r) foreign policy to the party of kicking ass by all means necessary, rule of law and collateral damage be damned.

          1. Ding ding! We have a winner!

            Although they were already on their way with Medicare Part D, NCBL, and all that crap. OBL just ensured that the Republicans had political cover for all of their collective control fantasies.

            1. Are you out of your fucking mind? George Bush ran on being a “compasionate conservative”. There has always been a big government wing of the Republican party. Who the fuck do you think the Rockafellers were. We are now blaming 9-11 for medicare part D? It wasn’t the Republicans who went crazy after 9-11, it was you people.

              1. “Although they were already on their way…”

                Did you actually read the text of my post or are you off your meds today?

              2. 2000 W campaigned on “Humble foreign policy”, Social Security reform, NCLB, tax cuts and (if I recall correctly) a tax free internet.

                He didn’t campaign on warrantless wiretapping, multiple wars, expanded entitlements, feeling up people at airports, and generally shitting all over the Constitution.

                So what happened?

                1. Wiretapping had been going on clear through the 1990s. It is a Libertarian fantasy that the Patriot Act changed FISA that signifcantly. And DOJ has been out of control under administrations of both parties. And yes, he campaigned against nation building. You can blame Afghanistan and Iraq on 9-11. And you can blame the TSA idiocy on 9-11. But the rest of it is nothing more than a continuation of trends that were already there. And Balko, someone who covers law enforcement, should know that.

                  1. Okay so aside from a brand new internal and intrusive security apparatus, an dramatic escalation of law enforcement powers, two large ongoing wars without established goals, and a broadly defined “War on Terror” (which appears to me to be institutionalized and permanent, like the War on Drugs), nothing much changed from the trend. Got it.

        3. You’re right, John. All the ingredients were there, 9/11 was just a catalyst to start the reaction.

          Congress couldn’t have possibly drafted the 342-page PATRIOT Act from scratch between 9/11 and 10/26/2001. It was clearly a compilation of fascist wish lists already circulated among the ruling elite.

          1. “”It was clearly a compilation of fascist wish lists already circulated among the ruling elite.””

            That was either unsuccesful, or too radical to get passed prior to 9/11.

        4. “”It is just a culmination of where we were headed anyway.””

          Except that no one in governemnt was will to give such broad authority to government. The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act was a wish list of things that could never get passed before. It took 9/11 to make that happen.

      1. Points off for using Bing.

        Ludacris: Saturday.

        1. Points off for using Bing.

          *hangs head in shame*

    2. OK. John…. I was gonna tell you to fuck off. But the more I think about it, I think you are right. It is true that this country has been heading towards the authoritarian abyss for awhile.

      But OBL was certainly a catalyst that help forward our eventual totalitariansim. You can quibble all the fuck you want, though, about what a win means, but OBL has won, hands down.

      I mean come on, it is now acceptable to molest child for the sake of security theater.

      Oh, and Ruby Ridge. The system sort of worked. When they took that dude to trial for Ruby Ridge I do believe he was acxquitted of the felonies.

      1. But they still murdered his wife and got away with it.

    3. “Set out to become king of Saudi Arabia”

      You lost most of your credibility there, son.

      Bin Laden’s immediate goals were to inspire muslims worldwide to take up jihad and draw the United States into the Middle East. He never expected to live to see the destruction of Israel, or the Sauds, etc. And he would never have wanted to be “king” of shit

      1. No Junior, he didn’t expect the US to be drawn into the middle east. He expected it to be drawn away. He took the lesson of us leaving Somalia to mean that if he killed enough Americans, America would go home and he would be able have the revolution he wanted in the middle east.

        So slick, you need to brush up on your history and stop reading the daily kos version.

        1. You need to stop reading the version of history where Osama just wanted to become king of Saudi Arabia, and where he “underestimated” the United States.

          That’s a fantasy dreamed up by gov’t officials to pat themselves on the back for the bungled invasion of Afghanistan. “Boy, we sure showed them how tough we are.” Bullshit.

  19. The sad thing is now I have to like Michael Moore…or at least hate him less.

    According to Drudge Moore is saying Osama won….but the link is down so i cannot confirm.

    1. Moore is just as big of a moron as I thought he was. You can’t say “Osama won”. Won what? A bullet through his head? To say that implies that Bin Ladin was obsessed with transforming the US into something he never would have wanted in the first place. No. He wanted the US out of the Middle East and he wanted to start an Islamic revolution, first to overthrow the Saudi Royal family and then later to unit the middle east under one islamic caliphate. It is pretty hard to see how he won or how he was sitting in his compounding thinking “they have the TSA now, my mission is complete”.

      1. Considering Egypt, Syria, Yemen, etc, any reason to assume the House of Saud isnt going to be overthrown?

        1. Those revolutions are not exactly happening because of Bin Ladin.

          1. Duh. But any revolutionary worth his salt would claim them anyway.

            Causality is tricky, always use it to your advantage.

            1. Werent you one of the people worried that the Islamic Brotherhood would take over in Egypt? I think bin Laden would take that as a victory, even if they had very little to do with the revolution.

              1. Even if what you are saying is true, he “won” because of the Muslim brotherhood not because we created the TSA and passed the Patriot Act. One has nothing to do with the other. There are few memes more idiotic than the whole “we have done X, therefore the terrorists have won.”

                1. The war isn’t over, so no one has won yet. But Bin Laden didn’t expect to live long enough to see his long-term goals accomplished.

  20. I’m not feeling the tigerblood, but I get your point about what we’ve done to ourselves.

  21. Ben Franklin said it best, during another era of turmoil on the North American Continent: “They that would give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Osama Bin Ladin did not do this to us, we did it to ourselves.

    Was his fate justified, yes. Not a iota of doubt or remorse. Could we, as a nation, have done better regarding abandonment of core principles of the foundation of the Republic? Yes. Not an iota of doubt or remorse.

  22. Picky, picky, picky.

  23. “But because of the actions of one guy, we allowed all the bullet points above to happen.”

    There is a flaw here. Think harder.

  24. The naivite of that list is startling… With few exceptions, there is nothing on there that constitutes a “change”.

    1. “With few exceptions” being everything on the list?

  25. I’m well aware that OBL is a mass murderer and deserves no pity, but is anyone besides me a bit disturbed by the level of bloodlust coming from so many people? I’d compare this to a murderer being executed here in America. I’m glad the person won’t be killing again, but his death in and of itself brings me no joy.

    1. The frequent references to pissing on the corpse etc are a bit jarring. We’re supposed to be better than them.

      1. Sorry. We meant to write “urinating.”

    2. I dont mind him being dead, but does anyone else wish he had been captured, brought to the US, tried then executed or just me?

      1. The political theater involved in such an event would have surely pushed me and countless others over the edge.

        1. True, but still the right way to do things.

      2. Nope. Summary execution of brigands operating against the State but beyond its borders is legal as church on sunday. Unless they’re seaborne. Then you’re supposed to gibbet them below the high tide line.

        1. I didnt say it was illegal, it just wasnt my preference.

          It was a clear choice #2 however.

      3. This would have been my preference.

        But considering that even al qaeda underlings can’t get a fair trail, I shudder to think of the bullshit we would have been treated to if they brought bin Laden in alive.

    3. Americans have had insatiable bloodlust since the WTC thing. I know because I used to have it too. Now that a Democrat is in office and the Anti-war movement has fizzled out, even Team Blue gets to share in the glory of the kill.

      This country will collectively shit itself if another coordinated terrorist attack occurs.

    4. I had that exact thought first thing this morning as I was hearing the reports of people partying in the streets. I’m glad the dude is gone, but it does seem unseemly to be celebrating so heartily over the fact that our military forces blew a guy’s head off.

      Remember that the terrorist sympathizers danced in the streets when the WTC towers fell.

      1. Fuck them. they are vermin. I wanted Bin Ladin dead. I want that carpet licking motherfucking doctor from Egypt dead. I want that American dead. I want them all dead. I don’t want these creatures breathing my air. I don’t care if we bankrupt the country and have to borrow every last buck from the Chinese, I want them and everyone who thinks like them dead. And I will happily piss on every one of their graves. If killing every one of those vermin sends America to the dustbin of history, well history can just say thank you for the service. Anytime one of those creatures dies, it is a great day.

        1. “Go ‘way! Batin!”

        2. I really don’t see how killing anyone can make a day great. Sorry, revenge is not a good thing. We’re supposed to be the good guys.

          I think you are perfectly justified in wanting such people dead. But not in being gleeful that they are (I don’t know that that is the case for you, but some people do seem downright gleeful).

        3. Are you being serious? You’d sacrifice your country and liberty to kill some ragheads?

        4. Thank you for showing us exactly how they think as well! Just the subjects are different.

    5. “I’d compare this to a murderer being executed here in America.” You really don’t see how this is different?

  26. One to add to the list.

    The current president claims the power to hold indefinately someone found not guilty in a court of law.

    1. Hey rob. Enjoy your crow:
      “Weather records go back to 1680. Since then there has been only one other date in U.S. history on which more people died during a tornado. On March 18, 1925, a severe storm system swept across seven states killing 747 people, according to the National Weather Service”


      1. I would have just ignored it if you hadn’t been such an a** insisting you were right and that the storms you witnessed were the worst ever.

        Maybe it’s safe to sometimes admit that you shouldn’t make judgements and condem something until all the information is known?

        1. No, I was insisting this was nothing new and not a global whatevering incident.

      2. Which proves my point. It still hasnt topped the past.

        Basically, we had a 40 year storm. 1925, 1974, 2011. Been there done that. All roughly the same.

        Same as it ever was.

        1. Also:

          The weather service has so far recorded 11 tornadoes with EF3 ratings or higher that struck central and north Alabama on Wednesday.

          Doesnt mention other states, but 1974 had 64 of F3 thru F5.

  27. People People. I believe that Bin Laden was a petty and evil person. But do not forget, Bin Laden is was a symptom/sounding board for problems with America. Our Government, since the abandonment of the Article of Confederation, has frequently become what it has sworn to abolish.

  28. Did anyone see the celebrations in the street and think that seemed somewhat familiar to the celebrations in the street of some middle eastern countries about 9.6 years back?
    Those uncivilized heathens!
    I’d say a pause for reflection was probably a more appropriate response.

    1. Indeed. What do you call Blowback that results from Blowback that results from Blowback?

        1. Good. I like it. BTW, Chuck is one of the few shows on TV I bother watching today.

          That and Dr. Who.

      1. 2countries1cup?

        1. I think both of the above describe the situation pretty well

    2. It reminded me of Arabs handing out candy but I appreciated the solemnity of the bagpipes at Ground Zero

    3. ^THIS^

      1. Damn it, that was NOT to rather, that was to Doc S.

    4. Did anyone see the celebrations in the street and think that seemed somewhat familiar to the celebrations in the street of some middle eastern countries about 9.6 years back?

      Sure, but then I reminded myself that those celebrations in some middle eastern countries were over the deaths of three thousand, relatively innocent people rather than the death of one particularly guitlty-as-hell individual.

  29. Osama Wo is a bogus title. It isnt true (as pointed out by many).

    However, America Lost, would have been accurate.

    I think this is a classic lose-lose.

  30. What does Ron Paul have to say about this?

    1. Max,

      I have not heard any statement from him YET. But if you keep your eye on http://dailypaul.com/ you will probably hear one when and if he makes one.



    2. so?ci?o?path
      ? ??so? si ??p??,?so? ?i-Show Spelled[soh-see-uh-path, soh-shee-] Show IPA
      ?noun Psychiatry .
      a person, as a psychopathic personality, whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

  31. In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.

    We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.

    Come on, Balko, get on point. It’s okay to roundly abuse the rights of brown people when you’re the US government.

  32. whoever is playing @GhostOsama on twitter is hilarious.

    1. It is comedy gold.

  33. Well, it’s safe to say this is the last thing Osama ever won, while Obama could go on to win a second term as president.

    I think I’d rather be the latter guy.

    1. Pssst…he’s married to Michelle…

      1. Ah. The proverbial fate worse than death.

  34. Here’s even more ammo for you Reason:

    “In the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, the Chicago Bulls will use metal detectors to screen all patrons entering the United Center before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

    The NBA issued the mandate for the conference semifinals and all subsequent playoff games.”


    Better get there early, now along with your free t shirt you get a complimentary pat down!

    1. Of course that is a private company not the government. And yeah, people are nuts. But they are nuts in general. This is the same society that makes every kid wear a bike helmet and is convinced that if they let their 10 year old go unsupervised for 10 minutes they will be molested by a stranger. You guys are missing the forest for the trees.

      1. agreed, I just thought it was funny that I stumbled across it right after reading this article.

        The terrorists have won!! Won’t someone think of the children!?!

  35. Before all this we were a pretty nice country, except for the New Deal, the minimum wage, .Child labor laws, income tax, Social Security and Medicare. At least we didn’t go around killing people.

    1. You know, there actually is a connection. Both our current foreign policy and domestic policy have their origins in progressivism.


  36. “The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are implicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.”

    You mean complicit, don’t you?

  37. I totally agree with everything on this list, except:
    “American Muslims, a heartening story of success and assimilation, are now harassed and denigrated for merely trying to build houses of worship.

    This isn’t action by any branch of the federal government. All the others are.

    In a free society, people have the right to express their opinions (even stupid ones such as the ground zero mosque) and hate people for any reason whatsoever (even stupid religious ones). As a matter of fact, I hate those people. Glad I’m allowed to say it.

    1. The Muslim community around where I live are pretty well assimilated and I don’t think they get much trouble.

    2. Trying to build a house of worship two blocks up the street from where muslim fanatics killed 3000 people. Radley does good work when it comes to law enforcment. But God is a cosmotarian idiot when it comes to anything else.

      1. Yeah, very few people are actually arguing they don’t have a right to build there. It’s just astoundingly bad taste to some.

        1. No shit. If they had agreed to build the thing accross the east river, the protestors probably would have taken up a collection to build the damn thing for them.

        2. Oh, bullshit.

          The people asking various NYC boards to stop the construction were absolutely arguing that they didn’t have a right to build there.

          Maybe people around HERE who opposed the mosque [like John, for example] always inserted the SLD while doing so, but that is a tiny minority of the people who opposed the mosque. The vast majority of mosque opponents would have been perfectly happy to employ some trick of the New York land use control process to stop the project.

      2. “”Cosmotarian’ is a word I use as a shortcut to making an actual argument. I hates them. Hatesssssss.”

        1. Spoken like a cosmotarian. If the shoe fits…

  38. I have mixed emotions about all this. I’m glad the rat’s dead. I’m also not that creeped out by people showing they’re happy too. But I have zero confidence the cycle of violence will end soon, which I’m afraid probably distinguished me from the people who gathered in D.C. and N.Y.C.

  39. Bin Laden didn’t win much of anything, except that he got a PR lift by hitting the U.S. I’m firmly convinced that he expected the U.S. to wimp out after 9/11, not invade and conquer two Islamic nations. Whether we agree with what happened, it’s hard to say that 9/11 was truly good for his cause. Something that convinced the U.S. to bow out would’ve been better, right?

    1. No, he expected and planned for a large-scale response. Who has “convinced” you otherwise?

      1. What, he said so after the fact? Do you see any problems with that sort of claim?

      2. Well, the Arab world didn’t exactly rise up in revolt and declare a caliphate, did it?

  40. One other thing: The more authoritarian and less civil liberties-oriented U.S. cannot have been a planned result. If the U.S. becomes more imperial and less concerned with human rights, aren’t we more likely to actually engage in wars of conquest and, perhaps, even get into things like ethnic cleansing? A more liberal and less militaristic U.S. is a much better result for them (that it is a much better result for us, too, is beside the point).

    1. Exactly Pro. It defies logic to think that Bin Ladin had some kind of plan to make the US into a more imperial authoritarian state and that he would have thought doing so would have been in any way to his advantage.

      The whole thing shows how amazingly self absorbed Americans are. We just can’t accept that maybe someone in the world does something for reasons that don’t directly involve transforming the US.

      1. I have to agree. He–and the rest of his fellow travelers–want(ed) us out of the region. I doubt they give a rat’s ass what we do if we’re not bothering them.

      2. It doesn’t have anything to do with narcissicm, it is more like: “Whatch me make fun of the retarded kid and make him cry. He teased us, and right on cue, we started crying.”

      3. It doesn’t defy logic to anyone familiar with the history of the Algerian terror campaigns, where the specific and premeditated intention was to provoke the French into reprisals that would alienate neutral Algerians.

        “If I can provoke them badly enough, they will commit grounds troops to the Middle East, and then I will have 100 times as many followers and lots of targets,” is not a complicated thought and in terrorism circles not an original one.

        I think he would have taken either outcome – withdrawal, or enraged re-commitment – as a success.

  41. In lieu of flowers, I have decided not to use Osama targets anymore. Kudos to the guy who got him in the bean.

    I must say that I was happy to see him dead, in the way I like to see all pieces of shit die. But, I am somewhat disturbed with people dancing in the streets like we won a war or something.

  42. “He forever changed who we are as a country, and for the worse. Mostly because we let him. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.”

    I don’t think he changed who we are as a country, but I think he exposed us for who we are.

    Forever is too far in the future to predict who we’ll all be and how much influence Osama bin Laden will have had on us.

    Osama bin Laden didn’t change anything about me. I never condoned torture. I opposed the War in Iraq. I vocally opposed both the Patriot Act and the erosion of our civil liberties every inch of the way–despite Osama bin Laden. I attended local mosques, and I counted Arabs and Muslims among my friends.

    Maybe some of the rest of you made yourselves victims? I don’t know. The country will forever be who it wants to be–but Osama bin Laden had no influence on me.

    1. But you are sane and rational. Most Americans are fucking idiots. And you can, and he did, convince a lot of idiots to dance almost like a fucking puppeteer.

  43. This article is full retard — a shame, since Balko’s probably my favorite journalist on Reason, and perhaps anywhere. Bin Laden didn’t give a shit how free or unfree we are: he just wanted the US to get out of the Middle East and to set up a Caliphate. Al Qaeda is farther away from accomplishing that goal than it was 10 years ago. How the fuck is that a “win” for him?

    I don’t agree with our policies on the GWoT, but “the turrists have won” is fucking overplayed and retarded as a meme — yes, even when libertarians use it.

    1. Bin Laden didn’t give a shit how free or unfree we are

      “Your security is not in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaida. Your security is in your own hands.”


    2. “And he moved the tyranny and suppression of freedom to his own country, and they called it the Patriot Act under the disguise of fighting terrorism.”

  44. He’s dead….we aren’t. Scoreboard.

    1. Keep that in mind when the TSA asks you to step into the machine.

  45. “I don’t think he changed who we are as a country, but I think he exposed us for who we are.”

    Oh, and if we’re gonna talk about the ugliness he exposed in us, we should talk about the good things he exposed in our national character too if we’re honest.

    One thing that sticks out in my mind? We don’t do internment camps any more. We imprisoned more than 100,000 civilians during World War II, many of them American citizens, simply for being of Japanese ancestry.

    We could have done that, but we didn’t.

    Another thing that sticks out: we don’t do conscription anymore.

    I think Osama bin Laden exposed us for that too. We’re a nation that doesn’t do internment camps for civilians like we used to do–even when we’re scared out of our wits. And despite military engagements all over the world, we’re a nation that doesn’t do conscription anymore either.

    Osama bin Laden exposed some good things about us too, and I don’t think that was an exhaustive list either.

    1. when the “good things about us” are we imprisoned a few hundred odd citizen civilians (there’s probably more than those at gitmo) instead of a few hundred thousand odd civilians, forgive me if it doesn’t seem all that heartening.

      You know, FDR didn’t imprison the Japanese in Hawaii (which is why my family didn’t directly experience the the internment camps), so, he wasn’t all that bad.

      1. I didn’t say we were perfect.

        But the perceived threat of our fellow Arab and Muslim Americans in days after 9/11 and the anthrax attacks was much greater than the perceived threat of Japanese Americans during World War II.

        The fact that we didn’t round up Muslim-American men, women and children by the hundreds of thousands like we did to Japanese-Americans during World War II is indicative of exactly what it’s indicative of.

        We’ve done worse in the past. We did better this time.

        “You know, FDR didn’t imprison the Japanese in Hawaii (which is why my family didn’t directly experience the the internment camps), so, he wasn’t all that bad.”

        Did you see up top where I chastised my fellow Americans for making themselves victims of bin Laden by supporting things like torture?

        I didn’t say we were perfect. …but pointing out areas were we performed better than we have in the past isn’t being dishonest or moving the goal posts around either.

        The suggestion that no improvements were made over what we’ve done in the past in any area–is not an honest assessment.

        It’s just plain inaccurate. I think George W. Bush was a disgraceful president, in no small part for the civil rights violations he perpetrated against foreign fighters and American civilians alike.

        But I think the reason he didn’t go even farther than he did had nothing to do with the goodness in his heart. I think his main limitations were what the American people were willing to accept.

        If I’ve got that right, then that means the American people find internment camps unacceptable. If that’s the truth, then the War on Terror exposed that truth. If that’s true, then it is what it is.

        1. Well isn’t that special. We are not 100% assholes. Just high-grade assholes that have been pussified to the nth degree.

          1. Just for the record, you know it was black/white thinking like that which got us into most of the mistakes we’ve made over the last ten years?

            It’s okay to void the rights of terrorists–because they’re terrorists?

            …suggesting that everybody that isn’t pure in heart is an “asshole”?

            Looks like the other side of the same coin to me.

            The world’s full of colors between black and white. 9/11 didn’t change that. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo didn’t change that either.

    2. Another thing that sticks out: we don’t do conscription anymore.

      Only because the powers-that-be haven’t thought it politically expedient to do so. You can take as gospel truth that it isn’t out of adherrence to any principles of liberty. Selective Service is still there anytime they should so desire to use it.

  46. That isn’t something a special ops team can fix.

    Oh, ye of little faith.

  47. Wile I’m gratified that Obama is gone, it’s the equivalent of killing one cancer cell in a tumor. Now if Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, etc., etc. were glowing in the dark we could say mission accomplished.

  48. Balko: He also wanted to break the US economically, and that still may happen.

  49. What’s creepy about people being happy over Osama being dead? People were happy after Japan lost the war, nobody cared about the thousands that died in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, in fact, the A-bomb probably saved a million of our troops from dying there.

    So yes, let us be happy Osama is dead, and let us hope the Arabs think twice about f-cking with us now.

    1. It’s creepy because (aside from the inherent creepiness of celebrating anyone’s death) the war is not over, no lives have been saved by this action and nothing will really change. You can’t compare this to the end of a war.

    2. Yes, and that was also creepy. Much moreso than celebrating Osama’s death.

      Yeah. The Arabs will hopefully stop fucking with us. Will we stop fucking with them? (Hint: no.)

  50. However much the Bush administration played into bin Laden’s recruitment strategy, the fact is that there is a reformation going on in the Middle East, one that thankfully seems to be rejecting nihilistic extremism as a means–since bin Laden never offered any ends.

    Yeah it sucks hard that the Bushies created more terrorists than bin Laden could ever have hoped for and got more American needlessly killed than bin Laden ever did. That’s why it’s good the American people defeated their ilk in 2008. Let’s hope they stay gone.

    1. “That’s why it’s good the American people defeated their ilk in 2008.”

      No, they didn’t. Obama is just as much of a warmongering progressive as Bush was. We need to defeat the Warmongering progressives in 2012 if this country has any hope of survival.

    2. That’s why it’s good the American people defeated their ilk in 2008. Let’s hope they stay gone.

      Yeah, thank God team Obama reversed all of those horrible Bush policies, wait, what?

      1. WTF,

        Tony is displaying the kind of derangement that partisanship results in.

  51. As always, Balko has probably the most well written and well thought out summary of the subject. Kudos to you, Radley.

  52. Every silver lining has a cloud.

  53. Ken Schultz is making a variant of a point that John occasionally makes:

    That during war time the pendulum swings towards authoritarianism, and that we should just hope that it doesn’t swing too far, and be happy when it swings less far than it has in the past.

    And all of that is very true.

    The people swinging the pendulum are still dicks, though. No matter how many assurances you give me that one day it will swing back. And even if they swing it less far than, say, FDR did.

    1. “The people swinging the pendulum are still dicks, though. No matter how many assurances you give me that one day it will swing back. And even if they swing it less far than, say, FDR did.”

      To be a little more precise, I think there’s a difference between the people and the George Bushes and FDRs.

      The George Bushes and the FDRs will swing that pendulum as hard as they can–and that will never change. Next time we feel like we’re under siege, whoever is the commander in chief at the time will do everything he can get away with…

      The real limit to what he or she can get away with though is what the people will tolerate. George Bush didn’t refrain from rounding up Muslim American men, women and children out of the goodness of his heart. …and I don’t think George Bush ever let a law get in the way of what he wanted to do if he thought he could get away with it in the name of fighting terrorism.

      The only really substantive restraint on the executive’s power in a time like that is what the American people will put up with. …and I think it’s we, the loyal opposition, that make the difference there.

      So, what I’m saying isn’t that the executive learns from the mistakes of the past–it’s we the people that learn.

      Opposition to the Iraq War was fierce enough as it was–very little of that opposition came from the Democrats during the reign of Bush the Lesser. They rubber stamped just about everything he did.

      Imagine what opposition to the Iraq War would have been like if we’d had conscription or internment camps. The American people learn from our past mistakes–the politicians and the government I’m not so sure about. But it’s public opinion that makes the real difference.

      Divided government goes out the window when we’re scared. The rule of law often goes out the window too. All we’re left with is the loyal opposition and what the people on the margins will put up with before they join the loyal opposition.

      Color me optimistic that we the people have learned something from all this. …even if it’s that we never have another Abu Ghraib, let it be something.

  54. I agree with Radley. While I understand John’s “we-were-turning-in-assholes-anyway” excuse, it is still just an excuse. The only paradigm that this country can use to solve any problem is to declare war on it.

    OBL changed the USA more than the USA has changed Islamic fundamentalism. These guys are playing like fucking puppeteers. Just drop a piece of paper in front of the CIA and watch them scurry like a bunch of upset ants. Fucking pathetic.

  55. I have been thinking about this. Here is how we have changed as a country. In the past we would face an emergency, usually but not always a war, and would enact emergency measures. Some of those measures would be rational, some would go to far and some it would be hard to tell which they were. But at some point afterwards the emergency would end and we would reverse those measures and return to some form of normalcy. Reconstruction didn’t last forever. Prohibition was repealed. The Alien and Sedition Acts were repealed. The Japanese were released from internment. Wartime rationing ended.

    How we have changed as a country is that at some point in the 1950s or 60s we lost the ability to ever reduce government. The measures taken after 9-11 were not out of proportion to the emergency. We had just lost 3000 people. We didn’t know if there would be another attack or how powerful our enemies really were. The measures taken were no more and in fact less extreme than measures taken in past emergencies. The Patriot Act is not Japense internment or reconstruction. What is different and is extreme is that we are now ten years on from the event, there hasn’t been any more 9-11s, we have greatly damaged Al Quada, killed or captured most of those responsible, but none of these measures have been repealled.

    We have lost the ability to rethink or shrink government. That is the difference between now and the past. Once we have an emergency, we react and the measures stay in place forever. And it is not just terror and civil defense. It is everything. We still have a rural electrification bureau for God’s sake. Government never gets smaller. And as a result it has become a collection of extreme measures taken in response to often, false, solved or forgotten crisis of the past.

    That is why we are losing our liberty not 9-11. 9-11 was just another in a line of emergencies that we have lost the ability to rethink our responses to after they are over.

    1. That doesn’t sound like change to me. It sounds like me that you are saying that we react predictably stupid and/or authoritarian.

      1. Sometimes you do need to respond to emergencies. The difference is that in the past those emergencies ended and things went back to normal. Now, things never got back to normal. The emergency becomes the new normal.

        1. “”The emergency becomes the new normal.”‘

          The emergency is the new normal, and wouldn’t be so without the general mindset after 9/11.

          Even the new terror alert status that suppose to replace the color codes doesn’t have a “all normal” setting.

          1. That mindset existed long before 9-11. Name a single government program or restriction on liberty that was ended or lifted between the years 1965 and 2001. I can’t think of one, can you?

            1. I’m not talking about ending or lifting restrictions. I’m talking about allowing their creation via law. We would not have allowed virtual strip searches at the airport if not for 9/11. Sure it could have been a different event, but it wasn’t.

          2. I thought of one. Home brewing of beer. Woo hoo.

            1. Deregulating railroads and airlines, maybe (at a state level) the allowance of widespread CHLs. But you’re right, it’s a very short list.

              God help us if one of the places we’re dropping high explosives on, ever gets its shit together enough to conduct a real terrorist campaign here.

    2. “”What is different and is extreme is that we are now ten years on from the event, there hasn’t been any more 9-11s, we have greatly damaged Al Quada, killed or captured most of those responsible, but none of these measures have been repealled.””

      And that’s a huge difference. Few will care as long as we are at war with terror. The next AQ boogieman will make his debut soon.

      Keep fearing, it’s important for the government’s justification.

      1. Yes it is. It is as if instead of releasing the Japanese internees we decided that we really ought to lock up the Mexicans to.

  56. That during war time the pendulum swings towards authoritarianism, and that we should just hope that it doesn’t swing too far, and be happy when it swings less far than it has in the past.

    I think this line of reasoning was why I was tempted to yell a big “fuck you.” I’ve being hearing this line of reasoning for twenty fucking years when people were berating the Rhenquist Court. Yeah, it is a pendulum and it swings back and forth. Well WHEN God Damn it?

    Molesting 13 year olds for advil. Molesting 6 year olds for security theatre. If just somewhere, the courts would draw a line (and they didn’t in the AZ case, that case was won on its facts) then I might have some faith in this Republic.

    1. At some point around 1965 the pendulum stopped swinging. Government has never gotten smaller in any way in my life time. Reagan tried. He wanted to and campaigned on it. But once he got in office the system ate him alive and we ended up with a bigger government at the end of 8 years. At best a politician slows the growth of government and governmental power. None of them ever stop it much less reverse it.

      1. So we can get rid of the stupid pendulum metephor?

        1. The pendulum ran over us.

          1. Perhaps the pendulum is us. Us running to and away from daddy government.

        2. You’d prefer the run-away locomotive that the Feds have become as the metaphor?

  57. I’d also argue that the treatment of someone like Bradley Manning wouldn’t have been tolerated before September 11.

    We tolerated it to (admittedly convicted) SuperMax held prisoners before September 11.

    Extraordinary rendition existed during the Clinton-Gore presidency.

    1. So did targeted killing. Clinton tried to kill Bin Ladin after the African embassy bombings.

    2. And gee didn’t people spend the entire cold war bitching about how the CIA conducted political assasinations? But now drone strikes represent some fundemental change in American policy?

      1. But now drone strikes represent some fundemental change in American policy?

        No. But now we can shoot and maim with the bravery of being out of range.

        1. “”No. But now we can shoot and maim with the bravery of being out of range.””

          Of course nothing says bravery out of range like an ICBM.

    3. “”Extraordinary rendition existed during the Clinton-Gore presidency.””

      And whom did Clinton rendition? A friggin Mexican drug lord. Not even a national defense issue.

  58. The reasoning Randy Balko used is flawed in so many ways. To say the Osama planned all of this is like the guy who just got his butt kicked saying “Did you see the way I hit his fist with my face?”

    The Islamic Fascists have been at war with us for many more years than Osama was a key figure. It was 1983 when the radical Muslims killed our people in Lebanon.
    If you remember back to 1993 when a radical Muslim shot up the CIA employees while they sat at a traffic light in Virginia. If you remember it was the radical Muslims that fought the Russians in Afghanistan (unfortunately the inept Jimmy Carter caused our involvement in that problem and later fueled their hatred of America by not keeping his word). Think of the radical Islamic war lords in Somalia. It was Clinton that had 3 separate opportunities to get Osama and passed the buck. I could go on for ever.

    Then consider the radical Islamists declared war on Israel who have kicked their ass repeatedly and chased them back under the rocks they live under.

    Osama had nothing to do with our war with Iraq. It was Saddam’s support of terrorist’s throughout the region, his lack of response to all of the UN’s mandates and the WMD’s that all ? I repeat all ? of the world thought he had ? including Saddam himself.

    The problem with the radical Muslims is that the peace loving Muslims (I say that tongue in cheek) refuse to stand up to the bastards. The problem with America is the blame America first morons. America along with our allies, have freed many tens of millions of people living in tyranny in Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan. These blame America idiots would say that is a bad thing.

    Radical Muslims have killed more Muslims than any on else. That sounds like a good plan that Osama came up with???

    Wake up America ? they are definitely at war with us ? are we at war with them???

    1. the problem with america is the “america can never do wrong” morons. I love America, or at least the idea of America that once was (even if it never came to full fruition). At least we could be stemming the tide, but no we’re descending into exactly the shit that the framers wanted us to never become. So, Fuck America. I’ll blame it first, because it deserves it, and I’ll keep blaming it first until we get our shit together and rebuild a country based on ideas that are worth fighting for.

  59. As soon as the patriot act was voted in and the TSA embraced Osama took away some of what was great in this country.


  60. Was this assassination legal? US troops on Pakistani soil killing a guy without trial at the whim of the despot in chief?

    And the crowds erupt in cheer.

    We lost one more thing to Osama, another little slice of the rule of law, and a further step toward absolute power of our presidential office.

  61. I’m guessing Balko was just practicing for his new stint at Huffington Post.

    Hyperbolic bullshit is their forte.

    1. He’s been hoarding his “dead dog” stories for this eventuality. That, or they really are “isolated incidents.”

  62. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Balko, and I’ve been saying it for years!

  63. If only we could control how others choose to express their emotions.

  64. No one wins when neither side is playing the same game.

  65. In a greater sense, OBL failed miserably, though. His goal was never to change the United States, not really – that was just a means to an end. It is simply nothing more than egocentrism and American exceptionalism to believe that we were ever his true goal. The real end of his work was to create a radicalized, conservative global Islam (at which he failed), a general holy war against the West (at which he failed), and a global Caliphate (at which he failed).

    1. “He forever changed who we are as a country”

      Forever is a long time. The U.S. “changes” every minute of every day, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. For Balko to say OBL changed the U.S. for the worse, “forever,” is pessimistic and deterministic, not to mention clich?d.

  66. here’s hoping a whole bunch more terrorists experience the same victory as well.

  67. I completely disagree with the author and am offended that he honors OBL with such strategic thinking and planning. OBL did not win, we lost! The knuckleheads of this country voting for GWB and Ralph Nader set us up for this disaster (and you assholes who did not vote), then the neocons expertly took over while most sheople hide under sheets. The author lists OBL’s “accomplishments”, but every one was done by Americans to Americans or unlucky detainees. Self-inflicted.

  68. Hi. I’m a student in Britain, and I have some questions I hope you don’t mind me asking. I’m curious. From my slightly detached point, this article and debate takes on an entirely different light. Afghanistan has been’The Graveyard of Empires’ for four centuries – Soviet, British, Mughal. All of these imperia have been caught up in costly, pointless, damaging wars/black holes in the Afghan hills against a bunch of poorly armed guerillas, before shortly collapsing. For Afghans this record is something of a patriotic heritage.

    Thus by all accounts Osama Ben Laden is the most brilliant strategist for half a century. All the Caliphate blandishment is irrelevant: Bin Laden unleashed the Afghan Curse upon the Empire of the United States. Corrupt and irresponsible statesmen only compounded this with Iraq. As if that’s not enough, your bluff has been called. It turns out that America can’t win wars, and doesn’t know the first thing about occupying a territory (though nowadays we British are much worse, Sierra Leone aside).

    This American Empire I mentioned. I think its fairly reasonable to say that America’s network of bases, allies and dependent regimes constitute an Empire of sorts, an informal one. You have evolved past the need to rule territories. Perhaps informal empire isn’t the best term. America’s is the empire of the sky, the Empire of Thunder and Lightning, as the citizens of Baghdad and Belgrade in 1998 can attest to, equally the Kurdish and Southern Iraqis protected by the No-Fly Zone. The British had to draft in tribesmen to patrol the North-West Frontier (of modern-day Pakistan/Afghanistan); now you Americans employ Terminator-style robotic drones.

    So for this empire at its apogee to be bombed by its own planes! The US has never been the successful target of any bombing raid in its illustrious history. But for a stateless group to use US aircraft to bomb the heart of the Empire of Thunder and Lightning! With the massive casualties (and be glad there weren’t more), this is by far the gravest insult delivered to any sovereign state, let alone a superpower/hyperpower, in history.

    My questions to you (presumably) Americans: to what extent is the above apparent? or new? Is it visible in your national conscience? Are the above facts discussed or covered up as dirty neocon-imperialisms? if the answers to the first few questions were no, do you think it is reasonable to believe that Osama knew you better than you knew yourselves?
    From where I’m sitting you seem a bit self-obsessed: this is a pretext to protect your liberal conscience, worried at slight corruptions to your ideals and relegating casualties and costs to two sentences(whoops, nailed my colours to the mast. Don’t worry, we in Britain are more liberal-self-obsessed than you. I’m being disingenuous: clearly any well reasoned defense of personal liberties is welcome and beneficial, and your politicians would be the first to admit as much).

    If you’ve bothered to read this far I would be very interested to hear your views.

    1. Nicely rendered imagery aside, it is hardly true that “…The US has never been the successful target of any bombing raid in its illustrious history…”, for we need only to look as far back as the second war, which for the US started with a successful Japanese bombing raid against pearl harbour. This is neither the first nor the last such event, as various bombing attacks against US assets, military personnel and civilians both on home soil and abroad, have taken and will no doubt continue to take place.

      Being a student of history, you will doubtless recall reading about various and sundry terrorist acts ( death of Tzar Alexander ( bombing), the deaths of Archduke Ferdinand &his; wife ( grenade attack, gunshots) which happened to crowned heads of state. Surely these counted as a much more grievous insults to the nations involved, in one case directly precipitating a world war and partition of two empires ( and they were Real Empires in a way the US has never been).

      Horrible as the attacks of September 11th were, they did not kick off a worldwide conflagration nor ruin US/ European economies in a degree commensurate to the depression which followed the great war. Thus far it is personal liberty & privacy that have been big losers, but one may argue that even without the events of September 11th, these were fast disappearing commodities in our rapidly expanding global society.

      I am not entirely sure what you mean by “…to what extent is the above apparent?” Do you mean your notion of the american empire? Afghanistan’s historical status as the graveyard of empires? US’s supposed inability to win wars or occupy territories?

      Let’s deal with these one at a time.

      If there is an American empire, it is an incredibly clandestine one. True, the US has many foreign interests in defence of which it deploys and maintains troops outside of its own borders, but how is the US presence on Diego Garcia any different from the UK. presence there? Gibraltar? How is the presence of US warships in the Mediterranean substantially different than Russian warships in the gulf of Aden or the black sea?

      US aircraft patrol no fly zones imposed by the UN, whose no fly zones do the Greek and Turk aircraft enforce over the Aegean when they engage each other in dogfights?

      How is it that the E.U. member countries can maintain troops on the ground and aircraft in the air over former Yugoslavia or Libya without a simmilar outcry over european ‘Empire-ism’ ?

      Plainly, it is a difference in quantity and effectiveness, not difference of a kind. The US is no empire.Certainly no more than Greece, Italy or the UK.

      Afghanistan was known as the graveyard of empires, but it has never been the direct reason for the downfall of a western one. It took many years of conflict, mostly in Europe, to downgrade the British empire to a second rate power. It took the second world war to abolish it utterly. In neither case was Afghanistan involved in any significant fashion.

      As to supposed inability to win wars or occupy territory, this is really a sad commentary on the state of whatever education establishment you’re attending.

      US armed forces successfully conquered and occupied a third of Nazi Germany and all of Imperial Japan. Successfully kept western europe from being overrun by the soviets, put an end to Chinese-North Korean attempts at subjugating South Korea and through unparalleled nuclear brinkmanship, kept soviet ICBM’s out of Cuba, thereby avoiding a thermonuclear war. Today you may look to Iraq, where after a prodigious effort, the situation is stable enough to allow US forces to withdraw without risking a collapse of the Iraqi state, whose former criminal leader has been tried and punished by the Iraqis themselves… This is not insignificant. Also, it is nothing like your supposed ‘facts’, in that – like it or not – your very existence today is possible largely because the US prevailed in war and was able to hold & defend their former enemies’ and current allies territory without having to resort to open war. To me, A.N. European, that is a measure of their success in both winning the war and keeping peace.

      Reappraising your questions, some answers: If I understand your question correctly, Most Americans are aware of the fact that the attacks against the pentagon and the WTC were executed using commercial airliners. They are also aware ( possibly more acutely than either you or i) of the battlefield fortunes of their armed forces. Like the English, as described by Orwell: “…Their world-famed hypocrisy ? their double-faced attitude towards the Empire, for instance ? is bound up with this. Also, in moments of supreme crisis the whole nation can suddenly draw together and act upon a species of instinct, really a code of conduct which is understood by almost everyone, though never formulated.”

      You should realize that what you present as ‘facts’, putatively to be EITHER discussed OR covered up ( as though there were no other alternatives), are only ‘facts’ because you claim that status for them. What is the ‘factual’ status of your claims?

      While the 911 comission has pronounced on this subject, so did the Warren comission pronounce on the assasination of John F. Kennedy. In both cases there were reams of fact presented; despite or because of that, they are still discussed & debated ad infinitum. Add to that the various claims by birthers, truthers & associated faithful of every stripe, stir in a lashing or two of reason and scientific inquiry, ad a heaping ladle of religious and racist predjudice, garnish with pulpit thunder & you shall have a sample of what at least some of the 300 000 000 think and say about it.

      “[is it] … reasonable to believe that Osama knew you better than you knew yourselves?”
      Certainly its possible. Not very likely, but possible. I’m not an american, so perhaps my opinion is not representative, but assuming the man was clever ( and it does appear he was, for having convinced scores to blow themselves up in anticipation of defloweratory delight, he failed to perform the holly office of shahada himself) I could hardly credit a rational & insightfull man with purposefully choosing to be hunted and exterminated along with memebers of his immediate family. Had he an understanding of americans, or even a passable knowldege of their history, he’d have never kicked the sleeping giant.

      1. I am grateful for your comments, anonymous European. I happily plead guilty to historical licence, abused for the sake of brevity. Feel free to skip the next few paragraphs to the third to last paragraph, which briefly summarises my points. The rest is pedantic rebuttal.

        From the top. Whilst important, and perhaps it should not be overshadowed, there were other factors in the collapse of the Soviet Union than the war in Afghanistan: minority resentment of Russians, Chernobyl, Gorbachev’s desire for reform, an ossified state economy etc. The Mughals, originally of Afghanistan, fared the worst of all three empires. Their capital Delhi was razed by an Afghan army in the eighteenth century, though the empire had been in decline for decades (Marathas to the South, standard inertia, corruption and decline in central control symptomatic of failing empires). As for the British, the Third Anglo-Afghan war was started in the immediate aftermath of the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre, and the Afghan invasion force routed by the very same Brigadier-General Dyer. It was ended soon after, and in comparison with the Indian independence campaigns was of negligible interest. Equally we can discount the efforts of Abdul Gaffar Khan, the ‘Frontier Gandhi’ and most senior Afghan in the Indian National Congress, as not contributing greatly to the demise of Britain’s Empire. As A.N European rightly suggests, the costs and defeats of two wars, and the incompatibility of Outright Imperialism with long-term American foreign policy and Britain’s own doctrine of granting eventual self-determination, were the real causes of the collapse of the British Empire. It was not though mostly in Europe: the British won the First World War by their own efforts at least, costly though it was; neither nationalism throughout the empire nor the influence of America have anything to do with Europe, least of all the stunning Japanese victories of 1942. But Afghanistan was an irrelevancy for Britain. Nevertheless my point stands that this is how Afghans see themselves, and the Soviet occupation was defeated in living memory. On the points of rebuttal, the causing of the First World War is far from so clear cut. The European tinderbox was so dry it is surprising that it took so many sparks to light and that war did not start in 1913. Equally or more important factors than the ready-made casus belli include: the rise of pan-slavism, the alliance system fuelled by the Anglo-German naval arms race and the 1871 defeat of France, long standing central power imperial ambitions in the Balkans , German fears of being eclipsed by the rapid economic growth of Russia, the collapsing of the Turkish Empire, the view that it was perfectly civilised for nations to assert themselves in a Darwin-esque manner on the field of battle, etc. A.J.P. Taylor writes how the war was caused by train timetables: every nation had planned for mobilisation in such intricate detail that to step down from the brink would leave a nation vulnerable.)

        If you will allow me to reappraise my position and clarify details I foolishly skirted. First of all I forgot the word ‘mainland’ before U.S. – you are quite right to bring up Pearl Harbour; I don’t suppose I need mention the parallels here. Perhaps I should put ‘in modern history’: anarchist terrorists have, yes, assassinated a U.S. President as well as countless royals. Oh and there’s 1814. I wasn’t going to mention that in case it inflamed sensibilities.

        I think the main points of contention are the nature of the United States’s Empire/non-Empire, the performance of the United States military and the esoteric epistemological point on the nature of what I present as facts.

        On the first point I have not made myself clear, again for brevity. It is my most important point. The American Empire is in a sense clandestine, in that it doesn’t exist on a map, and is highly dependent upon local support and political goodwill. However, its diplomatic and economic influence is highly potent. It acts like an Empire, and did so before September 11. Like the British, it goes to lengths to impose its doctrines on others, though again usually with declared international support through the U.N. It is the Empire of Thunder and Lightning in the same way that Britain Ruled the Waves. It came of age in the skies over the burning cities of Tokyo and Dresden, whereas the British dominance of the seas dates from Aboukir Bay and Trafalgar. The British imposed blockades and bombarded Algiers to end the slave trade. The Americans bombed Belgrade to force the Serbians from Kosovo, and equally impose sanctions, again more multilaterally than the British.

        With its blurred boundaries I don’t see why European states such as Britain can’t join in America’s informal empire, the two countries having such close ties. Equally, America doesn’t have a monopoly over informal empire: witness the French in North Africa, where garrisons of troops routinely intervene (such as recently in favour of Alassane Ouatarra), or the Russians in Abkhazia and North Ossettia. Perhaps there was a Rwandan and a Ugandan Empire in the Eastern Congo in the late 1990s. Again, here, and in France there are the liberal commentators quick to see Libya as motivated by oil. The outcry is muted, but then Iraq and Afghanistan are so much bigger. Prominent historian Niall Ferguson argues that this is no bad thing (with a distinct glee at angering liberals) – Sierra Leone is better off for having interventionist-minded statesmen like Tony Blair about. (Sorry for the tangent.)

        The second point on the effectiveness of recent American military adventures raises the less tactful question of ‘on what planet are you living?’. Having made the point that intervention is quite justifiable, saying that the way in which invasion and regime change was carried out was less competent than would be hoped is a minor criticism. Having removed Saddam Hussein and his apparatus, however desirable and right, the American Government lacked plans for re-establishing the country. This led to civil war, in the merciless environment of a Syria, Iran and Al-Qaeda all too happy to furnish weapons and support and embarrass America. I don’t deny any of America’s past successes, but it would seem as if it took a while for the current generation to live up their predecessors. On the other hand, Vietnam and Somalia. Maybe you could identify a trend in the nature of warfare: it is now much more difficult to follow up battlefield victory; conquered populations aren’t accepting their conquerors in the way that the British and the Americans in 1945 were.

        Thirdly, the views I have presented are a historical interpretation. They are how I think the facts fit together, though my interpretation may conflict completely with someone elses: such is the practice of history according to G. Elton, R. Graves and E. Hobsbawm. An interpretation can’t change facts. An interpretation that accords weakly with the facts is itself weak. The claim of the previous post in fact repeats the argument made by E.H. Carr, that the historian elevates events that have taken place to ‘facthood’, a notion met with scorn by much of the historical profession. ‘Facts’ happen, its a case of how they are interpreted. Historians supporting Carr, and taking his ideas further, backed down when asked the question ‘did the Holocaust take place?’. This is another tangent, but I hope a high-level and informative one. I believe that my interpretation, as I have elaborated it, takes adequately into account the past sixty years of American foreign policy. I may be missing pieces, or not accounted for events I’ve skipped over, in which case I welcome any correction.

        To surmise: I argue that the term ’empire’ in the sense of historical empires such as Britain is at least partly applicable to America today and since the Second World War 9to the extent that the Americans daren’t claim territories on a map). Like Britain’s was associated with the Sea, America’s is associated with the skies – the optimum of military teechnology, the unrivalled USAF and the floating-city-aircraft-carriers. It descends from the Heavens. It strikes at the hearts of its enemies: Baghdad in 1998 for threatening American security, Belgrade in 1999 for violating American-upheld beliefs.

        Thus 9/11 was the perfect humiliation. That it killed thousands of civilians rather than one figurehead only furthers its potency. Nations have invaded one another for much less.

        If I may finally clarify my inquiry. Fun as this is, there are history forums, and I appear to have been unwittingly bogged down in debate. I thank anyone who’s bothered to read my musings. The question I want to ask to members of the American nation is: what is your response to my claim that 9/11 was the perfect insult (in addition to the innocent casualties)? Do Americans think along this line? Should they?

  69. This is why the libertarians won’t win. You have the right ideas on money and the right ideas on liberty (in general) but saying that anyone in those savage and primitive nations deserves such things as trials or due process is absurd. They deserve to either stop using force against all people….. including their own women and children….. or die.

    1. Uh, Shayne, I have a little quibble with your antilibertarian remark.

      If not “ANYONE”, not even “women and children”, “in those savage and primitive nations deserves such things as trials or due process”, then why do you think that “[t]hey deserve to either stop using force against all people….. including their own women and children….. or [to] die”?

      After all, the “women and children”, according to you, aren’t entitled to justice, anyway. So, according to your code of ethics, there must be nothing seriously wrong with using force against them. You make a convenient assumption with which to grant to yourself or to your favorite soldiers a license to commit murder. And you are very confused.

      Say, you wouldn’t happen to identify yourself as a conservative, now would you?

  70. We have a lot of stupid national security policies, but being too discriminatory is not one of them. We should be so lucky.

  71. http://online.wsj.com/article/…..59524.html


    “Libertarians Against Joy

    What a sourpuss Reason’s Radley Balko is. “Osama Won” declares the headline of his post at the libertarian magazine’s website. He argues that the 9/11 attacks “fundamentally altered who we are,” a claim that has been a clich? for at least 9? years, and he gives a long list of particulars.

    Some of them we even agree with, such as airport-security overkill. But we notice two conspicuous omissions from Balko’s list: the death and destruction wrought by terrorist attacks themselves, and the legitimate fear of terrorism. It’s an example of how ideology can promote a blinkered worldview.

    This bit, though, is the worst part:

    There was something unsettling about watching giddy crowds bounce around beach balls and climb telephone polls last night, as if they were in the lawn seats at a rock festival. Solemn and somber appreciation that an evil man is gone seemed like the more appropriate reaction.

    What’s the point of having libertarians if they’re going to boss us around and tell us how we’re supposed to feel? Liberals do a more than adequate job of that.


  72. Osama did not win. Osama is dead and dead man tell no tales.

  73. United States is bankrupt. Like Rome, all empires must fall, it’s just really sad it’s happening in my generation. China is the new super power. All hail communist emperor of China.

  74. You people are ridiculous! All you damn liberals that do nothing but bitch and complain about our country…get the fuck out!!! The death of Osama has made a huge impact on terrorism, and no we cant just pull out because one man (Osama) is dead. Obama did not do anything besides watch this all go down. All thanks I have goes to the men and women who are fighting for our freedom to live in this amazing country! As far as TSA hey I’ll wait a little longer to feel safe. So basically in short, all liberals can go fuck themselves!!!!

    1. One of OBL’s accomplishment was the newly imposed expatriation tax, not to mention the imposition of US taxes on US nationals abroad. You can no longer just “Get the fuck out” of the US, it will follow you around.

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  78. It turns out Sylvester Stallone isn’t happy with President Obama’s decision to assassinate Osama bin Laden:

  79. Osama will go down in history as the greatest military leader of all time. Alexander had a kingdom. Hitler had a country and and army. Osama had nothing. Those two failed: Osama did precisely what he said he would: he drew the greatest power the world has ever seen into a war that may never end, that has led it to the brink of bankruptcy. And to top it off he publicly declared his intentions and his strategy ahead of time.

    Everything changed on 9/11- so say the Neocons- and who can doubt them- and we can never go back, they say- but if so, did Osama not do exactly what he said he would do?

    This man knew Americans far, far better than they knew themselves. The greatest General in history. Without question.

  80. Please link to news articles supporting these claims. I’m as inclined to believe this piece as anyone, but I would like to see sources.

  81. from the Christian Science Monitor:

    The ongoing study of files recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound revealed that he wanted to plan another 9/11-scale attack on the US, which he hoped would shock the US into ending its presence in the Middle East.

    Hey wait, haven’t we been hearing for years that bin Laden wanted the U.S. to increase its presence over there? We could have sworn we read just last week that “Osama bin Laden’s motivation . . . was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war–an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.”

    Where did we hear that again? Oh yeah, from Radley Balko at Reason, in an article titled “Osama Won” in which he also scolded Americans for celebrating bin Laden’s death instead of being “appropriate” and reacting with “solemn and somber appreciation.”

    All we can say is: Woo-hoo! Wrong again, Balko! U-S-A! U-S-A!

  82. Osama won? Hilarious! The author of this pablum reminds me of Charlie Sheen and “winning”. They are equally idiotic and ridiculous.

  83. It saddens me whenever a friend calls the rulers “we”.

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