On May 2nd, television cameras broadcast around the worldimages of jubilant crowds at ‘Ground Zero’ in New York, in front of the WhiteHouse and across the United States celebrating the killing of the figurativeleader of Al Qaeda in Abbottabad, Pakistan. While many Americans may view thedeath of Osama bin Laden as an emotionally cathartic ‘closing of the accounts’,the reality is far less clear.
With the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, bin Ladengoaded America into invading Afghanistan, where a decade on US marines stillwallow in a grinding game of attrition against an enemy they cannot seem tokill, all the while hemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’money daily. Riding on the coattails of the Afghan war, the Bush administrationinvaded Iraq, which provided Al Qaeda the platform it needed to ignite aninferno of sectarian hatred and killing, and recruit thousands of new adherentsto the anti-American jihad.
Besides the hundreds of thousands of casualties, projectionshave these wars adding trillions of dollars to America’s debt, which is rapidlyapproaching a ratio of 100 percent of GDP and threatening the US’s AAA creditrating.
That it took 10 years for US intelligence services tofinally find bin Laden is a mark of failure; his killing by US special forcesis hardly a final victory, given that his legacy — his impact upon America —will likely outlive those who hunted him down. Moreover, the US militarycommanders were lucky bin Laden did not meet an untimely end all on his own bysimply tripping over stairs, or from kidney failure, in the time he spentwaiting for them.
To say the world’s only superpower is suffering decline isno controversial statement, with the limits of its once vaunted militaryexposed and its status as the global economic engine quickly eroding.
America has always been looked to as the torchbearer offreedom and democracy in the world; if the US cannot get its house in order andreverse the slide it has found itself in since that fated September day 10years ago, it faces the real possibility that bin Laden, from whichever hell heis in, will be left the last one laughing.