The end of Osama bin Laden closes one ugly chapter, and let's make sure it does not open another one.
Bin Laden, the son of a Saudi construction magnate, was in part a U.S. creation, as the bipartisan federal 9/11 Commission pointed out in its official report.
In 1980s Afghanistan, the report said, bin Laden "generously helped fund the anti-Soviet jihad." Bin Laden, said the report, "understood" how "the continuation and eventual success of the jihad in Afghanistan" meant formation of a global network.
The report continues: "The international environment for bin Laden's efforts was ideal. Saudi Arabia and the United States supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation."
In the 1990s, bin Laden "enjoyed a strong financial position in Afghanistan, thanks to Saudi and other financiers" associated with the Persian Gulf states. Saudi Arabia and its fellow reactionary Gulf monarchies were and continue to be key U.S. allies.
As we know, bin Laden "went rogue" with a series of attacks on U.S. installations abroad, culminating in the horrifying apocalypse of Sept. 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives. Those scenes of unspeakable horror are engraved in the memories of everyone who was old enough to remember that day.
But 9/11 and Osama bin Laden became an excuse for two unilateral U.S. invasions and ensuing wars and military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq that have cost hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. In essence, it was a continuation, on steroids, of the Cold War policy that spawned bin Laden and al-Qaida in the first place: a policy of achieving U.S. superpower dominance by overwhelming military might.
Bin Laden was not captured or killed through these wars. He was killed by a U.S. covert military-intelligence operation in Pakistan. It remains to be seen what the impact will be on reducing terrorism in the region. In fact, al-Qaida and similar groups may be in decline, not due to U.S. militarism, but instead due to the mass democratic movements that have burst forth across North Africa and the Middle East - against the very regimes that the U.S. has aided and propped up for decades.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, composed of family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks, issued a brief statement today that draws an essential conclusion. They said:
"As we consider the killing of Osama Bin Laden, our thoughts turn not only to our family members who were killed on September 11th, but to all of the innocent people around the world who have died, and continue to die, as a result of the events of September 11th, 2001.
"It is our hope that the rule of law, underpinned by our Constitution that was so terribly strained in the name of September 11th will again become the guiding light of our policies at home and abroad. One person may have played a central role in the September 11th attacks, but all of us have a role to play in returning our world to a place of peace, hope and new possibilities. We hope that process will begin today."
We strongly agree.
Photo: A memorial for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, Sept. 15, 2001. (AP/Mark Lennihan)