When two American planes were hijacked by Islamic terrorists loyal to a former Soviet-Afghan war soldier named Osama bin Laden and crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and two other planes crashed into the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania respectively, our nation vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks. Little did we know it would take ten years, a trillion dollars in American treasure, and a few thousand lives of our bravest men and women in combat to bring the leader of this attack to final justice, not to mention the wholesale change to our way of life with the implementation of the Patriot Act, invasive screenings at our airports, and our phones and internet being monitored by law enforcement organizations in the hopes of finding any suspicious conversation that may label us as a potential terrorist. But now that Osama bin Laden is no longer among the living, what happens now?
After the attacks on 9/11, Americans banded together in a show of unity not seen since the end of World War II. The people were ready for leadership that would bring swift justice and make us a more perfect union. Instead, the leadership at that time, particularly then-President George W. Bush and the Republican party, exploited the tragedy to invade a nation which did not attack us on 9/11 and sent us into a military misadventure that cost thousands of American lives, not mention tens of thousands of lives of Iraqi citizens, and our moral standing in the world thanks to our use of torture against detainees, many of whom were innocent citizens. They also created an unnecessary sense of paranoia, accusing anyone who disagreed with their strategy as being unpatriotic or worse. This sense of paranoia and division continued even into the Obama administration, as many of those same Republicans, now uniting under the Tea Party banner, accused President Obama as being weak on terrorism or even calling him a terrorist sympathizer. But those ludicrous accusations were finally put to rest earlier this week when he ordered a successful military operation that took out Osama bin laden once and for all.
But now that Osama bin Laden is dead, what happens now?
When the 9/11 attacks happened, the United States was just emerging out of a recession created by the dotcom bubble. Nevertheless, the government had a budget surplus which would quickly be squandered. The economic circumstances today are much more dire, with 3 million people still unemployed and our financial and industrial industries struggling to pull themselves out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. And while many Americans are begging their government to create jobs, one party is ignoring those requests and is actively working on eliminating the social safety net in the name of deficit reduction, while at the same time giving even more tax breaks to the wealthiest citizens and corporations of this country, many of whom are outsourcing American jobs to cheaper wage countries like China, India and Mexico. In the meantime, many Americans have been screaming for our country to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan and end the wars there. We finally began pulling our troops out of Iraq last summer, but the pullback of troops of Afghanistan has been slow in coming due to the pursuit of Al Qaeda terrorists.
But now that we have eliminated Osama bin Laden, is it time to pull out of Afghanistan?
Many Americans believe so; in fact, many of them thought we should have exited Afghanistan a few years ago. And now that Osama is gone, there will be an even bigger cry to pull out our troops as soon as possible. And not without reason either; even though the Taliban is still active in that country, many see the ongoing war as a sectarian battle between tribal groups that we need not involve ourselves with. Sure, the Taliban may be the most brutal, sadistic group of people since the Stone Age, but they have little power to create any lasting threats to our nation.
And as for the argument of rebuilding Afghanistan into a functioning democracy, we are as likely to have as much success as the Soviet Union, the British Empire, the Ottoman empire, Genghis Khan, the Byzantine empire, and Alexander the Great before them. I'm pretty certain that even the Borg from the Star Trek TV series would have great difficulty assimilating the Afghan tribes.
Our main reason to go into Afghanistan was to take out Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. Al Qaeda has been marginalized over the past ten years thanks to the killing and capture of key operatives, but more importantly they have been marginalized by the very Muslim people they claimed to represent, who instead of joining the anti-American jihadist crusade have taken to the streets of their respective countries demanding more freedom and justice from their leaders. Now that Osama is dead, no one would fault us for declaring victory and going home.
And what about Gitmo? Is there really any reason for us to detain most of the Afghan and Arab soldiers stationed there any longer? Most of those being detained were just a bunch of conscripts forced into a battle by their Taliban and Al Qaeda overlords, and they are as much a threat to our nation as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. Sure, we can keep the most dangerous detainees in prisons here at home. And for those (mostly GOP) politicians who are freaking out at the prospect of jailing dangerous terrorists on American soil, we have detained several terrorists responsible for the original World Trade Center bombing in 1993 for a number of years without incident, not to mention a collection of the most dangerous serial killers, white supremacists, drug kingpins, and gangbangers the country has ever seen.
And while much of the right-wing opposition to President Obama was caught flat-footed at the demise of Osama bin Laden and have yet to create a coherent response, we shouldn't assume that President Obama or the Democrats have the 2012 election in the bag. While most of the pseudo-Tea Party candidates are busy doing their handiwork for people like the Koch brothers, some true Tea party candidates like Rand Paul could actually use the killing of Osama bin Laden against the President, in that they can argue that it is no longer necessary to have our troops stationed in Afghanistan both for financial and geopolitical reasons. While this scenario is unlikely, it is possible, particularly if the economy hasn't recovered enough by the 2012 elections.
While there will always be threats to our nation and our people, our biggest threat has been eliminated for now, and the next bogeyman could very well be domestic in nature and have nothing to do with Islam. It's time once and for all to dispose of the ugly episode of the so-called War on Terror and get back to the real threats of a failing economy and environmental destruction.