We are US-based Arab and Muslim organizations. We feel a compelling obligation to explain to our fellow Americans the meaning of the US killing of Osama bin Laden.
We take this opportunity to revisit the inconvenient fact that Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahideen were funded and supported by the US to fight the USSR in Afghanistan in the eighties. We recall that Ronald Reagan had called the Mujahideen “freedom fighters” when their interests coincided with the US’s. We remind ourselves that “Between 1978 and 1992, the US government poured at least US$6 billion (some estimates range as high as $20 billion) worth of arms, training and funds to prop up the mujaheddin factions.”
We note that the Mujahideen aligned themselves with the US, convincing themselves of the “lesser of two evils” argument. We recall that Zbigniew Brzezinski said:
The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.
We learn an important lesson from this history and note that collaboration with the US is an immoral and counterproductive effort. Collaboration does not shield one from US persecution, neither is it a smart “strategy.” Aligning with powerful empires is foolish and self-defeating. The logic of House Muslims (or “House Negroes” as Malcolm X called the collaborators of his era) is short-sighted and idiotic.
We abhor the subtext of President Obama and Secretary Clinton‘s remarks, implying that the lives of millions of Afghanis, Iraqis and Pakistanis were worth somehow sacrificing in order to locate one ex-”freedom fighter” (as per Reagan’s words). Indeed, the President and Secretary of State did not even pay lip service to the countless lives devastated, weddings bombarded, children orphaned, spouses widowed, natural resources stolen. We condemn the hypocrisy of Secretary Clinton, who feigned concern for “innocent people” who were killed by OBL but not the innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq for whose death she caused as Senator then as Secretary of State, or the innocent people in Palestine and Lebanon whose death by Israeli warplanes she supported. We cannot expect Obama and Clinton to apologize for the war crimes the US committed in pursuit of OBL, as it is not in empires’ nature to condemn themselves.
We are still haunted by the images of our sisters and brothers tortured in Abu Ghraib. The stench of scores of corpses from years of war, occupations and sanctions still fills the air. The emotional trauma of drones still terrorizes children. The dreary, bleak future facing millions of displaced Afghani and Iraqi refugees still shakes our conscience. White phosphorus and depleted uranium’s effects on public health and the environment will last for generations to come. That the US eliminated one of its ex-agents and claimed it was not waging war on Islam while war criminals continue to hold power in Washington and Tel Aviv offers us no relief.
We regret having spent the last decade begging for approval from the US mainstream, inviting US politicians to our conventions, having Ramadan iftars in the White House and embarrassing ourselves in a myriad of other ways. Now that OBL is finally dead, we look forward to freeing up the time we’d spent assuring everyone of our patriotism and swearing on the Qur’an that OBL did not represent us. We will no longer construct our discourse to sooth islamophobes’ racist anxieties. We will spend no more time emphasizing that OBL didn’t represent us than Christians assert that Obama, Clinton, Bush and Blair do not represent Christianity.
Instead, we will work on more urgent matters than pursuing the material comforts of the American dream, such as ending the occupation of Afghanistan, ending the occupation of Iraq, boycotting and dismantling “Israel,” closing Guantanamo, restoring civil liberties, ending US hegemony and racism.
American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, Arab American Institute, American Task Force for Palestine, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America, Park51