In our last discussion of Obama campaign myths, I recalled Joe Biden’s campaign bumper sticker that “Bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive.” We dismantled the latter part of it there. Now it’s time to take on the “Bin Laden is dead.”
Now just as GM is literally (as Joe Biden would say, whether it was or not) alive, if on life support, bin Laden is certainly dead, even if the evidence was disposed of, but in both cases, the phrases were code. With regard to the latter, it is code for “we beat al-Qaeda.” But in order to decode it, one must accept the premise that Osama bin Laden was identically equal to al-Qaeda, and that it would not survive his being fed to the fishes. And that is and always was nonsense. As I wrote the day his death was announced:
We were not at war with Osama bin Laden. Unlike Hitler, he did not invent the ideology. He merely took an existing one, and implemented it in a way unprecedented in modern times (though it had been in full force for centuries in the past — unfortunately, most people are unaware of history). He is not, and never was, essential to its survival. There was no signing of a surrender on the deck of the Missouri tonight. The troops cannot come home simply because we killed one guy who had been on the run for years.
I can readily understand why the administration wants to play this up as though the above weren’t true. They are desperate for any news on the political front that can rally the people, and distract them from its disastrous policies, not just on the war and foreign policy in general, but on five-dollar gas, rising grocery prices, continuing lack of jobs, continuing plunging home prices and increasing foreclosures, etc. etc. etc. They hope that a faux war victory will boost the poll ratings of a president who, if the election were to be held today, to almost anyone, would lose in a landslide.
Of course, defeating al-Qaeda is just part of a broader (and also false) campaign narrative. Recall that when the president made the Cairo speech in 2009, in which he spun fantasies about the history of both Islam and Europe, it was supposed to help repair all the supposed damage done to our relationship with the Muslim world by the malignant Bush administration. It was a part of the general process of reconciliation that would be ushered in by the ascendancy of the lowerer of oceans to the White House. As Charles Krauthammer notes:
Never lacking ambition or self-regard, Obama promised in Cairo, June 4, 2009, “a new beginning” offering Muslims “mutual respect,” unsubtly implying previous disrespect. Curious, as over the previous 20 years, America had six times committed its military forces on behalf of oppressed Muslims, three times for reasons of pure humanitarianism (Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo), where no U.S. interests were at stake.
But no matter. Obama had come to remonstrate and restrain the hyperpower that, by his telling, had lost its way after 9/11, creating Guantanamo, practicing torture, imposing its will with arrogance and presumption.
First, he would cleanse by confession. Then he would heal. Why, given the unique sensitivities of his background — “my sister is half-Indonesian,” he proudly told an interviewer in 2007, amplifying on his exquisite appreciation of Islam — his very election would revolutionize relations.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution.