Sunday, May 8, 2011

There is Something Wrong in America

How can Americans have arrived at a juncture where critiquing the extrajudicial killing of Osama bin Laden means that one supports al Qaeda?

During the 1960s and 70s, critiquing American foreign policy was a patriotic duty. Indeed this is what helped to legitimize America as an international hegemon. Well, no longer. Since 9/11 Steven Salaita (2005) suggests that Americans have been subjected to what he calls “imperative patriotism,” where any criticism of America’s foreign policy is synonymous with anti-Americanism. A similar type of situation also exists regarding Zionism, where any criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism. These trends are a frightening reminder of the relationship between liberalism and fascism. It was, after all, within the so-called liberal states of Europe where the most frightening crimes against humanity occurred during the last century. Of course the danger is not necessarily inherent to liberalism itself, because socialist states may also become totalitarian. The problem lies within the fascist ideas and practices that sometimes sustain liberal and socialist societies and this is why critical thinking is essential to any social system. When critical faculties are disabled, we are unable to think of our actions as potentially harmful until it is too late. Salaita’s imperative patriotism and the devastating war in Iraq are tragic illustrations.

Alas the lead for the below article by The New York Times reflects this fascist trend. The title suggests that the demonstrations in Cairo are "honoring bin Laden". However if one takes the time to read the article, which many Americans will not, one soon discovers that the reporter indicates how most of the protesters are offering critiques of the assassination of bin Laden and American-Isreali imperialism more generally, and not support for bin Laden or the violence perpetrated by al Qaeda.

I cannot help but think that these are very dangerous times indeed.

A Scattering of Protests Honoring Bin Laden

By David D. Kirkpatrick
The New York Times
May 6, 2011

CAIRO — About 200 demonstrators gathered outside the United States Embassy here on Friday to protest the killing and burial at sea of Osama bin Laden as manifestations of what they called American hostility to Muslims.

Like many in Egypt, most in the crowd said they doubted Bin Laden’s responsibility for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and instead vented pent-up resentment of America for its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for Israel.

“Until now there is no legal document which charges or accuses Osama or anyone” of orchestrating the terrorist attacks, said Mamdouh Ismail, a speaker at the demonstration, founder of a new Islamic party and a candidate for Parliament — apparently unaware of the legal case in New York, filed in 1998 against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. (Prosecutors said this week that the charges would be dismissed.) “Let us talk about American injustice, the killing of women and children, the killing of Muslims all over the world at the hands of America.”

Such peaceful demonstrations were prohibited before the Feb. 11 revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and Egyptians have been relishing their chance to speak out.

The protest began after a sermon at a Cairo mosque by an aging Islamist firebrand, Sheik Hafez Salama. His supporters produced a sign proclaiming Bin Laden “a symbol of Islamic jihad” and saying “America is the terrorist state.” They chanted “Obama, Obama, the terrorist is not Osama,” and called for a march to the embassy.

“They martyred Osama, who was able to stand up to the world’s harshest power,” Mr. Salama said at a stop along the way, where a small crowd had gathered as usual in Tahrir Square, reliving the revolution. “We are all Osama bin Laden.”

The Tahrir Square crowd, however, was more interested in another speaker, who was airing conspiracy theories about the internal security forces. And of the hundreds of people who had emerged from the mosque chanting solidarity with Bin Laden, only about 200 made it to the protest at the American Embassy. They were surrounded every step of the way by an overwhelming number of police officers and soldiers and their equipment, including three armored personnel carriers and a squadron of riot police outside the embassy. But both sides remained peaceful.

Although almost no one seemed to believe that Bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, all offered a familiar litany about American military interventions, support for Israel and treatment of Iraqi captives at Abu Ghraib prison.

Many seized on the disposal of Bin Laden’s body, in a burial at sea that they said failed to adhere to Islamic rituals, as a symbol of what they said was American disregard for the Muslim world. “When Obama announced the burial I felt sickened,” said Hassan Ali, 52, one of the few who acknowledged some wrongdoing by Bin Laden. “He was a terrorist. We expected him to be arrested, maybe executed at some point. But we are here because of what they did to his body.”

Most refused to concede his guilt. “We are very against violence,” said Ibrahim Haggag, 45, speaking of Muslims generally. “They could be framing him as an excuse to attack Arabs, an excuse to take their wealth.”

Amina Mohame, 28, added: “The Jews were the ones who planned 9/11. If the U.S. is a civil society, why did they fund Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

Similar demonstrations in support of Bin Laden were held in several other cities, including London; Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed; and Solo, Indonesia.

In London, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, in the exclusive Mayfair district. They held placards with slogans like “Islam will dominate the world.” Lines of police officers separated the demonstrators from members of a far-right group, the English Defence League, who held aloft placards highly critical of Bin Laden and other Islamic extremists.

Lara el-Gibaly contributed reporting from Cairo, and Ravi Somaiya from London.

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