Osama Won

Radley Balko’s makes the provocative charge that Osama bin Laden’s goals have largely been achieved, and though we killed him, we are less free.

We have also fundamentally altered who we are. A partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of how we’ve changed since September 11 . . .

  • We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
  • We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
  • In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
  • We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
  • The government launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign implying that people who smoke marijuana are implicit in the murder of nearly 3,000 of their fellow citizens.
  • The government illegally spied and eavesdropped on thousands of American citizens.

And there is much more to lament.

Dave Weigel suggested last night that the argument for staying in Afghanistan will be much less clear to the American public now that Osama bin Laden has been killed. I’m not so sure. If gas dropped below $3.00 a gallon, the economy recovered, and few troops were killed, I’m not sure the American people would sour on the war. We accepted all of the above outrages rather easily.

But of course, our military adventurism is a major reason why our long term-debt problems are so bad, and why gas is expensive. My guess is that if the American Empire ever shrinks, it won’t be the work of policy intellectuals, but accountants. Intellectuals will just take credit for it.

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