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From White Hats to Black Hats

Posted by Barbara Victor at 9th May, 2011

Read more from my blog at BarbaraVictor.com

The headlines screamed the news – Osama Bin Laden Is Dead. The electronic media devoted entire days to discussing and dissecting the killing of Bin Laden by a secret American anti-terror force whose sole target had been to capture—dead or alive—the most evil mastermind of terrorism in history. The news of Bin Laden’s death resulted in an outpouring of celebration along with vows of vengeance throughout the world. Horns honking and people cheering at Ground Zero or around the White House made the reaction of any winning country of the World Cup pale by comparison. Crowds in the United States sang the Star Spangled Banner, while demonstrators in Europe and South America simply cheered America by shouting USA! USA! Even President Obama, usually a bit too cool and unemotional in the face of myriad of national and international disasters exclaimed, “The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda…” As for the vows of vengeance, Al Qaeda sympathizers along with much of the Arab world, Asia, and a laundry list of anti-American pro-Muslim organizations, promised retaliation in the form of random killings of Americans and general terrorist strikes that would paralyze the western economy.

Osama is dead. I’m prepared to buy that, though I must admit I thought he had been dead for a while, actually from kidney failure since he was on dialysis for many years before he thought up the mother of all terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Call me silly, but I believed the stories about the portable dialysis machines that followed Osama from one remote hiding place to another. But never mind. No one knew anything for certain anyway. If and when he was dead from an attack by American forces and not kidney failure or any other malady, the world needed to see a body. The world needed proof. Somehow DNA just wouldn’t cut it, especially since so many of Osama’s supporters, worshippers, followers, doctors, Saudi government officials and even his own siblings have betrayed him and provided, throughout the last decade, samples of Osama’s DNA. In the past, when rumors spread that he had been killed, it was always in their interests to have the world believe that he was alive to send out the message that Al Qaeda was still powerful and still led by the most feared man on the planet. Now that the Obama administration has decided not to release photos of a dead Osama Bin Laden, conspiracies would have spread if Al Qaeda itself had not made the announcement that American had killed their beloved leader by means of deception, that is, betrayal of one of his couriers which gets to the next part of the story.

Two days ago, CNN did an interview

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with Peter King, a Republican Congressman from New York who is also Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in Congress. A reporter asked him if he knew who happened to implicate the courier who ultimately gave the Americans the directions to Osama Bin Laden hiding place. In his inimitable conversational tone and without drama, just typical New York speak as King is want to do, he replied and here I am paraphrasing…SKM gave the name up when he was water-boarding. Water boarding? As in water skiing, or surf boarding?? A new sport that the guards at Guantanamo allow the prisoners to do as part of their exercise regime? The next question a reporter asked, however, was and here I am quoting, “Who is SKM” to which King replied, “Sheik Khalid Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind 9/11,” and if any of you don’t recall the name, he is the man who is either photographed dressed and looking quite spiffy in a stylish kaffieh, or pictured nude from the waist up and looking rather hirsute.

But here’s my problem and call me a stickler for grammar. SKM gave up the name of the courier while “he was waterboarding,” which in my mind, is a rather bizarre use of a verb that should be passive rather than active. Perhaps the answer should have been, while SKM was being water boarded by his interrogators. Water boarding as in a type of torture that we, the Americans, have taken to use to gather intelligence from those we suspect had links to Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden

Since when is torture by the United States discussed and admitted to in such an offhand way? Some of us knew about the transportation of terror suspects to secret places throughout Europe where they were tortured. Guantanamo was the least of the unspeakable prisons where these terrorists were held.

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When photos appeared of guards at Guantanamo posing prisoners in degrading positions or allowing dogs to terrify them, there was a horrified press that demanded statements from those in charge and I am still chuckling at the names of the three most powerful people in the last administration who claimed shock at seeing such horrendous pictures—bush, dick, and colon—but that’s another story. Does the administration think it is acceptable to admit to water boarding Sheik Khaled Mohammed because his information could possibly yield the whereabouts and capture of Osama bin Laden? Does torture depend on who is being tortured and for what gain? Are we now part of those countries that regularly apply torture to prisoners—either prisoners of war or simple every day serial killers? Where does it end?

There is something contradictory about what is happening throughout the Middle East as well as right here at home. Apparently, torture in American is now admitted by our elected officials without any apology or regret. Our forces shoot unarmed criminals or terrorists. Not only do we give a tacit nod to torture, but we also seem to have a hierarchy concerning who is a “bad” Arab leader and who is an “acceptable” Arab leader. Our litmus test is not so much how they treat their own people but how they treat the world, most specifically their attitude toward us and of course Israel.

When the uprising occurred in Egypt, Mubarak was our friend and ally until the crowds got too big and then he was a despot and dictator that “had to leave.” Mubarak finally relinquished power and people went around demonstrating about democracy and freedom and all those good things which were simply not going to happen. Now, according to press reports, Mubarak faces execution, and Egypt has brokered a deal between Fatah and the Hamas that will cancel out the peace accord Egypt once had with Israel. Add to that scenario the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is part of the new provisional government.

As for Ghadaffi, not only do we and several other European nations send in troops to depose Ghadaffi but even NATO is part of the strike mission that bombs Tripoli and other cities. Ghadaffi is the target. This method seems to be another of our admitted and approved MO’s— we resort to killing those Arab leaders that we really didn’t like so much in the first place and who were really not particularly beneficial to our economy or who did not fit into our emotional agenda.

Does that mean that the next step is that ambassadors at the United Nations will be armed? Instead of voting and other diplomatic measures, there will be shoot-outs on 49th Street?

Frankly, the lack of human rights—and never mind equal rights—are far worse in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the rest of the Gulf States. There are beheadings, public stoning for crimes such as adultery, theft, or protest against the government. But then there is the big equalizer that stops us from interfering—oil.

America has always been criticized for posturing itself as the “world’s policeman.” Since 9/11, we have become a nation that has actively participated in invading other countries. Despite Obama’s pre-election promises, we are at war in one way or the other in three different countries—Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. We have also taken up “targeted killings” which previously we have condemned when Israel targeted terrorists that attacked their civilians and cities. Of course, the response is that Osama bin Laden was the one exception as he was the most evil terrorist in the world. Once that line has been crossed, however, invading foreign soil or targeting a particular criminal or terrorist, we are no longer just the “world’s policeman.” We have graduated to top dog in a group of countries that does not adhere to a sound moral agenda. We have become the “cowboys” the world always accused us of

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being. The big difference, of course, is that once we wore the white hats while now we are wearing the black ones.

About Barbara Victor

Barbara Victor has written 7 articles on this blog.

Barbara Victor is co-president of the Board of the Woodhull Institute. She is a journalist who has covered the Middle East for most of her career. Barbara worked for CBS television for fifteen years, and U.S. News and World Report. She is a Pulitzer Prize nominee and is the author of five novels and seven non-fiction books.

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