Why Didn’t We Attack Sweden?

What do Osama bin-Laden and the owners and top editors of the gigantic corporate media outlet the Chicago Tribune have in common? They both want George W. Bush to return for a second term. The Tribune’s masters want Bush back because they are Republicans who see the Crawford Chickenhawk and his jingoist, ultra-regressive “posse” as more consistent with their interests and world view than the smarter corporate imperialist from Massachusetts and the (more liberal) people around the second candidate.

Osama wants Bush back because Dubya’s imperialist wars on Afghanistan and especially Iraq, initially launched in the name of a “Crusade” (smart, George), have been a recruiting dream for extremist “anti-American” Islam, creating untold masses of enlistees in the war on the West and especially on the US.

My sense is that bin-Laden’s speech was distributed at this historical juncture partly with the expectation that it would give Bush a needed boost.

It’s pretty absurd that bin-Laden appearing live and healthy and discussing the 2001 jetliner attacks on television works to Bush’s advantage. The president refused to do anything while national security operatives gnashed their teeth trying to warn him about the terrible events that were about to occur and did occur on 9/11. Bush very probably missed numerous opportunities to nab ultimate Evil Other Osama as White House attention shifted to the real and longstanding imperial objective: deepening uniltateral US control of Arab oil supplies and global oil markets by toppling the weak Saddam regime and taking over Iraq. Osama bin-Laden became “Osama bin-Forgotten” so the American masses could be instructed that Saddam was the new Global Public Enemy Number One.

But that’s the way it is in the infantilized public political culture that has been crafted by and for corporate power in the US — a culture where large swaths of the electorate vote on the basis of which candidate they’d like to “have a beer with” and which one has the less bitchy wife; where high paid political consultants craft advertisements based on animal fears going back to pre-historic times (appealing to our Stone Age fear of wolves and other beasts), and where a leading elected official holds office partly on the basis of his big shiny biceps and shames those who dare to tell the truth about current U.S. unemployment and poverty as “economic girly men.” It’s all quite repitilian, suitably enough in a country whose president rejects the notion of evolution.

Anyway, the convergence of interest between Osama and Chicago’s leading newspaper is evident in today’s Tribune, where the top story proclaims in big bold letters “BIN LADEN WARNS U.S.” Osama’s picture is right above the headline. Right below the headline is a much bigger and regal picture of Bush, speaking behind the presidential seal and in front of Air force One. There’s a much smaller picture of Kerry in the middle of the page, under the smaller headline “Bush, Kerry defiant after threat.”

Of course, totalitarian and imperial realities are such that neither of the candidates can even remotely acknowledge that bin-Laden actually made some decent points, as he often does, even if he happens to be a blood-soaked butcher who wants to restore Medieval doctrine and structures (something that hardly disqualified him from receiving US support in a distant and forgotten era called the 1980s).

Listen, for example, to this line from bin-Laden: “Security is an important element of human life, and free people do not give up their security. Unlike what Bush says — that we hate freedom —- let him tell us why didn’t we attack Sweden, for example.”

Good point. To get a sense of the basic accuracy of this argument and the general rational intelligence of much of what bin-Laden and his crowd say, I recommend conservative Catholic CIA analyst and Middle Eastern expert “Anonymous”’ book Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2004). “Anonymous” has been following bin-Laden’s every utterance closely for years and is convinced that OBL is actually quite sharp and that he has achieved legendary status among millions of Muslims because he perceptively articulates their widespread sense that—imagine—the Islamic world is under vicious assault from the imperialist West, led of course by the US, and that this is assault calls for the launching of a purely defensive Muslim jihad against the invaders.

And listen to how Anonymous of the CIA describes US policy in the Middle East, providing some context for the popularity of defensive jihad in the Arab states:

“Professor Telhami’s accurate depiction of America’s non-credibility in the Muslim world encapsulates the consequences of a half century of U.S. Middle Eastern policy that moved America from being the much admired champion of liberty and self-government to the hated and feared advocate of a new imperial order, one that has much the same characteristics as nineteenth-century European imperialism: military garrisons; economic penetration and control; support for leaders, no matter how brutal and undemocratic, as long as they obey the imperial power; and the exploitation and depletion of natural resources.”

See also page 4 of my book Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (http://www.paradigmpublishers.com), where I write the following: “if bin-Laden and his followers and supporters [are] driven by hatred of American freedom and democracy, why were they on the side of the US in the late 1980s, when America enjoyed at least as much domestic freedom and democracy as in the summer of 2001, if not more? And if bin-Laden and the rest were so angry at the internal freedom and democracy of ‘infidel’ Western nations, why were Canada, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Switzerland (to name a few non-Islamic democratic states) right to be much less worried about major atacks from al Qaeda…[where] in many respects…democratic institutions were and are healthier and more developed..? The answer, of course, is to be found in American foreign policy.”

Osama bin-Laden’s tape told the American people in a reasonably matter of fact way that they will continue — with either Bush or Kerry in the White House — to face the threat of catastrophic terrorist attack as long as they permit their masters to retain an aggressive imperialist foreign policy vis a vis the Middle East, an imperialism that is openly acknowledged by a mid-level CIA Analyst but which can’t be acknowledged by the only two presidential candidates who matter under the American “winner-take-all” elections system. There’s nothing mysterious or hard to follow or all that surprising (given US foreign policy) in bin-Laden’s statements on US behavior and the American people; there never has been. And the only acceptable response in the “mainstream” political culture, of course, particuarly on the eve of the election is to say in essence that “nobody is going to tell us that we can’t occupy their territory and kill their people and support autocratic regimes that help us steal their natural resources. This is freedom, by God and we will kill those who dare to fight back.” We will flex our biceps until we blow ourselves up altogether it seems to me.

Paul Street ([email protected]) is an urban social policy researcher in Chicago, Illinois.

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