The Question: Cheering by the West about Osama’s death is understandable, but what about innocent Arabs who were killed in the antiterrorism campaign?
I will have to disrupt the American and Western happiness for Osama Bin Laden’s death by raising some of the obvious points that have been typically gotten across by millions of Muslims since the beginning of the war on terror; and Bin Laden’s death now further reinforces those points.
Although I do understand that Americans and Westerners are cheering for the victory over a person they consider to be responsible for the death of around 3,000 civilians in the September 11 attacks (and responsible in a way or another for scores of civilians deaths in bombings across the world) I am at loss over whether the cheering Americans, who have taken to the streets in celebrations, are aware of the hundreds of thousands of innocents who were killed in retaliation, in the war on terror, and in pursuit for Bin Laden.
The news agency that reported that over a hundred thousand Iraqis died as a result of the US-led invasion is American—The Associated Press. This estimate covers the period from 2003 through 2009. Another source, the Iraq Body Count project, reported that from March 20 through April 30, 2003, US forces killed 7299 Iraqi civilians.
Remember that the Iraq war was part of the war on terror: for example, George W. Bush said in July 2003, “Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror.” Mr. Bush also made a case for the war by stating that the country’s former president Saddam Hussein had links to Al-Qaeda. Then it turned out after the war was waged that Al-Qaeda could enter Iraq—and flourish in it, only after US troops occupied Iraq.
Another example comes from Pakistan, where a US drone operation reportedly killed 8 civilians, including women and children, in April. “ This came after another strike on March 17 killed 44 people, most of them civilians,” CNN.com reported. Incidents like those have taken place since the beginning of the war on terror, and scores of innocent civilians continue to get killed.
More figures of civilians killed in US military operations abound in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan—calling into question US State Secretary Hillary Clinton’s accusation of Al-Qaeda as having “a violent ideology that holds no value for human life.”
More alarmingly, she also stated in her speech Monday that “the fight continues and it will never waver.”
So the cycle of violence is not expected to get broken by Bin Laden’s death, especially when on the other side, the continued American and Western military operations that lead to civilian losses in Muslim countries feed anti-US/West sentiments in the Muslim world, which helps Al-Qaeda recruit disillusioned Muslim youth.
And experts believe that there are scores of freelance Jihadists who have no direct contact with bin Laden or Al-Qaeda.
A similar sense of comfort and optimism followed the death of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the “Emir of Al Qaeda in Iraq,” in 2006—but Al-Qaeda and other militant groups have continued to operate in the war-ravaged country despite Zarqawi’s death.
All of this renders the hype over Bin Laden’s death superficial.
In fact, it is difficult not to link the timing of President Obama’s announcement and the hype it has caused to the upcoming US presidential election.
That conclusion has been shared by Egyptians and Arabs on Facebook and Twitter, many of whom either show indifference for Bin Laden’s death or express mixed feelings and resentment of US policies and actions in the Muslim world, especially in light of US officials’ declaration that the US forces attacked Bin Laden in “a kill operation,” depriving the worlds' most wanted figure his right to a just trial; the US special forces also violated Pakistani sovereignty (US officials said the Obama administration did not inform Pakistani authorities of the operation until after it was concluded).
As American and many Westerners cheer for “victory,” many Egyptians fail to see any reason for optimism, seeing Bin Laden’s death as no guarantee for the end of Al-Qaeda-style violence. Rather, Egyptians’ priorities revolve around cleansing our country of the ousted regime’s remnants, bringing members of the discredit administration of former President Hosni Mubarak to justice, and building the new Egypt, which we hope will have a distinct foreign policy that won’t necessarily revolve around American and Western interests as it did in the reign of Mr. Mubarak.
(Sara Khorshid is an Egyptian journalist who has covered Egypt’s politics and society, as well as the relations between the Muslim and Western worlds, for the last nine years. Her articles are published in The Guardian, Alarabiya.net, OnIslam.net, Daily News Egypt, Common Ground News Service, and other media outlets. She previously held the position of managing editor for the Politics in Depth section at IslamOnline.net [now OnIslam.net]. She can be reached at: Sarakhorshid@gmail.com)