Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On The Passing of Bin Laden

Until we hear the next conspiracy theory, we will have to suspend any disbelief about what US President Barack Obama has said, that Osama bin Laden, the 54-year-old leader of al-Qaeda, was killed on May 2, 2011 (not earlier) by US Navy Seals (nobody else ) in his refuge in Abbotabad, a garrison town north of Islamabad in Pakistan (nowhere else).

It is the end of Osama, though not necessarily of al-Qaeda, nor the myths it had spawned. From 1992 to 2008, al-Qaeda was reported to have staged at least 30 terrorist attacks in various parts of the world with at least 4,396 killed. A list published by The Economist (May 7, 2011) includes an explosion aboard a Philippine ferry vessel, which killed 116 passengers in February 2004, but which the public had been made to believe was pure accident. Shouldn’t Filipinos be told the whole truth about it?

Still by far the biggest incident was the September 11, 2001 attack on the three skyscrapers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon building in Virginia, which killed approximately 3,000 people, and triggered the war on terror that made going through US immigration a real experience and got the US deeply enmeshed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unconvinced, some conspiracy theorists have dismissed the 9/11 attack as a false flag. One theory online pokes fun at how a 44-year-old former CIA asset, sitting inside a cave in Afghanistan, could have run the operation where four hijacked aircraft, piloted by 19 flight school dropouts, flew around the world’s most secure airspace for nearly two hours, unopposed by any of the 35 in-range US Air Force bases, then brought down the three skyscrapers and rammed a jet into the Pentagon building without drawing any kind of anti-aircraft fire.

Outside of 9/11, no fire of any kind had ever caused a steel-framed high-rise building to collapse, the article says. In 1988, Los Angeles’s worst fire ever destroyed several floors of the First Interstate Bank, but left the main steel structure intact. In 1991, an 18-hour fire gutted eight floors of Philadelphia’s One Meridian Plaza without damaging the granite. In 2005, Madrid’s Windsor Building burned like a torch for 20 hours, reaching temperatures of 1,400 degrees Farenheit, but it took six months after the fire to take apart the burnt structure piece by piece.

By contrast, the WTC skyscrapers, with 58 steel perimeter columns and 25 steel core columns, collapsed simultaneously at 5:20 p.m. (9/11). The third skyscraper was not even hit by a plane, the article notes.

Before 9/11, the problem was how to dismantle the twin towers floor by floor in order to remove the vast quantities of cancer-causing asbestos that had gone into the construction in the seventies. Not only did the expected cost look astronomical, the Port Authority was also prohibited from doing demotion work that would release carcinogenic asbestos dust all over New York. Despite that, Larry Silverstein made a $3.2 billion bid for the building in January 2001, then took out an insurance policy that covered everything, including terrorist attack. Since 9/11 Silverstein has collected $5 billion from nine insurance companies, the article says.

The US Navy buried bin Laden’s body at sea from the nuclear-powered carrier USS Carl Vinson and chose not to overwhelm the world with close-ups of the unarmed Osama shot in the head. They wanted to avoid anything that might rekindle terrorist passion among the surviving jihadis. The next step is to “isolate Mr. bin Laden’s savage jihad,” and “kill his dream,” writes The Economist.

In Manila, the government welcomed the USS Carl Vinson at port. President Benigno Aquino III, accompanied by the secretaries of foreign affairs, defense and finance and the chief of staff of the armed forces, toured the aircraft carrier while it was still in the high seas. Apparently the presidential party and their hosts had fun on board, but nobody else.

Some academics worry that the presidential tour and the ship’s portcall could be viewed as a provocation, which could invite a terrorist response. Given our raging Islamic insurgency in the South, and the possibility that bin Laden might still have a few sympathizers out there, it is not clear what kind of political math was used to show that these things were in the national interest.

For reasons of protocol alone, that presidential tour should not have taken place at all. The aircraft carrier and the cargo plane that took the presidential party to the carrier were both extensions of US territory, and it is not right for the president of a sovereign country, who is not on a US state or official visit, to be there. Any junior DFA officer knew that. Moreover, USS Carl Vinson is a nuclear-powered, possibly nuclear-armed vessel, if not a nuclear weapon itself. And “the Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory,” according to Section 8, Article II of the Constitution.

These incidents could have created quite a storm in the days of Senators Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Tanada, Jose Wright Diokno, and even Benigno Aquino Jr. Luckily for President Noynoy, the Senate foreign relations committee and the usual pundits seem completely at sea on the subject, and the sloganeering “nationalists” are just too busy trying to inflict a toxic reproductive health (RH) agenda upon the country at the behest of their foreign patrons and the global suppliers of contraceptives, sterilization agents, and abortion services.

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