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Osama Bin Laden: Scary Terrorist Or Boring Dinner Guest? – OpEd

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He was, quite literally, the goose that laid the golden eggs. And now he’s a the bottom of the ocean somewhere off the coast of Pakistan feeding a small army of saltwater crustaceans.

Good riddance. I only wish that the myth of Osama bin Laden was as easy to dispose of as the man himself. But, then I appear to be in the minority, since most people would rather dispute the facts of 911 than consider bin Laden’s real value to Washington.

First off, let me admit that–whether 911 was an “inside job” or not–doesn’t matter to me at all. That’s for others to decide. What does matter, however, is the way that bin Laden has been used to expunge 200 years of American history, eviscerate the Bill of Rights, mobilize the country for perpetual war, and elevate the president to supreme leader. That matters to me, and I think it should matter to you, too.

That’s why I think we should focus more on challenging the bin Laden “narrative” than wasting our time speculating about what happened to Building 7 or the alleged missile strike on the Pentagon.

Would it surprise you to know that the man who was responsible for the Bush national security strategy (which included the “first strike” doctrine called preemption) was also appointed executive director of the 911 Commission? And, there’s something else about Philip Zelikow that might interest readers, that is, he’s an expert on “the creation and maintenance of ‘public myths’ or ‘public presumptions’. His theory analyzes how consciousness is shaped by “searing events” which take on “transcendent importance” and, therefore, move the public in the direction chosen by the policymakers.

Get it? In other words, if history doesn’t support the policy that you want, then just create your own history. (Sounds a lot like the way the Bush team used 911, doesn’t it?) Zelikow’s thesis explains how this can be done. Here’s more from Wikipedia:

“In the Nov-Dec 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs he (Zelikow) co-authored an article called ‘Catastrophic Terrorism’ in which he speculated that if the 1993 bombing of the World Trade center had succeeded ‘the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. ‘It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the Soviet bomb test in 1949. The US might respond with draconian measures scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects and use of deadly force.” (Wikipedia)

Zelikow’s article presumes that if one creates his own “searing event”, he can steer public opinion in whatever direction he chooses. It’s just a matter of the state and media working together to maintain a consistent storyline. And, western media has done a stand-up job in this regard, never veering from the official narrative and never allowing anyone who disputes the prevailing storyline to appear on the major news programs.

So, how does bin Laden fit into all this?

The fact is, Bin Laden is just an inconsequential cog in the mighty machinery of state propaganda. This has more to do with “perception management” than terrorism. Bin Laden just provides a credible rationale for pursuing policies that are contrary to the public’s interest. Any Hollywood-type villain would have done just as well. (Although it does help that he’s a Muslim and 75% of the world’s remaining oil reserves are located in countries that are predominantly Islamic)

Bin Laden has got to be the most successful psychological operation (psy ops) of all time. Propaganda works, that’s clear, although maybe not as its authors intended. The real effect of fear-mongering and repetition are far more subtle, like water on a stone. After years of listening to the same tedious refrain, the public’s mood gradually darkens as they succumb to the idiocy of demagogues. And that’s what’s happened here. They’ve just worn us out. People are sick of the whole damn thing and can’t be bothered anymore.

Bin Laden is scary, all right, like the dinner guest who won’t go home until the last drop of wine is drunk and you can barely keep your eyes open. But is that scary or just boring?

Mike Whitney

Mike Whitney

Mike Whitney writes on politics and finances and lives in Washington state. He can be reached at [email protected]

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