Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES, May 11 — I will begin by clearly affirming — at the cost of winning few epithets of affection — that the death of Osama bin Laden was a typical act of dirty war and this seems to have been demanded with absolute shamelessness by US President Barack Obama as well as his CIA director, Leon Panetta.
Obviously, it’s not that this, which has been labeled a “dirty war” (which alludes to armed actions against people other than soldiers they can kill) is a product of the current US administration.
This has become a common practice in almost all counter-insurgency and insurgency operations; as if contemporary war had greater difficulties in adjusting to the civilizing norms that it itself produces. The situation is as if the humanist and universal values of the very best of our western tradition have ceded vital ground to egocentric barbarism.
It is as if in the name of the war on terrorism we are heading toward the worst of terrors: the acceptance of torture and torment as legitimate ingredients in actions by governments and irregular groups of alternative-power to achieve “superior goals,” with these being the garden of delights (communism or democracy).
First, it is accepted as right and valid that the information obtained to find Osama bin Laden was obtained in long “coercive interrogations” (according to Panetta) that was used against dozens of Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo. One of them was subjected to that form of feigned drowning 183 times, a technique that one self-assured member of Congress called “a moral imperative to save American lives.” This means they are legitimating torture as a means of obtaining information under norms of the economy of punishment.
Now the extrajudicial execution of Osama bin Laden is asserted as an irreproachable legal and moral act. It is as if the status (well deserved) of Bin Laden as criminal vermin justified his murder.
As is usual in these cases, there were all types of disinclination before accepting the execution. It first seemed that Osama was returning fire, but later the version changed to him being an unarmed but very threatening man, and finally he was presented as possibly in possession of an arm. This is to say that a man — without weapons — turned out to be such a danger for those super-trained Navy Seals that they had riddle his body with gunfire.
Then there’s the drama of the cadaver, dumped into a deep grave of the Indian Ocean after a pious religious ceremony of interest to no one. What’s more, the whole time he was referred to as “Geronimo,” a crude and disdainful allusion to the Apache leader who died in the 19th century fighting the American and Mexican armies in defense of his indigenous nation.
The murder of Bin Laden-“Geronimo” was a sort of torture if understood — following Foucault — as an operation having as its object the reconstitution of sovereignty in a moment of outrage and performing it in such a way that grabs the attention of everyone involved (in this case the entire world). But in the end, torture doesn’t restore justice: it only reactivates power.
Personally, I believe that a world without Bin Laden would be a better place, but not in just any way. I also think the world was better without a satrap like Noriega, but not at the cost of a thousand dead Panamanians or the burning down of entire neighborhoods. Saddam Hussein was another one of them, but how can a war be justified with lies that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and continued torturing in the country? This places the invaders at the same level of moral depravity as the deposed regime.
And as the invaders are not some bloodthirsty tribe of the distant past, but the dominant world power today, each one of these “missteps” becomes a media crusade that aims to make us believe that these quotas of barbarism are indispensable (and even suitable) for consecrating civilization.
The Cuba Angle
When this matter relates to the Cuban situation, everything becomes rarified. As one might suppose, the Cuban government has been extremely terse regarding the matter.
If we discount Fidel Castro’s unofficial “Reflections,” official pronouncements have not been issued given the delicate nature of the issue. However, nor is the matter of executing people without basic legal guarantees an unfamiliar chore carried out by the Cuban government. One needs only recall what happened in 2003 when three black youths hijacked a boat.
Their executions were unquestionably more inhuman than that of Osama, though the Cuban government has never apologized for those.
But the fact that the Cuban government and Fidel Castro lack the moral stature to condemn what happened (with Osama) doesn’t imply that the act should not be condemned. The situation in Cuba is only a very small part of world reality, in the same way that its current conjuncture, or its last fifty years, is a discreet segment of its history and its future.
One needs to think of Cuba over the long term. If we do this, I believe that it is appropriate to reject situations like what occurred in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and other similar ones that seem to mark the 21st century with the stamp of intolerance, illegality and immorality. This is inescapable if in fact we want the republic of the future to be a better world.