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May 25, 2011

Osama bin Laden:
The Most Costly Kill in the History of Mankind

By Syed R. Mahmood

“Justice has been done.” President Obama informed the American public on May 1, 2011, after a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in a secret raid in Abbattabad, Pakistan near a military academy, that U.S. forces had found and killed Osama bin Laden, The President certainly deserves credit for his courageous decision to give a go-ahead with this very risky military operation. His orders probably were to kill Osama not to capture him. The death of Osama provides the first symbolic victory for the United States in a long time.

After the tragedy of 9/11, Americans have waited almost ten years to hear some good news to avenge the death of nearly 3000 fellow Americans. Without even having confirmed intelligence about Osama’s presence in the compound at Abbottabad, Obama was fortunate to bring that sense of pride for Americans.

The former President, George W. Bush, after 9/11 failed to exploit the sympathy gained for the benefit of America around the globe. His misguided foreign policies and his mishandling of the “war on terror” dragged the United States into two undefined, costly, long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and made him the most unpopular American President around Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Bush wanted Osama, “dead or alive.”

President George W. Bush, a person of military –industrial complex mentality, started two wars to punish or kill Bin Laden and to defeat Al Qaeda. Fifty years ago, a wise, intelligent , five star Army general who led the Allied forces on D-Day, President Dwight Eisenhower, warned America about the danger of control over the country’s national security policy by militarist interests. He also warned about militarist alliances: civilian officials in the Pentagon, CIA officials, State Department, and national security advisers at the White House. These forces were the cause to push the United States into the Vietnam War. According to former secretary of state Bill Baker, the wars of Korea, Vietnam and Iraq were stalemates.

The Pakistani government was also pressed by the U.S. administration to join Bush’s war on terror. The Pakistani public was against this idea. Millions of Afghanis crossed the border into Pakistan to avoid the catastrophe of war. Some of them went back, but still millions of illegal Afghanis remain in Pakistan; thus, Al Qaeda and the Taliban consider Pakistan their enemy.

If the objective was to kill one man, Osama, and to defeat Al Qaeda, a cost analysis should have been done to see what would be the financial, political and human sacrifices that would be made to achieve this objective. Consider: The American military fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq as of today is 6,024, the total Coalition fatalities is 1,191. The combined total fatalities of the US and the Coalition are 7,215. The estimated number of wounded Americans in Iraq is 35,000 – 100,000 (ref: Randolph Bourne Institute). According to Unknown News at-least 919,967 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The counting of wounded Americans in the Afghan war is not yet available; a rough estimate could be from 10,000 – 15,000. The counting of Afghanis killed by violence – data is not available.

According to a report published in the Washington Post on September 5, 2010, by Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, the true cost of the Iraq war is beyond $3 trillion. This includes the cost of war and the impact on the U.S. economy. A research organization: the National Priorities Project, estimates the cost of the Iraq war as around $800 billion and Afghanistan over $404 billion. These figures do not include the impact on the U.S. economy.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani on May 13, 2011, informed the Pakistani Parliament that 30,000 Pakistani civilians and 5,000 soldiers and paramilitary forces have been killed so far in the war on terror against the Taliban since they joined the United States’ effort. In the last few days, Taliban suicide bombers killed 89 young, freshly- graduated paramilitary officers in Pakistan. It was their first revenge after the killing of Bin Laden. Another six civilians were killed in the city of Kharian, near an Army cantonment area.

As Bill Baker said, the U.S. is broke. Does it make sense that the United States should continue the adventure of wars? Every school district, college and university in America is struggling for money. The quality of education is deteriorating. We need to groom productive citizens of tomorrow. How many more bombs and bullets does America need to manufacture. America has lost her abilities to compete in manufacturing consumer products. Very rapidly it is moving down this slippery slope.

President Obama should seize this opportunity and show courage to promote a true sense of justice towards all nations. America is a country of great potential to change the course of violence by adopting an honest, just and fair approach in dealings with her weaker friends. Her attitude of arrogance should be transformed into a humble yet firm policy oriented to engagements in dealings with other nations. The world is waiting for American leadership.

Syed R. Mahmood is Founder and President of American Institute of International Studies (AIIS).