Friday, 6 May 2011


The opening lyrics in a famous George and Ira Gershwin song, sung wonderfully by Billie Holiday, Fred Astaire and many others, are: You say either, I say either. You say neither, I say neither. Either, either, neither, neither. Let's call the whole thing off. New lyrics for the song could be: You say Obama, I say Osama. You say birth-cert. I say death cert. Obama, Osama, birth cert, death cert. Let's call the whole thing off. 
The key line is the last, but how to do that, when the primary aim of the killing of Osama bin Laden by US elite naval personnel (a form of industrialised suicide missionaries) in Abottabad, Pakistan (34 degrees North, 73 degrees East) is the preserving of the American imperium, given changing world and domestic circumstances? The production of birth and death certificates in one week mark the trumpeting of the election campaign that will see Obama back in The White House for a second term. 
Of course there is no equivalence between The President of the United States of America and the leader of Al-Qaeda. But their linkage through violence and their invocation of their Gods is remarkable. On the one hand, a highly resourced state-sponsored delivery of the death penalty in the context of an internationalised war. On the other an ideology and impetus for terror and destruction in the name of religion. 
A 'shoot to kill' policy is applied. A trial could have been embarrassing, however unlikely given the Guantanamo Bay (20 degrees North, 75 degrees West) incarceration process and the fact that the USA, along with a number of other states, including Israel, Sudan, Iran and North Korea, exist in a state of permanent or near-permanent war. Permanent war, whether waged by states or jihadin, permits acts that seriously challenge the human understanding of terms such as 'justice' and 'revenge', gravely damage commitments to freedom and cauterise the language to such an extent that it cannot build peace.  
A cycle of violence is given an extra spin in Abottabad. New fuel is added to already foetid and burning pyres, such as The Twin Towers and the ravaged villages of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hawks everywhere scream 'vengeance'. Ironies abound. The compound where bin Laden lived is in the same neighbourhood as an elite army training centre, no doubt visited by US military personnel. More Muslims than people of any faith or none are killed by jihadin. Osama bin Laden is more dangerous dead than alive. Many Americans are embarrassed by jubilation exhibited by groups of people (frat packs?) in Washington and New York. Al-Qaeda and its associates make plans. And Pax Americana prevails. 
Another George and Ira Gershwin song ends with

What a break, for heaven's sake
How long has this been goin' on?

Peggy Lee sings it wonderfully, with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. It's quite a question and currently merits the coda: How long will it continue?

No comments:

Post a Comment