After Osama bin Laden: In Arab world, America's troubled post-9/11 legacy lingers
The shrug that greeted news of Osama bin Laden’s death here in the Arab world was not surprising given that most never thought bin Laden belonged to them. His death offers an opportunity for reconciliation and accountability – for Americans and Arabs – for all the events that followed 9/11.
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The crisis in US credibility and integrity that US involvement in Iraq has created here is not yet old news. Moreover, the half-truths, blatant non-truths, and the convenient shifting and short-sighted alliances that made up the Iraq enterprise ultimately enable and validate a similar (and familiar) flexibility with truth and plausibility here – one that those invested in the status quo are happy to take advantage of.Skip to next paragraph
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When it would seem Iraq is a non-sequitur, it is instead invoked in conversations, which often conclude with much left inconclusive. (Maybe the protesters in the region are agents of other countries? Is the US orchestrating this? Why wouldn't the US do so, when it already invaded another country in the region and created chaos there? How do we know that's not what's happening here?)
This inconclusiveness is convenient for a variety of folks, from those guarding their power and wealth to those who are loathe to give up the security they have, which they see demonstrably eluding those across the border in Iraq. Looking the other way is thus psychologically easier, if it can be somehow justified.
All this has made for a very foggy spring in nearby Arab capitals.
How will Arab world chart its future?
Contradictory US reaction to events in Syria, Libya, and Bahrain would signal that the US itself is not particularly intent on moving on when it comes to how it sees the Middle East – essentially as not much more than a proxy playground (in the Iran vs. Saudi Arabia and Israel-first games) or as petrol pump. And of course, it remains for the people here in the Arab world to determine for themselves what comes next, including choosing what to believe and whether it really matters in how they chart their futures.
But it is clear that the crimes of 9/11 and its aftermath are not yet behind us. Perhaps in bin Laden’s death, however, there is an opportunity to embark on a reconciliation of all that happened after the tragic events of one September morning, to the benefit of not just people here in the Arab world, but for Americans and our national well-being as well, which continues to suffer from a lack of true accountability.
Alia Malek is the author of “A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives” and the editor of the forthcoming “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post 9/11 Injustices” Follow Alia on Twitter @AliaMalek.