Zawahiri Is Finally Dead, or Justice Delayed Just Doesn’t Feel The Same

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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25 Responses

  1. Chip Daniels
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    says:

    It represents for me the reach of our abilities but also the limitations.

    We can kill with pinpoint precision anyone on Earth and exact retribution decades after an offense.

    But our larger goals are forever beyond our grasp. The original goal of capturing OBL quickly escalated to destroying the Taliban, then grew even larger to transforming Afghanistan into a stable democracy, then grew even larger to be transforming Iraq into a stable democracy.

    All those goals utterly failed and were never achievable in the first place.

    But the pursuit of them caused catastrophic damage that may never be repaired.Report

  2. InMD
    Ignored
    says:

    I think the void is due to the fact that the only people remotely vindicated are the those who warned 20 years ago that the entire war on terrorism approach, including nation-building in places like Afghanistan, was the wrong reaction and a fool’s errand to begin with. I mean this respectfully but I think the idea that there was ever another outcome in Afghanistan than the one we had is what’s delusional. The second we decided to stay, to say nothing of turning it into the military industrial complex’s sandbox, is the moment anything like closure or feeling of moral victory was taken off the table. No one in the government, media, or military has any incentive to accept that. Lucky for them attention spans moved on years ago, with only periodic reminders every 4 years when the American people would elect a president whose stated policy preference was to get out. Not that their views matter or anything.Report

    • Philip H in reply to InMD
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      says:

      I seem to remember an American arms inspector – working for the UN – appearing on CNN before we invaded Iraq arguing that there were no WMDs or al Quaeda in Iraq. He was never given the apology he was due the Serious Foreign Policy Realists who drove that invasion.

      Neither was the American public.Report

  3. Dark Matter
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    says:

    And he was staying as a guest of one of the Taliban’s high level officials.
    And the Taliban is really really offended that we violated their territory.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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      says:

      As they should be.

      Imagine a Chinese missile striking a Hong Kong dissident living in San Diego.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        In theory, part of the deal we made with the Taliban was they’d be treating AQ like terrorists and not giving them support. Them supporting AQ is what led to us invading them.

        My expectation is if that “Hong Kong dissident” starts to engage in mass murder, he’ll be arrested without the Chinese needing to blow him up.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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          says:

          Your expectation is wrong.

          America has funded, trained and given safe harbor to thousands of mass killers over the years, including Cubans who blew up an airliner killing all the innocent passengers aboard.

          So if a Cuban rocket blew up a house in Miami I suspect Americans would be miffed.Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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            says:

            America has funded, trained and given safe harbor to thousands of mass killers over the years,

            When they’re serving as an arm of US gov policy.

            So… is AQ serving as an arm of the Taliban?

            If that’s true, then we’re at war with AQ and thus at war with the Taliban. In that case, blowing up people inside their territory is fine. It’s an act of war, but since we’re at war that’s a moot point.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
              Ignored
              says:

              OK, so the Cuban government blowing up houses in Miami is OK because we’re harboring terrorists and refusing to give them over for extradition? That is the precise case we made for the invasion of Afghanistan.

              One of the most powerful tools in a nation’s arsenal is its causus belli, its claim of legitimacy in war.
              This is why it is so important that NATO not intervene directly in the Russian-Ukrainian war.
              Ukraine is receiving powerful military and diplomatic assistance precisely because the moral stature of the combatants is so stark.

              When we go around firing missiles into other countries recklessly, we make the difference between a Cuban missile strike on Miami and a US missile strike on Afghanistan muddy and difficult to separate.

              I know that in your mind they are easy to separate, but they aren’t in mine, or anyone else who isn’t you. All the stated reasons just sound like convenient rules-lawyering.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                OK, so the Cuban government blowing up houses in Miami is OK because we’re harboring terrorists and refusing to give them over for extradition?

                If we are currently funding terrorism in Cuba, I am unaware. To the best of my knowledge we’re not (any more) attempting their overthrow.

                Please link to what you’re talking about.

                When we go around firing missiles into other countries recklessly,

                Recklessly?
                We are at war with AQ and those who are aiding them.

                At best, what is going on is the Taliban is taking a dump on their own sovereignty and forcing us to do what they should be doing.

                Now it may be that they can’t control their own territory and their own gov officials so they’re more a failed state than a gov.

                However if the Taliban has gone back to aiding AQ, then we’re at war with them. Full Stop. That’s black letter AUMF.

                It’s also why I thought it was a bad idea to pull out of Afghanistan.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                It’s also why I thought it was a bad idea to pull out of Afghanistan.

                Right, because wasting ANOTHER Trillion dollars we don’t have for ANOTHER 20 years would yield a DIFFERENT result?Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                A trillion is $50B a year.

                If memory serves, a lot of that cost was front ended and we’d gotten it down to a LOT cheaper than that.

                I recall sitting down with the numbers and coming to the conclusion that fighting the war for 50-100 years would cost about as much as another 911.

                I’m pretty sure I posted that on this site and said IMHO it would be a fine use of their time and our money considering where their heads are at.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                Afghanistan now, as then, poses no existential threat to the US. Frankly Saudi bankrolling of organizations that export political dissent as terrorism is a bigger problem. The Taliban are not now, and never will be friendly to America or western culture, but as they have keenly demonstrated, they will outlast us.

                Leaving – how ever badly handled – was the right call.Report

              • InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                That’s seems like a not so self evident assertion on the cost/benefit, given that we just completed one of the few, clear, sensible objectives with a single drone strike. Why anyone thinks setting up a potemkin government and defending it with American soldiers for such a simple purpose remains a mystery to me.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubana_de_Aviaci%C3%B3n_Flight_455

                The history of America funding and harboring terrorists is long and gruesome.
                The 911 attack itself was justified by AQ as a legitimate attack for our military bases on their holy lands.
                No, I don’t accept that either but many people see the US heavy global footprint as similar to an imperial occupying force.

                And blowing up children and wedding parties doesn’t help.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Here is the entry for the rape and murder of the nuns:
                https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980_murders_of_U.S._missionaries_in_El_Salvador

                I didn’t even mention the Contras, or Pinochet but suffice it to say that if providing aid and safe harbor to mass killers was justification for missile strikes, no American city would be safe.

                So maybe we should be a little more circumspect in that regard.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                You are talking about an event where:

                1) 4 men were arrested and two sentenced to 20 year terms.

                So in other words for the most part the normal legal system seems to have handled it.

                2) Your central guy and his crew have been dead for 10+ years (event happened in 1976).

                3) The official position of the US government at the time of his stay in the US, as argued in court, was he should be held in prison for being “an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks, a flight risk and a danger to the community.”

                The charge we held him over were entering the country illegally. We were trying to deport him back to a country that would have tried him for his various crimes.

                4) Posada was a CIA asset for a while, but he seems to have stopped in 1974 (two years before the bombing).

                Your own link is vague about the CIA knowing about the bombing in advance.
                For all that it’s the head of a topic on a paragraph, the actual details are him talking at a fund raising dinner (where the terms “we” and “orlando” weren’t known at the time”.

                So we’re not even in “they should have known” territory, much less, “they knew”, much less “he had official backing”.

                And THIS is what you’re trying to compare to the Taliban’s relationship with Zawahiri? Seriously?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                Ok so what you’re saying is that the proper response to 911 would have been a decades long international legal battle to bring the perpetrators to justice, instead of a military attack?

                I mean, if America is being held to the same standard as other countries.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Ok so what you’re saying is that the proper response to 911 would have been a decades long international legal battle to bring the perpetrators to justice, instead of a military attack?

                I’m pointing out that the US gov was on the opposite side of what you’re suggesting, i.e. they were opposing terrorism and trying to have the bad guy arrested and deported.

                So the comparison would work if the Taliban had arrested Zawahiri and were attempting to have him sent to the US.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                I know that in your mind they are easy to separate, but they aren’t in mine, or anyone else who isn’t you. All the stated reasons just sound like convenient rules-lawyering.

                Being at war is a heck of a lot more than “rules-lawyering”.

                Is Cuba at war with the US?
                If the answer is yes, then them blowing up houses in the US is pretty much expected.

                Now it may be that we have disagreements with them, including what to do with various criminals, that don’t rise to the level of war.Report

              • InMD in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                I agree with your sentiment here Chip, that we lose legitimacy when we hold ourselves to separate standards than we would hold others. I’m just not sure this is a really great example of that. Zawahiri is about as fair of a military target as I can think of coming out of the 9/11 attacks. It’s all the other crazy stuff that we did that’s the problem.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to InMD
                Ignored
                says:

                He had it coming alright. But then, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of guys walking free in America who also have it coming due to some murders or slaughters they committed in far flung places we’ve never heard of.

                But, again, America is no longer a unrivaled superpower. The moves that China is making- bullying our universities and organizations to stifle speech they don’t like for example- is a taste of what it may be like to be on the receiving end of this sort of stuff.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of guys walking free in America who also have it coming due to some murders or slaughters they committed in far flung places we’ve never heard of.

                From what context? And keeping in mind that your horrific example wasn’t backed up by your own link, I suggest you both link and (first) read your own link so you have the details right.

                is a taste of what it may be like to be on the receiving end of this sort of stuff.

                My expectation is China-as-the-superpower treats us more like we do France than we do various failed states.

                Keep in mind is just how crazy extreme AQ was/is. For all your talk about how bad fascism is and how it needs to be opposed, AQ is the real deal. Their open goal is mass murder, they practice slavery, they’re a large bundle of nasty things as a standard practice, not a cherry-picked exception.

                And the Taliban are what exactly to them? If they’re supporters/backers, then (black letter) we’re at war. If they’re not supporters then we’re in failed state territory and it doesn’t matter if we ignore their sovereignty because they aren’t sovereign.Report

  4. Burt Likko
    Ignored
    says:

    Nothing that follows this sentence is either a defense of Zawahiri nor a condemnation of our belated retribution against him. We are more than justified in having sought that retribution, even twenty-one years after the most grievous of many offenses he inflicted upon us. With that noted:

    Do not celebrate death. It’s bad for your soul.

    Recalling the response to a drone strike killing Qassem Soleimani, the former leader of Iran’s Quds Force, two and a half years ago, we were encouraged by our then-leaders to be exuberant in celebrating that death, and many people were. Iran’s revenge came, in the form of missile strikes on a U.S. base killing several dozen soldiers, and there might have been more that happened in the shadows which we never heard about. But my point was not that we should have feared Iran’s revenge so much as we chilled our relationship with an adversary that could have been steered towards detente, sullied our global reputation more than it had already been, and most of all we debased ourselves morally by dancing on a grave we’d filled ourselves.

    When someone who has done very bad things gets the justice that they have earned, nod in recognition that the cosmic scales have moved closer to balance. (I think that’s more or less what the OP does.) Let whatever strategy and diplomacy needs to happen be done by the people whose job it is to do that strategy and diplomacy; let us maintain plausible deniability for our dirty deeds where we can; and most of all, let us not stoop to adopting the ethics and attitudes of those we call “our enemies. “Report

  5. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    For a half-decade there, there was a cottage industry in announcing that the #3 guy in Al Qaeda had been killed.

    Seriously, from 2002/2003ish until Obama got elected, there were regular announcements that we got the #3 guy in Al Qaeda. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaida, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, and Hamza Rabia.

    The announcement that we got the #3 guy was like reading the list of Spin̈al Tap drummers.

    I’m glad we finally got someone who was #2.Report

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