Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall felt the brunt of public outrage back in May of 2011 when he decided to weigh in on a matter of American foreign policy. Clearly disgusted with the jubilant nature of celebrations following Osama bin Laden’s death, Mendenhall took to twitter to voice his dissatisfaction:
“What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…”
The condemnations and denouncements began soon after, littering the sports press with attacks on Mendenhall, pinning him against the broader American public and eventually causing him to lose his well-valued endorsement with Champion sportswear. He received attacks from fans, sports owners, and fellow football players, most notably Michael Vick. In attempting to clarify his remarks, Mendenhall wrote on his personal blog that he was reacting solely to the “amount of joy” following an event of murder:
I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics. In the bible, Ezekiel 33:11 states, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!…”. I wasn’t questioning Bin Laden’s evil acts. I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death.
Obviously, such a Christian nation as the United States could not tolerate actual Christian thoughts or examinations in evaluating murder. Therefore, Mendenhall was subjugated to the whim of public anger.
The broader effect of this episode, negative flak and all, perfectly conveys just how entrenched the desire for bloodshed and violence is in American society. Citizens gathered at the White House, in Times Square, and across the United States, and openly celebrated the death of a human being. The fact is that the tragic events of 9/11, brought on by foreign occupation and meddling, have somehow justified the American populace to embrace news of mass deaths and assassinations, cheered on by war-hungry executive and legislative branches.
Such bloodlust has been a routine triumph for state-induced patriotism, almost always leading to a bump in the public opinion polls for the American Presidents who commit these actions, simultaneously justifying billions, if not trillions, of dollars in military spending. Congressional leaders and war profiteers monopolize the television talk shows and newspaper editorials, praising the death of the singular individual as another “key moment” in the ever-expanded Global War on Terror. The pattern is laughably recognizable.
With that in mind, 2011 has proven to be one of the bloodiest years in American interventionism. As far as civilians are concerned, over 3,000 Iraqis have been declared dead, 3,500 in Afghanistan, 2,000 in Libya, and countless more in the drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Since the invocation of the “Global War on Terror” in 2001, over 8,000 American soldiers have been killed on various battlegrounds across the world. 2010 was the year in which more American military personnel committed suicide than were killed in action. The collateral damage exists on both sides.
The most high-profile killing occurred in Yemen, when an Unmanned Air Vehicle, a drone armed with hell-fire missiles, dropped a payload on Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American citizen born in New Mexico, who the Obama administration had labeled the “Chief of External Operations”of Al-Qaeda. The administration never produced a shred of evidence which connected him to specific attacks, but his purported “ties” to terror groups seemed enough to warrant his murder. The only effort produced by the Obama administration was the release of a memo citing legal authority to assassinate an American citizen, mirroring George W. Bush’s own memo to justify torture of terrorist suspects. The reaction from the American public followed the official government line, although skeptical voices, such as Presidential Candidate Ron Paul, dissident Noam Chomsky, and reporter Jake Tapper questioned the assassination without due process.
Al-Awlaki was not the only one killed, however. The co-editor of the Al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, Samir Khan, another American citizen was also killed in the same attack.
Less than a month later, Al-Awlaki’s son, 16 year-old Abdel-Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, was also killed by a target drone attack, demonstrating the Obama administration’s utter disregard for human life. In this case, however, the news was kept quiet, keeping the celebrations confined to the drawing room of the Department of Defense, the cubicles of so-called “terrorism experts” at neoconservative think-tanks, and the conference rooms of weapon manufacturers.
And now, on the morning of the 20th of October, 2011, the American bloodlust returns to fruition. Early indications are that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed by Libyan rebels. Though more than 65% of the American public were initially opposed to any American intervention in Libya, more than $1 billion was spent, and it was never officially approved by the U.S. Congress, the American sentiment will surely be one of celebration. The media elite will continue to push the flawed story that Gaddafi was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing (disproved by the documentary The Maltest Double Cross-Lockerbie), subverting the truth and relegating it once more only for a concern only for historians, not present popular opinon.
The stories told over the next few days will surely attempt to justify the billions spent, the thousands of lives lost, and the pronounced need for more military spending, as is always the case. The public will be swooned to the supposed “power” of the Obama doctrine, and the majestic capacities of American interventionism will reign once more. Forever lost to history will be the quite friendly relationship the U.S. had with enjoyed with Libya once trade was re-opened. In fact, Wikileaks cables revealed that many U.S. Senators enjoyed several state-sponsored visits to Libya, hosted by Gaddafi himself. The biggest American proponents to remove Gaddafi from power, McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Senator Lindsey Graham, were also the first ones to embrace him just a few years ago, as they all traveled to Libya. McCain even tweeted his meeting with Gaddafi back in 2009. A post I did a few months ago also reveals the many state visits to Libya enjoyed by many world leaders, the very same who claimed Gaddafi was a “tyrant” no longer fit to rule, and were the first to commit planes and bombs to the African nation. As Rashard Mendenhall so intelligently stated, we should revisit our own “hypocrisy“.
Going forward, the official reaction of the American government is best explained by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most hawkish individuals in public office. Speaking to Fox News, Senator Graham stated plainly what the role of the United States in Libya will be in the next few years: “there is a lot of money to be made, a lot of oil to be drilled“. Alas, another coup supported by American arms succeeds. The world’s policeman once again polishes its badge and gun, and calls it a victory for the American way.
As millions far from these lands die under the American flag, far from the protections of constitutional republicanism, the broader populace should recognize the future implications of the constant meddling in foreign nations, where the world is a witness to the crimes of our government. History is the driving force of the Israeli/Palestinian issue, and it will continue to be one to condemn the United States federal government in the eyes of those who live elsewhere.
Historian Edward Gibbon once theorized that the decline of the Roman Empire was rooted in the “moral decay” of Roman society. As death, carnage, and assassination become universally embraced, tolerated, and openly celebrated in this country, perhaps the decline of the American Empire is closer than any may expect.