Al-Qaeda Chief Killing Does Not ‘Make Us Safer’

Whatever people in the U.S. might think about the killing of al Zawahiri in the middle of the Afghan capital 7,000 miles away, safety and security are hardly likely to top the list, writes Phyllis Bennis.

President Joe Biden in May. (White House, Erin Scott)

By Phyllis Bennis
Common Dreams

President Joe Biden, to his credit, did not come out swaggering at his press conference announcing that the C.I.A. had just killed Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri. But he did make the dubious assertation that the assassination somehow “made us all safer.”

In reality, this killing will not end the war on terror, and is unlikely to make us safer. And meanwhile, the Biden administration and other top U.S. officials are taking actions that do threaten our security. 

The U.S. is still spending billions of dollars arming Ukraine against Russia, while numerous experts around the world are discussing openly how the war escalates the danger of a nuclear exchange between the world’s two largest nuclear weapons states.

Another problem is that Biden spoke just as the third most powerful U.S. political leader, and second in line of succession to the presidency, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was about to land in Taiwan, deliberately provoking China in what looks an awful lot like the abandonment of Washington’s longstanding policy of recognizing only one China. An increasingly tense cold war between Washington and Beijing may be on the verge of rapidly heating up.

Still another problem is that just hours before his Rose Garden announcement of the killing of al Zawahiri, Biden all but promised to give up his late and half-hearted effort to return to the Iran nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, on right, interpreting for Osama bin Laden, left, during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir in November 2001. (Hamid Mir, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Instead, Biden imposed new sanctions prohibiting the sale of Iranian oil and petrochemical products to increase pressure on Tehran. Polls show 56 percent of people across the United States support the nuclear deal.

And despite Israel’s right-from-the-beginning opposition, even top Israeli military and intelligence officials have agreed that a return to the deal is far safer than continuing to reject the agreement, known as the JCPOA, since continuing U.S. sanctions will be met with continuation of Iran’s nuclear program.

War on Terror Continues 

And yet another problem is that despite the pundit-driven discussion of whether the assassination of al Zawahiri represents the “real end” of Washington’s Global War on Terror, that war continues.

The U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan last year marked the end of the large-scale troop deployments that characterized most of the 20-plus years of the GWOT.

But the war was strategically modified, not ended. U.S. special forces are deployed publicly in Syria, in Somalia, in Niger and elsewhere. Unofficially C.I.A. commandos are operating in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.  Drone and air strikes continue from “over the horizon.” The war on terror — the forever war — isn’t over yet.

In the meantime, Washington confronts 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the U.S. and billions more around the world, who all face a planet consumed with floods and fire, a raging global pandemic, escalating inflation, and rising militarism and refugee flows around the world.

Congress appears to finally be moving forward on a package of health care and climate programs paid for by raising taxes on the rich and large corporations.

But this is a bare-bones, whittled down version of the once-transformative Build Back Better bill. It does nothing to expand access to affordable housing, childcare, or elder care. Nor are there any moves to cut the inflationary military spending that now amounts to 52 cents of every federal discretionary dollar.

Biden invoked security, safety, and justice as what al Zawahiri’s death would bring.

The U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program’s bounty flyer offering $25,000,000 for information about al-Zawahiri. (U.S. State Department, Wikimedia Commons)

But whatever people in the U.S. might think about the killing of al Zawahiri in the middle of the Afghan capital 7,000 miles away, safety and security are hardly likely to top the list.

Biden assured us that “people around the world no longer need to fear the vicious determined killer.”  But when most people around the world think about the “vicious determined killer” they fear, Ayman al Zawahiri is unlikely anywhere near the top of their list.

Biden’s words would have had more power if he had been announcing a ceasefire in Ukraine, so that the killing stopped and the threat of war-driven famine around the world would disappear. Or proclaiming that the instructions for producing Covid-19 vaccines were now publicly available, so that global vaccine apartheid could be relegated to the past.  Or revealing a new solution to the floods and heat and hunger of climate change, so that tens of millions of refugees and other displaced people could begin to go home.

Biden told us “justice has been delivered.” But for low-wage workers who’ve seen their paychecks shrink under inflation while their companies’ stocks soar and their CEOs walk away with multi-million-dollar salaries, justice still seems very far away. Killing al Zawahiri is unlikely to change that.

The forever war against terrorists has not made us safer. It has not cooled an overheated world or saved millions from pandemics and forced displacement.  The killing of one terrorist leader proves only that the United States is willing to face the possibility of new cold wars, against either economic or nuclear competitors, that are rapidly threatening to spiral into direct conflict — even while airstrikes and drone attacks continue.

And finally, it must be noted, we still have seen no evidence confirming that there were no civilian casualties in the strike that killed al Zawahiri. Remember the August 2021 drone strike in Kabul that killed “only two ISIS terrorists” —but turned out to have targeted only a humanitarian aid worker transporting water, and killed not only him but nine other members of his family, seven of them children?

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace. Her most recent book is the 7th updated edition of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer (2018). Her other books include: Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer (2008) and Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power (2005).

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

20 comments for “Al-Qaeda Chief Killing Does Not ‘Make Us Safer’

    August 5, 2022 at 19:57

    This is what sapiens have been doing since the bronze age—-an eye for an eye–a tooth for a tooth .

  2. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    August 5, 2022 at 01:48

    CIA’s “Islamic” terrorists are payrolled to be killed multiple times; they have more lives than the average cats !

  3. C. Parker
    August 4, 2022 at 20:22

    Drone whistleblower, Daniel Hale, is presently serving 45 months in a federal prison for exposing the “collateral damage caused by drones. A large number of non-targeted innocent human beings were killed by drones. This didn’t seem to bother the Washington elites. The only concern the US government has regarding drone assassinations is it is to be kept quiet.
    Hence, whistle blowers aren’t safe.

  4. Ralph Kramden
    August 4, 2022 at 16:10

    So who is the “killer” now? Amazing the cognitive dissonance that the USA suffers from..

  5. Realist
    August 4, 2022 at 15:14

    “when most people around the world think about the “vicious determined killer” they fear, Ayman al Zawahiri is unlikely anywhere near the top of their list.”

    No, that role is more likely played by Biden and his gangsters in the CIA and special ops galivanting around the world assassinating some targeted militants but mostly their friends and family as collateral damage.

  6. August 4, 2022 at 13:22

    The Biden legacy, one shared by those who elected him. Those who enjoy foreign intervention and armed conflict have nothing to be ashamed of, they are Deep State all the way folks and know what they are doing. Progressive anti war activists, on the other hand, who support the Democratic Party, are something else, at best, dupes who deserve what they get. Unfortunately, the rest of us have to share their fate.

  7. Susan
    August 4, 2022 at 12:49

    I think someone should create a comic book out of all of this nonsense – it would certainly make for better reading. Love comments by Lois G and Dienne!

  8. Enola Gay
    August 4, 2022 at 12:46

    So, now we are supposed to be happy and vote Democrat because their President is too old to even remember how to read the word ‘swagger’ from a teleprompter?

    Ah, wait a moment, yep, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Armageddon does confirm that this is the signpost at the end of the Lessor Evil Highway To Hell.

  9. Alex Cox
    August 4, 2022 at 11:47

    In what way was failing to swagger while announcing this extrajudicial murder to Biden’s ‘credit’? He is just the latest in a line of cowardly drone killers, like Orange Man Bad and O’Bomber before him.

  10. Doug Darlington
    August 4, 2022 at 11:03

    The idea of a drone attack in the middle of an upscale neighborhood in a foreign capital doesn’t seem to trouble anyone but me. I think of it as criminal arrogance.

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    August 4, 2022 at 10:41

    Same, old same…America still believing it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere, any time. Revenge is sweet…

  12. Vincent ANDERSON
    August 4, 2022 at 10:39

    Great bottom-line insights; have ‘followed’ Ms. Bennis since CND and END days in Angle-land when ‘the’ problem was Raygun’s Pershings in Germany. (And a great ‘sleeper’ lookback film, with Jonathan Pryce playing an up-and-coming Boris-type politico careerist, ‘Ploughman’s Lunch.’) Look where their Greens have gone, since days of Rudolf Bahro: an Enantiodromia.
    Maybe you could relocate and/or upload the great IPS study by Richard Barnet, in which he showed that Gorbie’s USSR collapsed, not from ‘the war’ as such but from the huge budget drain it put on their GDP. Matching tit-for-tat weapons race on half the porcine US budget. A futures lesson for the $1T Dept. of Offense budget in US today.

  13. Sally McMillan
    August 4, 2022 at 10:18

    We always get clear thinking from Phyllis Bennis. She sticks to policy, not personal putdowns. Shouldn’t she be encouraged to be on the ballot in 2024? -Sally

  14. C. Kent
    August 4, 2022 at 10:17

    This extra-judicial killing makes us less safe.

    1. It was done by the US CIA, whose litany of anti-American bad acts is so long and so well documented the Congress should have dismantled it 40 years ago. It’s continued operation under it’s historical mission with current staff is akin to preserving the NYC mafia, because they could be useful managing crime in that town. If you’ve read Tim Weiner’s 2007, “Legacy of Ashes History of the CIA” you know what I mean. The CIA makes us less safe.

    2. It’s an up-ramp in extra judicial action when we should be effecting a down-ramp. Btw have we closed Guantanamo and given it back to Cuba yet? Being perceived as an unjust exceptionalist rogue bully makes us less safe.

    3. It’s unethical. If you’ve read Steve Coll’s 2004 “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001,” and been disgusted by the bigoted & murderous conversational attitude presented by young American officers therein as they endless parrot, “All we wanted to do was kill Russians” you know what I mean. The insane phrase is repeated so many times with such normalcy you’d think some Congressperson would suggest it replace e pluribus unum on the money. Creating unethical young officers who are destined to rise within the US power structure makes us less safe.

    4. Payback is a bitch, especially after all the gloating and political grandstanding associated with the hit. In theory we are begging for an act of retribution, which of course the various actors involved in this assassination would then use to further their budgets and projects.

  15. ray Peterson
    August 4, 2022 at 09:55

    Well, I guess looking to the 2024 elections, Democrats
    might be grateful that their President “didn’t swagger”
    at his lie to continue America’s permanent wars.
    Trump’s war supporters might not be so enthusiastic.

  16. Tony
    August 4, 2022 at 08:37

    9/11 could probably have been prevented if all the warnings had not been ignored by President Bush.

    Amazingly, Biden praised him at the time rather than demanding his impeachment.

    • C. Kent
      August 4, 2022 at 12:18

      Praised at the time, then he gave the criminal a Presidential Medal of Freedom. All these characters are the slime at the bottom of a barrel of poison, all filthy rich and all in our faces without censure because of an uncritical bought off class of careerist journos.

  17. Jack Paris
    August 3, 2022 at 20:42

    How sick is it that in America, this has become a standard, almost traditional event for an election season? The Traditional Murder Day to kick off the Election Season. Present the public with photos of a corpse to prove that one is worthy of leadership. For Obama, Trump, Biden, this appears to be a date already marked on their calendars.

    I wonder how long before they drag the prisoner to the giant stake of the Washington Monument and hold a public, ritual sacrifice?

  18. Lois Gagnon
    August 3, 2022 at 19:18

    Hasn’t this guy been killed like 3 times already?

    • Dienne
      August 4, 2022 at 09:41

      We killed him in 2008 and he died of asthma in 2020.

Comments are closed.