Two “Reigns of Terror” — on Osama bin Laden

[A few hours ago US President Obama announced the triumphant execution of Osama bin Laden, who began his career as a creature of the US opposing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and who later became the iconic malevolent terrorist of 9/11 and the imperialist’s effective motivating anti-Christ invoked to stampede support for xenophobic and imperialist war moves over the last decade.  Imperialism will miss him; as a stock excuse for imperialist war against people who never had anything to do with al Qaeda or bin Laden, he has been of great use.  The US has waged its “War of Terror” on the people in the name of the “War on Terror.”  But revolutionary people will not miss him in the least.  The absence of his disorienting and murderous al Qaeda, and of the stock media deceptions to paint revolutionaries with a “terrorist” or “al Qaeda” brush, will clear the air for the struggle against imperialism.  Osama bin Laden did not distinguish between the people of the US and the US government, and he projected not a revolutionary class struggle or a revolutionary struggle against all oppression, but a flip-side of the imperialist’s “clash of civilizations.”  This is the key to recognizing his, and al Qaeda’s,  counter-revolutionary and murderous nature.  Too many revolutionaries have been silenced or distorted or shoved into the shadow of bin Laden by Goebbels-like media.  It is time for revolutionaries to speak out, and clearly.  In this

Prominent author, Mark Twain was a leader of the American Anti-Imperialist League

spirit we remember, and print below, a timely passage from Mark Twain on “two Reigns of Terror,” in which his words, directed at the French revolution, have resonance today in considering “Osama bin Laden’s terrorism” vs. “US imperialism’s terrorism.”   — Frontlines ed.]

from A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT (published 1889)
by MARK TWAIN (Samuel L. Clemens)

“There were two ‘Reigns of Terror,’ if we would but remember it
and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other
in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had
lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand
persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are
all for the ‘horrors’ of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror,
so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe,
compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror–that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”

page 54.

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