Five Best Sunday Columns

On the Pakistan Army, Chomsky on bin Laden, and mothers we should save

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Noam Chomsky on his Reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death. "It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law," writes Noam Chomsky on the death of bin Laden. "In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress 'suspects.'" Chomsky highlights the lack of evidence surrounding bin Laden, even with regard to the attacks of 9/11. "There is much talk of bin Laden’s 'confession,' but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement." Chomsky questions "how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s and he is not a 'suspect' but uncontroversially the 'decider' who gave the orders."

M.J. Akbar on the Pakistan Army's Lack of Independence from the U.S. According to M.J. Akbar, the following is a stark fact: "the Pakistan Army is impotent before America." Beyond the pretension, the idea that the killing of Osama was some sort of “joint operation” was "thin camouflage that has been torn apart by minimal public scrutiny." Regardless of how much the Army claims to stand up to the U.S., it is impotent. "This is a variation, not particularly subtle, of the neo-colonial syndrome... In essence, neo-colonization is the grant of independence on condition you do not exercise it." While Pakistan struggles to explain how bin Laden was living comfortably in such close proximity of the military, it's clear that the Pakistan Army has greatly deteriorated. The cause that Akbar cites is the "absence of accountability. No one, either a wing of government or Parliament, can question its will to do what it wants. In the name of patriotism, it has declared virtual independence from the rest of Pakistan." The result is that the army "has become a porous bale of cotton."

Maureen Dowd in Favor of the Violence Against bin Laden. In contrast to recent pieces, such as Chomsky's column mentioned above, that criticize or question the manner in which Osama bin Laden was killed, Maureen Dowd comes out strongly in favor. "Only fools or knaves would argue that we could fight Al Qaeda’s violence non-violently," Dowd writes. We have not sunk to bin Laden's level, she maintains: "[W]ithin days, Naval Seal-gazing shifted to navel-gazing... Liberal guilt may have its uses, but it should not be wasted on this kill-mission." Dowd particularly takes offense to the idea that "killing Osama somehow makes us like Osama, as if all killing is the same... Unlike Osama, the Navy Seals took great care not to harm civilians... Morally and operationally, this was counterterrorism at its finest. We have nothing to apologize for."

Kelefa Sanneh on the Rise (and Rise) of Reality Television. "Reality television is the television of television," opines Sanneh. "The same people who brag about having seen every episode of 'Friday Night Lights' will brag, too, that they have never laid eyes on 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta.'" In fact, Sanneh notices a trend to defend reeality television and to take it more seriously. Part of this movement is based, according to Sanneh, in the "taboo that left-leaning critics of popular culture are obliged to observe: never criticize the populace." SOme have argued that reality television is a natural "outgrowth of the rise, in the nineteen-nineties, of 'interactive media,'" and connects viewers to the their entertainment. However, the "celebrification of the genre has weakened the participants’ link to the viewers, while underscoring their similarity to other famous people." So while reality television is a "new kind of art form," it continues "to look more and more like the old ones."

Nicholas Kristof on Mother We Could Save. Approximately 350,000 women die in childbirth every year, relays Nicholas Kristof, and for Mother's Day, perhaps we should consider saving them. The only problem is that doing so is highly controversial, in that it involves family planning. Kristof considers Somalia: "If Somali women had half as many pregnancies (they now average six births), there would be only half as many maternal deaths. But modern contraception doesn’t exist in this part of Somaliland... in a place like this, family planning requires much more than just handing out contraceptives." According to the United Nations, "215 million women worldwide have an 'unmet nee'” for family planning, meaning they don’t want to become pregnant but are not using effective contraception... Yet this year, Republicans in Congress have been trying to slash investments in family planning. If they succeed, the consequences will be felt in places like this remote Somali town. Women won’t get access to contraceptives, and the parade of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, fistulas, and mothers dying in childbirth will continue."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.