This stencil just went up a block from my spot at 15th and Mission the other day. Most stencils in the Mission are inside jokes clearly aimed at other artists (“Beat the Buff”) or total clichés along the lines of “Die Yuppie Scum,” so it’s good to see something more original making an appearance. The SF Print Collective has been one of the few groups keeping a steady stream of subversive art on the walls and bus shelters of the Mission over the last decade, but I haven’t seen anything new from them since the Dignity mural (below) that they did for the Clarion Alley Project last year, so it’s good to see other artists stepping up with quality street propaganda.
I really like this “Missing Osama” stencil, because it’s such a stark reminder of how pathetically Bush’s “War on Terror” failed on so many levels. To be fair, there were no major terrorist attacks on the United States after 9/11 (although I’m not even going to scratch the surface on the unconstitutional rampage of wire-tapping and torture that Bush went on to “keep us safe”). But the primary goal of W’s foreign policy — to strengthen pro-Western governments and allies in the Middle East while delegitimatizing Islamic fundamentalist forces — actually resulted in the exact opposite of it’s intended effect. From Egypt to Pakistan and even in Saudi Arabia, governments friendly to the U.S. have been destabilized by U.S. incursions into the region and reacted by (trying to) crack down even harder on internal opposition groups, which have been using everything from Facebook to RPGs to strengthen their movements. Iran is closer to getting nukes every day, Hamas still holds power in Gaza and after nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan, the Taliban has re-emerged as a major military and political force.
These situations are really complex and confusing. For example, I’m totally opposed this ongoing drone bombing of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, which has seemingly been killing just as many civilians as “terrorists” lately, but seeing the recent headlines about hardliners passing laws to legalize rape in Afghanistan is equally troubling. It feels like there’s no “good side” to choose in this conflict.
But getting back to the Osama stencil, this simple image captures the essence of the utter failure of the Bush’s War on Terror. Despite all the huffing and puffing and blowing all lot of other people’s houses down, Bush never took down the biggest “evildoer” of them all, the global face of extremist jihad, the man who was transformed from regular ol’ terrorist to Islamic super-villian during the fall of 2001. In a shattering rebuke to the myth of U.S. omnipotence, Bin Laden is still out there, telling everyone to study the vile history of recent U.S. military interventions and calling for violent resistance to Western powers. This is an important fact to remember and I’m glad that there are artists in my neighborhood doing their part to remind us of this discomforting reality.