Osama Bin Laden 1957-2011Posted: May 2, 2011
I’m willing to bet that everyone knows that Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda leader and mastermind behind the 9-11 terrorist attacks, was killed the other day by US forces in Pakistan.
If the news analysis sources that I have been reading are correct, apparently Bin Laden had lost much of his popular appeal in the middle-east and was considered a bit of a liability by his terrorist peers because of his high profile. Despite being unusually tall (6’6″), needing the help of a cane to get around and poor health (that some sources say he required dialysis treatments), Bin Laden managed to evade US forces for about 10 years. He was finally found (and killed)in a walled villa in Abbottabad, Pakistan, just blocks away from an important Pakistani officer’s training school. Abbottabad is apparently a town popular with tourists for it’s beautiful climate, lush vegetation and luxury restaurants, so the fact that Bin Laden was living there (a rather conspicuous location), rather than in a cave up in the mountains of Afghanistan (as those who follow US news reports had always been told), is somewhat embarassing for both the Americans and their allies (who spent so long fruitlessly looking for him in all of the wrong places) and the Pakistani Government (who were assuring the US and her allies of cooperation while harboring known enemies like Bin Laden).
Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’m surprised at how little I feel about the end of this chapter of American History even though I have been along for the whole ride… both when Bin Laden was a US “ally” as a leader of the Mujahadeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan under Presidents Reagan and Carter and when he became our enemy after 9-11. If any one person’s name was to be given as a ‘reason’ for commiting US forces wars in Afgahanistan and Iraq, it would probably be Bin Laden (with Saddam Hussein in second place).
I think the problem is that I don’t think Bin Laden’s death solves much of anything (in contrast, Hitler’s death by suicide did seem to bring ‘closure’ to WW2 in Europe; although Nazi Germany was effectively defeated, the Germans did not officially surrender until after Hitler was dead). Although President Obama is now talking about more troop withdrawls from Afghanistan, I don’t think Afghanistan (or Iraq) are any closer to being stable countries where the rule of law prevails and the citizens can count on anything close to a stable life than they were before Bin Laden was killed. Perhaps I’m just jaded. Perhaps there have already been too many declarations of ‘mission accomplished’ and victory in the middle east, and then we woke up the next morning and things were just as fucked up as they were the night before.
A lot of the people who were just kids when we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan 10+ years ago are now adults, and many of them, rightly or wrongly, think of the US and the west as the agressors, the invaders, the bullies. Their countries are fucked up, broken down and burned out and the toilets don’t work, there isn’t much on the supermarket shelves, the water isn’t safe to drink unless you boil it, most of the people don’t have work, gunmen and bandits wander the streets and shit blows up all of the time — both Iraq and Afghanistan, despite efforts to the contrary, are breeding grounds for discontent.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not shedding any tears over the death of Bin Laden. He was an evil man who orchestrated mass casualty attacks on civilians (including his own people). He was also fucking weird — he claimed to love bulldozers, bombs, guns and genetically engineered plants and hated music and ‘luxuries’ like cold drinking water because his particular interpretation of a religiously based revolutionary culture. He thought music and cold water were decadent luxuries that made people happy and cooperative and less likely to fight for his cause. But I fear that there are a lot of other charismatic terrorist leaders who have stepped up to take his place (although the US public may not know their names yet). Afghanistan and Iraq don’t seem to have benefited enough from the trillions of dollars and thousands of lives that the US and her allies have poured in there (although the defense industry and the Government subcontractors certainly have done well). And we don’t even know how many Iraquis and Afghanis have died in the past ~10 years.
Given the amount of effort expended measured in dollars and blood shed, shouldn’t things be much better now?