Wednesday, May 04, 2011

431. US Forces Murder bin Laden ... Does it Matter?

Probably not. The arch-criminal who has lurked behind the American state of frustration and psychological alienation from that fifth of the world’s population who follow the religion of Islam is dead. In a way that’s good. The Demon King is dead. That still leaves about a billion people who might not have the same reaction. Americans seem to be happy, waving flags and doing their mindless USA USA chants. That’s what people do when they live in America. Back in the 1930s the Germans used to do the same thing with different flags and different chants, in accordance with pretty much the same set of emotions. The difference is this: if you get politically over-excited overseas you are a nationalist (ever and always a bad thing), but if you get hysterical in America you are praised as a patriot.

So what does it mean? Not much, really.

What has changed? Is Al-Quaeda finished, the whole movement destroyed? The simple answer is no. Bin Laden has been no more than a figurehead for the last number of years. There is no evidence that he was the real planner behind the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban government asked America to prove it back in 2002 and America attacked the country instead. We don’t talk to ragheads.

They were after bin Laden for previous attacks on their embassies in Africa. Was he responsible for that? Yes, more than likely.

Was he an innocent guy? Absolutely not. He was at war with the United States.


Same stuff again and again and again. There was no secret about it. It’s one thing to disagree with the guy but it’s impossible to say he didn’t make his opinions clear. Nothing was hidden, he came out and said it.

He wanted to restore the Khallifat, the historical Muslim rule over the Mediterranean basin, including southern Spain (the lost lands) but with no sense of what those intelligent tolerant southern kingdoms had actually been all about. He wanted to bring in a Wahhabi blanket over the whole Muslim world, a thing that a lot of Muslims in outlying areas would rather do without. He wanted to impose Muslim rule over the world because Islam was the only true religion. He wanted to reverse the shame of the last two centuries in which European and then American power had overshadowed the Muslim world. He wanted to recreate an idealized world of the past that, historically, probably never existed.

The popular demonstrations and uprisings across the Arab world in the last few months are a total repudiation of nearly every one of bin Laden’s ideas. These are national movements for principles of freedom and democracy, entirely modern in intent, and with no throwback to any thought of an Islamic khallifat. None. Bin Laden remains a bit of a T-shirt hero because he stood up to the West, attacked them (when nobody else had the balls to do so), but very few young and not so young educated people in the modern Arab world believe in the weird old-fashioned world he believed in and wanted to recreate. They don’t. The guy is a hero, sure, in a setting where there are so few heroes to crow about, but he comes out of the 10th or 11th century : an amazing warrior, a shaheed, but not quite what we need now .... the fact that he died in a blaze of gunfire is going to add to his mythical status, his position in the pantheon of Arab heroes, standing slightly to the side of the great Salah-ad-Din: dead heroes are the best kind in every culture. Being dead they're not going to come up with something new, embarrassing, or unexpected

Salah-ad-Din. Saladin. Respect, awe, reverence. Dropped his clogs 800 years ago. A person of great charm and courtly benevolence but at the same time a shrewd and gifted general. He threw the Crusaders out of Jerusalem. This, not surprisingly, is part of the ongoing problem in a deeply unsettled and unstable political culture. Apart from Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) viewed by many in the Muslim world as an apostate, with good reasons for doing so, it's tough to have to go back so many years to find a person everyone can agree to admire.

Next we need to take a look at the knotty question of "justice". President Obama spoke in measured tones in the wake of what was little more than an assassination, a calculated hit. This was better than what we could have expected from his predecessor who would have been punching the air, beaming from ear to ear, recreating his role as a Yale cheerleader. But this was not justice. Justice involves courts and laws, charges laid down, a defence, a judge and a jury. Osama was simply blown away and apparently dumped in the sea. This has nothing to do with justice. It’s just a question of getting rid of a guy you you don’t like. Back in the 1920s the Chicago Mob used to do this all the time.

So where does that place the US government? Hard to say.

Better to bump him off than put him in court? After all, who knows what he might say about CIA connections during the Afghan war. That’s probably why Saddam Hussein was turned over to an Iraqi kangaroo court before he could spill the beans on where the gas he used on the Kurds came from (Germany and the USA) and his relationship with Donny Rumsfeld. Certain things we just don’t need to hear about. The general public will never understand the ins and outs of statecraft, so better not to bother their potentially troublesome little heads.

Osama is gone. Blown away, in fact. I don’t think he was a very good man. He was an exceedingly dangerous character who, directly or indirectly, caused the deaths of a large number of people, most of them Arabs and Afghans. I am not entirely convinced he was the presiding genius behind the 9/11 attacks in the USA but he came out and approved of them in a video and for that reason alone he stands condemned as a killer. When he comes face-to-face with the God he proclaims to believe in, the God he claims to have been acting for ( 'Hello, God.' -- 'Hello, Osama,' : this could be happening right now as we speak) he might come in for a bit of a shock. God will haul off and slap him.

Guardian (UK) Obituary