Reactions to the death of the man whose name was identified with Islamic terror.
Killing of Osama Bin Laden
June 1, 2011
- Killing of Osama Bin Laden
- The death of Osama Bin Laden
- Of murder and multiple violations
- Rejoice not…’
- Dead and alive
- The land of make-believe
- Islam after Osama
Killing of Osama Bin Laden
Al-qaeda's ringleader gunned down
The death of Osama Bin Laden
A political failure outstripped by history
A middle-aged nonentity, a political failure outstripped by history – by the millions of Arabs demanding freedom and democracy in the Middle East – died in Pakistan yesterday (May 2). And then the world went mad.
Fresh from providing us with a copy of his birth certificate, the American president turned up in the middle of the night to provide us with a live-time death certificate for Osama bin Laden, killed in a town named after a major in the army of the old British empire. A single shot to the head, we were told. But the body’s secret flight to Afghanistan, an equally secret burial at sea? The weird and creepy disposal of the body – no shrines, please – was almost as creepy as the man and his vicious organisation.
The Americans were drunk with joy. David Cameron thought it “a massive step forward”. India described it as a “victorious milestone”. “A resounding triumph,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu boasted. But after 3,000 American dead on 9/11, countless more in the Middle East, up to half a million Muslims dead in Iraq and Afghanistan and 10 years trying to find bin Laden, pray let us have no more “resounding triumphs”. Revenge attacks? Perhaps they will come, by the little groupuscules in the West, who have no direct contact with al-Qaeda. Be sure, someone is already dreaming up a “Brigade of the Martyr Osama bin Laden”. Maybe in Afghanistan, among the Taliban.
But the mass revolutions in the Arab world over the past four months mean that al-Qaeda was already politically dead. Bin Laden told the world – indeed he told me personally – that he wanted to destroy the pro-western regimes in the Arab world, the dictatorships of the Mubaraks and the Ben Alis. He wanted to create a new Islamic caliphate. But these past few months millions of Arab Muslims rose up and were prepared for their own martyrdom – not for Islam but for freedom and liberty and democracy. Bin Laden didn’t get rid of the tyrants. The people did. And they didn’t want a caliph.
I met the man three times and have only one question left unasked: what did he think as he watched those revolutions unfold this year – under the flags of nations rather than Islam, Christians and Muslims together, the kind of people his own al-Qaeda men were happy to butcher?
In his own eyes, his achievement was the creation of al-Qaeda, the institution which had no card-carrying membership. You just woke up in the morning, wanted to be in al-Qaeda – and you were. He was the founder. But he was never a hands-on warrior. There was no computer in his cave, no phone calls to set bombs off. While the Arab dictators ruled uncontested with our support, they largely avoided condemning American policy; only bin Laden said these things. Arabs never wanted to fly planes into tall buildings but they did admire a man who said what they wanted to say. But now, increasingly, they can say these things. They don’t need bin Laden. He had become a nonentity.
But talking of caves, bin Laden’s demise does bring Pakistan into grim focus. For months President Ali Zardari has been telling us that bin Laden was living in a cave in Afghanistan. Now it turns out he was living in a mansion in Pakistan. Betrayed? Of course he was. By the Pakistan military or the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)? Quite possibly both. Pakistan knew where he was.
Not only was Abbottabad the home of the country’s military college – the town was founded by Major James Abbott of the British army in 1853 – but it is the headquarters of Pakistan’s Northern Army Corps’ Second Division. Scarcely a year ago I sought an interview with another “most wanted man” – the leader of the group believed to be responsible for the Mumbai massacres. I found him in the Pakistani city of Lahore – guarded by uniformed Pakistani policemen holding machine guns.
I met the man three times and have only one question left unasked: what did he think as he watched the mass revolutions unfold in the Middle East this year – under the flags of nations rather than Islam, Christians and Muslims together, the kind of people his own al-Qaeda men were happy to butcher?
Of course, there is one more obvious question unanswered: couldn’t they have captured bin Laden? Didn’t the CIA or the Navy Seals or the US Special Forces or whatever American outfit killed him have the means to throw a net over the tiger? “Justice,” Barack Obama called his death. In the old days, of course, “justice” meant due process, a court, a hearing, a defence, a trial. Like the sons of Saddam, bin Laden was gunned down. Sure, he never wanted to be taken alive – and there were buckets of blood in the room in which he died.
But a court would have worried more people than bin Laden. After all, he might have talked about his contacts with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, or about his cosy meetings in Islamabad with Prince Turki, Saudi Arabia’s former head of intelligence. Just as Saddam – who was tried for the murder of a mere 153 people rather than thousands of gassed Kurds – was hanged before he had the chance to tell us about the gas components that came from America, his friendship with Donald Rumsfeld, the US military assistance he received when he invaded Iran in 1980.
Oddly, he was not the “most wanted man” for the international crimes against humanity of September 11, 2001. He gained his Wild West status by al-Qaeda’s earlier attacks on the US embassies in Africa and the attack on the US barracks in Dhahran. He was always waiting for cruise missiles – so was I when I met him. He had waited for death before, in the caves of Tora Bora in 2001 when his bodyguards refused to let him stand and fight and forced him to walk over the mountains to Pakistan. Some of his time he would spend in Karachi – he was obsessed with Karachi; he even, weirdly, gave me photographs of pro-bin Laden graffiti on the walls of the former Pakistani capital and praised the city’s imams.
His relations with other Muslims were mysterious; when I met him in Afghanistan, he initially feared the Taliban, refusing to let me travel to Jalalabad at night from his training camp – he handed me over to his al-Qaeda lieutenants to protect me on the journey the next day. His followers hated all Shia Muslims as heretics and all dictators as infidels – though he was prepared to cooperate with Iraq’s ex-Baathists against the country’s American occupiers, and said so in an audiotape which the CIA typically ignored. He never praised Hamas and was scarcely worthy of their “holy warrior” definition on May 2 which played – as usual – straight into Israel’s hands.
In the years after 2001, I maintained a faint indirect communication with bin Laden, once meeting one of his trusted al-Qaeda associates at a secret location in Pakistan. I wrote out a list of 12 questions, the first of which was obvious: what kind of victory could he claim when his actions resulted in the US occupation of two Muslim countries? There was no reply for weeks. Then one weekend, waiting to give a lecture in St Louis in the US, I was told that Al Jazeera had produced a new audiotape from bin Laden. And one by one – without mentioning me – he answered my 12 questions. And yes, he wanted the Americans to come to the Muslim world – so he could destroy them.
When Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped, I wrote a long article in The Independent, pleading with bin Laden to try to save his life. Pearl and his wife had looked after me when I was beaten on the Afghan border in 2001; he even gave me the contents of his contacts book. Much later, I was told that bin Laden had read my report with sadness. But Pearl had already been murdered. Or so he said.
Yet bin Laden’s own obsessions blighted even his family. One wife left him, two more appeared to have been killed in Sunday’s American attack. I met one of his sons, Omar, in Afghanistan with his father in 1994. He was a handsome little boy and I asked him if he was happy. He said “yes” in English. But in 2009 he published a book called Growing Up bin Laden and – recalling how his father killed his beloved dogs in a chemical warfare experiment – described him as an “evil man”. In his book, he too remembered our meeting; and concluded that he should have told me that no, he was not a happy child.
By midday on May 2, I had three phone calls from Arabs, all certain that it was bin Laden’s double who was killed by the Americans – just as I know many Iraqis who still believe that Saddam’s sons were not killed in 2003, nor Saddam really hanged. In due course, al-Qaeda will tell us. Of course, if we are all wrong and it was a double, we’re going to be treated to yet another videotape from the real bin Laden – and President Barack Obama will lose the next election.
This article was published in The Independent on May 3, 2011; www.independent.co.uk
Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2011.Year 17, No.158 - Bin Laden
Of murder and multiple violations
Osama bin Laden’s assassination should provide us with a good deal to think about.
It is increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition – except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects”. In April 2002 the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know eight months earlier when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence – which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said in his White House statement that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda”.
Nothing serious has been provided since. 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.
We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him and dumped his body in the Atlantic
There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the US invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervour is already very high in Pakistan and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and scepticism in much of the Muslim world.
We might ask ourselves 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 to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
There is more to say about (Cuban airline bomber Orlando) Bosch who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbour terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the US and murder of its criminal president.
Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It is like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It is as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy”.
There is much more to say but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.
This article was posted on the blog of the online magazine Guernica on May 6, 2011; www.guernicamag.com
Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2011.Year 17, No.158 - Bin Laden
Americans celebrate bin Laden’s death
In the western world, few will mourn Osama bin Laden but god forbid that anyone should gloatRejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth, Lest the Lord see [it], and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”
This is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible (Proverbs 24:17-18), and indeed in the Hebrew language. It is beautiful in other languages too though no translation comes close to the beauty of the original.
Of course, it is natural to be glad when one’s enemy is defeated, and the thirst for revenge is a human trait. But gloating – schadenfreude – is something different altogether. An ugly thing.
Ancient Hebrew legend has it that god got very angry when the children of Israel rejoiced as their Egyptian pursuers drowned in the Red Sea. “My creatures are drowning in the sea,” god admonished them, “And you are singing?”
These thoughts crossed my mind when I saw the TV shots of jubilant crowds of young Americans shouting and dancing in the street. Natural, but unseemly. The contorted faces and the aggressive body language were no different from those of crowds in Sudan or Somalia. The ugly sides of human nature seem to be the same everywhere.
The rejoicing may be premature. Most probably, al-Qaeda did not die with Osama bin Laden. The effect may be entirely different.
In 1942 the British killed Avraham Stern, whom they called a terrorist. Stern, whose nom de guerre was Yair, was hiding in a cupboard in an apartment in Tel Aviv. In his case too, it was the movements of his courier that gave him away. After making sure that he was the right man, the British police officer in command shot him dead. That was not the end of his group – rather, a new beginning. It became the bane of British rule in Palestine. Known as the “Stern Gang” (its real name was “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”), it carried out the most daring attacks on British installations and played a significant role in persuading the colonial power to leave the country.
Hamas did not die when the Israeli air force killed Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the paralysed founder, ideologue and symbol of Hamas. As a martyr, he was far more effective than as a living leader. His martyrdom attracted many new fighters to the cause. Killing a person does not kill an idea. The Christians even took the cross as their symbol.
What was the idea that turned Osama bin Laden into a world figure?
He preached the restoration of the caliphate of the early Muslim centuries, which was not only a huge empire but also a centre of the sciences and the arts, poetry and literature when Europe was still a barbaric, medieval continent. Every Arab child learns about these glories and cannot but contrast them with the sorry Muslim present. (In a way, these longings parallel the Zionist romantics’ dreams of a resurrected kingdom of David and Solomon.)
A new caliphate in the 21st century is as unlikely as the wildest creation of the imagination. It would have been diametrically opposed to the zeitgeist were it not for its opponents – the Americans. They needed this dream – or nightmare – more than the Muslims themselves.
The American empire always needs an antagonist to keep it together and to focus its energies. This has to be a worldwide enemy, a sinister advocate of an evil philosophy. Such were the Nazis and Imperial Japan but they did not last long.
Fortunately, there was then the Communist empire which filled the role admirably. There were Communists everywhere. All of them were plotting the downfall of freedom, democracy and the United States of America. They were even lurking inside the US, as J. Edgar Hoover and Senator Joe McCarthy so convincingly demonstrated. For decades the US flourished in the fight against the Red Menace; its forces spread all over the world, its spaceships reached the moon, its best minds engaged in a titanic battle of ideas, the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.
And then – suddenly – the whole thing collapsed. Soviet power vanished as if it had never existed. The American spy agencies, with their tremendous capabilities, were flabbergasted. Apparently, they had no idea how ramshackle the Soviet structure actually was. How could they see, blinded as they were by their own ideological preconceptions?
The disappearance of the Communist Threat left a gaping void in the American psyche, which cried out to be filled. Osama bin Laden kindly offered his services.
What was the idea that turned Osama bin Laden into a world figure? A new caliphate in the 21st century is as unlikely as the wildest creation of the imagination. It would have been diametrically opposed to the zeitgeist were it not for its opponents – the Americans. They needed this dream – or nightmare – more than the Muslims themselves
It needed, of course, a world-shaking event to lend credibility to such a hare-brained utopia. The 9/11 outrage was just such an event. It produced many changes in the American way of life. And a new global enemy.
Overnight, medieval anti-Islamic prejudices are dusted off for display. Islam the terrible, the murderous, the fanatical. Islam the anti-democratic, the anti-freedom, anti-all-our-values: Suicide bombers, 72 virgins, jihad.
The US springs to life again. Soldiers, spies and special forces fan out across the globe to fight terrorism. Bin Laden is everywhere. The War Against Terrorism is an apocalyptic struggle with Satan. American freedoms have to be protected; the US military machine grows by leaps and bounds. Power-hungry intellectuals babble about the Clash of Civilisations and sell their souls for instant celebrity.
To produce the lurid paint for such a twisted picture of reality, religious Islamic groups are all thrown into the same pot – the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Ayatollahs in Iran, Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Indonesian separatists, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, whoever. All become al-Qaeda despite the fact that each has a totally different agenda, focused on its own country, while bin Laden aims to abolish all Muslim states and create one Holy Islamic Empire. Details, details.
The Holy War against the Jihad finds warriors everywhere. Ambitious demagogues, for whom this promises an easy way to inflame the masses, spring up in many countries, from France to Finland, from Holland to Italy. The hysteria of Islamophobia displaces good old anti-Semitism, using almost the same language. Tyrannical regimes present themselves as bulwarks against al-Qaeda, as they had once presented themselves as bulwarks against communism. And, of course, our own Binyamin Netanyahu milks the situation for all it is worth, travelling from capital to capital, peddling his wares of anti-Islamism.
Bin Laden had good reason to be proud, and probably was.
When I saw his picture for the first time, I joked that he was not a real person but an actor straight from Hollywood’s Central Casting. He looked too good to be true – exactly as he would appear in a Hollywood movie – a handsome man, with a long black beard, posing with a Kalashnikov. His appearances on TV were carefully staged.
Actually, he was a very incompetent terrorist, a real amateur. No genuine terrorist would have lived in a conspicuous villa which stood out in the landscape like a sore thumb. Stern was hiding in a small roof apartment in a squalid quarter of Tel Aviv. Menachem Begin lived with his wife and son in a very modest ground floor apartment, playing the role of a reclusive rabbi.
Bin Laden’s villa was bound to attract the attention of neighbours and other people. They would have been curious about this mysterious stranger in their midst. Actually, he should have been discovered long ago. He was unarmed and did not put up a fight. The decision to kill him on the spot and dump his body in the sea was evidently taken long before.
So there is no grave, no holy tomb. But for millions of Muslims, and especially Arabs, he was and remains a source of pride, an Arab hero, the “lion of lions”, as a preacher in Jerusalem called him. Almost no one dared to come out and say so openly, for fear of the Americans, but even those who thought his ideas impractical and his actions harmful respected him in their hearts.
Does that mean that al-Qaeda has a future? I don’t think so. It belongs to the past – not because bin Laden has been killed but because his central idea is obsolete.
The Arab Spring embodies a new set of ideals, a new enthusiasm, one that does not glorify and hanker after a distant past but looks boldly to the future. The young men and women of Tahrir Square, with their longing for freedom, have consigned bin Laden to history months before his physical death. His philosophy has a future only if the Arab Awakening fails completely and leaves behind a profound sense of disappointment and despair.
In the western world, few will mourn him but god forbid that anyone should gloat.
This article was posted on the website of the peace bloc Gush Shalom on May 7, 2011; http://zope.gush-shalom.org
Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2011.Year 17, No.158 - Bin Laden
Dead and alive
Osama bin Laden’s American legacyBack in the 1960s Senator George Aiken of Vermont offered two American presidents a plan for dealing with the Vietnam war: declare victory and go home. Roundly ignored at the time, it is a plan worth considering again today for a war in Afghanistan and Pakistan now in its 10th year.
As everybody not blind, deaf and dumb knows by now, Osama bin Laden has been eliminated. Literally. By Navy Seals. Or, as one of a crowd of revellers who appeared in front of the White House on May 1 put it, on an impromptu sign riffing on The Wizard of Oz: ‘Ding, Dong, Bin Laden Is Dead’.
And wouldn’t it be easy if he had indeed been the Wicked Witch of the West and all we needed to do was click those ruby slippers three times, say “there’s no place like home” and be back in Kansas. Or if this were VJ day and a sailor’s kiss said it all.
Unfortunately, in every way that matters for Americans, it is an illusion that Osama bin Laden is dead. In every way that matters, he will fight on, barring a major Obama administration policy shift in Afghanistan, and it is we who will ensure that he remains on the battlefield that George W. Bush’s administration once so grandiosely labelled the Global War on Terror.
Admittedly, the Arab world had largely left bin Laden in the dust even before he took that bullet to the head. There, the focus was on the Arab Spring, the massive, ongoing, largely non-violent protests that have shaken the region and its autocrats to their roots. In that part of the world, his death is, as Tony Karon of Time magazine has written, “little more than a historical footnote” and his dreams are now essentially meaningless.
Consider it an insult to irony, but the world bin Laden really changed forever wasn’t in the Greater Middle East. It was here. Cheer his death, bury him at sea, don’t release any photos and he’ll still carry on as a ghost as long as Washington continues to fight its deadly, disastrous wars in his old neighbourhood.
The Tao of Terrorism
If analogies to The Wizard of Oz were in order, bin Laden might better be compared to that film’s wizard rather than the wicked witch. After all, he was, in a sense, a small man behind a vast screen on which his frail frame took on, in the US, the hulking proportions of a supervillain if not a rival superpower. In actuality, al-Qaeda, his organisation, was at best a ragtag crew that even in its heyday, even before it was embattled and on the run, had the most limited of operational capabilities. Yes, it could mount spectacular and spectacularly murderous actions but only one of them every year or two.
Bin Laden was never “Hitler”, nor were his henchmen the Nazis, nor did they add up to Stalin and his minions, though sometimes they were billed as such. The nearest thing al-Qaeda had to a state was the impoverished, ravaged, Taliban-controlled part of Afghanistan where some of its “camps” were once sheltered. Even the money available to bin Laden, while significant, wasn’t much to brag about, not on a superpower scale anyway. The 9/11 attacks were estimated to cost $4,00,000 to $5,00,000 which, in superpower terms, was pure chump change.
Despite the apocalyptic look of the destruction bin Laden’s followers caused in New York and at the Pentagon, he and his crew of killers represented a relatively modest, distinctly non-world-ending challenge to the US. And had the Bush administration focused the same energies on hunting him down that it put into invading and occupying Afghanistan and then Iraq, can there be any question that almost 10 years wouldn’t have passed before he died or, as will now never happen, was brought to trial?
The world bin Laden really changed forever wasn’t in the Greater Middle East. It was here. Cheer his death, bury him at sea, don’t release any photos and he’ll still carry on as a ghost as long as Washington continues to fight its deadly, disastrous wars in his old neighbourhood
It was our misfortune and Osama bin Laden’s good luck that Washington’s dreams were not those of a global policeman intent on bringing a criminal operation to justice but of an imperial power whose leaders wanted to lock the oil heartlands of the planet into a Pax Americana for decades to come. So if you’re writing bin Laden’s obituary right now, describe him as a wizard who used the 9/11 attacks to magnify his meagre powers many times over.
After all, while he only had the ability to launch major operations every couple of years, Washington – with almost unlimited amounts of money, weapons and troops at its command – was capable of launching operations every day. In a sense, after 9/11, bin Laden commanded Washington by taking possession of its deepest fears and desires, the way a bot takes over a computer, and turning them to his own ends.
It was he, thanks to 9/11, who insured that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan would be put into motion. It was he, thanks to 9/11, who also insured that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be launched. It was he, thanks to 9/11, who brought America’s Afghan war to Pakistan and American aircraft, bombs and missiles to Somalia and Yemen to fight that Global War on Terror. And for the last near-decade he did all this the way a Tai Chi master fights: using not his own minimal strength but our massive destructive power to create the sort of mayhem in which he undoubtedly imagined that an organisation like his could thrive.
Don’t be surprised then that in these last months or even years bin Laden seems to have been sequestered in a walled compound in a resort area just north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, doing next to nothing. Think of him as practising the Tao of Terrorism. In fact, the less he did, the fewer operations he was capable of launching, the more the American military did for him in creating what collapsing Chinese dynasties used to call “chaos under heaven”.
Dead and alive
As is now obvious, bin Laden’s greatest wizardry was performed on us, not on the Arab world where the movements he spawned from Yemen to North Africa have proven remarkably peripheral and unimportant. He helped open us up to all the nightmares we could visit upon ourselves (and others) – from torture and the creation of an offshore archipelago of injustice to the locking down of our own American world where we were to cower in terror while lashing out militarily.
In many ways, he broke us not on 9/11 but in the months and years after. As a result, if we don’t have the sense to follow Senator Aiken’s advice, the wars we continue to fight with disastrous results will prove to be his monument and our imperial graveyard (as Afghanistan has been for more than one empire in the past).
At a moment when the media and celebratory American crowds are suddenly bullish on US military operations we still have almost 1,00,000 American troops, 50,000 allied troops, startling numbers of armed mercenaries and at least 400 military bases in Afghanistan almost 10 years on. All of this as part of an endless war against one man and his organisation which, according to the CIA director, is supposed to have only 50 to 100 operatives in that country.
Now he is officially under the waves. In the Middle East, his idea of an all-encompassing future “caliphate” was the most ephemeral of fantasies. In a sense though, his dominion was always here. He was our excuse and our demon. He possessed us.
When the celebrations and partying over his death fade, as they will no less quickly than did those for Britain’s royal wedding, we will once again be left with the tattered American world bin Laden willed us and it will be easy to see just how paltry a thing this “victory,” his killing, is almost 10 years later.
For all the print devoted to the operation that took him out, all the talking heads chattering away, all the hosannas being lavished on American special ops forces, the president, his planners and various intelligence outfits, this is hardly a glorious American moment. If anything, we should probably be in mourning for what we buried long before we had bin Laden’s body, for what we allowed him (and our own imperial greed) to goad us into doing to ourselves and what, in the course of that, we did, in the name of fighting him, to others.
Those chants of “USA! USA!” on the announcement of his death were but faint echoes of the ones at Ground Zero on September 14, 2001 when President George W. Bush picked up a bullhorn and promised that “the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” That would be the beginning of a brief few years of soaring American hubris and fantasies of domination wilder than those of any caliphate-obsessed Islamic fundamentalist terrorist and soon enough they would leave us high and dry in our present world of dismal unemployment figures, rotting infrastructure, rising gas prices, troubled treasury and a people on the edge.
Unless we set aside the special ops assaults and the drone wars and take a chance, unless we’re willing to follow the example of all those non-violent demonstrators across the Greater Middle East and begin a genuine and speedy withdrawal from the Af-Pak theatre of operations, Osama bin Laden will never die.
On September 17, 2001 President Bush was asked whether he wanted bin Laden dead. He replied: “There’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said ‘wanted dead or alive’.” Dead or alive. Now it turns out that there was a third option. Dead and alive.
The chance exists to put a stake through the heart of Osama bin Laden’s American legacy. After all, the man who officially started it all is theoretically gone. We could declare victory, Toto, and head for home. But why do I think that, on this score, the malign wizard is likely to win? n
This article was posted on TomDispatch.com on May 5, 2011; www.tomdispatch.com
Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2011.Year 17, No.158 - Bin Laden
The land of make-believe
Pakistan: A state of perpetual self-denial
How gullible do the Americans think we are? Do they actually think that we Pakistanis would believe the lies they are spreading about Osama bin Laden’s tragic murder and his demeaning burial at sea?
We are just too smart to be made fools of like this. There was no Osama in that compound in Abbottabad. The Americans killed a lookalike. The real Osama died of gall bladder failure in a bush in Sudan in 2002. What’s more, his supposed wives that were captured from the Abbottabad compound were look-alikes too and so were the children.
But it doesn’t stop here. We Pakistanis know that the news about Osama’s death from a gall bladder ailment in Sudan in 2002 is also suspect. That guy too was a lookalike. So yes, it can safely be said that the guy they killed in Abbottabad in 2011 was actually a lookalike of the lookalike.
So when did Osama die if not in 2002 or 2011? According to a super-famous journalist and TV anchor, Tipu Sultan, who interviewed Osama in an impoverished disco in Kandahar in 1998, Osama was actually dead at the time of the interview. He said that the guy he talked to was actually a man called Abdul Al-Bakir Al-Shaikh Al-Qaedawallah, an expert Osama lookalike who told him (off the record) that Osama actually died (of malaria) in the jungles of the Congo in 1991.
Nevertheless, there is every likelihood that the Congo guy was a lookalike as well. So, in other words, the guy who the Americans claimed to have killed in Abbottabad was really a lookalike of a lookalike of a lookalike of a lookalike. But if we really come to the truth and reality, things do not seem so complicated. So what is this truth and reality? Simple. There never was an Osama. He was never born. It was all an American concoction.
The character of Osama bin Laden was first conceived by America’s 15th president, James Buchanan, in 1859 when, along with the queen of England, he decided to begin a new crusade against Muslims. According to the well-known Muslim historian, Naseem Hijazi, the British monarchy had accused a man called Osama bin Laden of financing and instigating the 1857 Indian army mutiny against the British imperialists.
The Americans and the British then claimed they had suppressed the mutiny by killing Osama in a daring raid. He was claimed to have been hiding in the hookah lounge of the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Zafar denied the accusations, saying no such man was seen on his radar.
The British exiled Zafar to Burma and destroyed the radar, saying there was no such thing as a radar. By the way, the guy the British claimed was Zafar was not exiled to Burma. He was only a lookalike. The real Zafar died of dengue fever in Guatemala where he had gone to raise an army against the British and to study tropical plants. Famous thinker and horticulturalist, Noam Chomsky, confirms this.
This concocted episode was rightly expunged from history books by Muslim historians until America brought the invisible Osama character back to life in the 1990s. They had originally planned to use him as a bogey to invade Canada but changed their plans when they got jealous of all the amazing and unprecedented economic, cultural and military progress taking place in Afghanistan under the Taliban and Pakistan under a bunch of handsome military men.
Thus, not surprisingly, the 9/11 episode happened. We all know who was responsible. Not a single Jew died in that attack. Neither did any animists or pagans, nor any Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. The truth is, only Muslims died in that attack. The proof? Simple. Log on to YouTube and check out the brilliant, award-winning documentaries, Loose Nut and The Drivels. Popcorn is on the house.
The guy the western media showed praising the 9/11 attacks on video was not Osama. He was just some Arab skiing enthusiast telling (with gestures) his Afghan friends about his latest skiing trip to the Alps. There never was an Osama. Just like there is no Mullah Omar, no Taliban, no al-Qaeda. They are all American concoctions.
Furthermore, America never won the war against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union’s break-up was also a concoction. The Soviet Union is still alive and thriving. We don’t hear about it because the Jewish-controlled media has blocked all news about the Soviet Union. That is because the Afghan and Arab mujahideen who fought against it liberated Afghanistan and conquered the Soviet Union and turned it into a caliphate. That’s why America’s next target will be Vladimir Putin (real name Valeed Amir Butinov). So if one day you hear that Americans have assassinated Putin, don’t believe it. The real Putin died of a kidney ailment in 1045 AD.
The president and prime minister of Pakistan should resign for making America make fools of Pakistanis. The army is not to be blamed. The radar that did not pick up American helicopters on May 2 was not a radar. It was a lookalike of the real thing that the Americans didn’t give us. Only the mighty Imran Khan hinted at this while picking his nose on TV the other day. It was a sign: ‘Dig deep, dear patriots. You have nothing to lose but your heads.’ Well said, Imran (real name Genghis), because, after all, who needs heads when the knees can perform the same function?
This article was published on Dawn.com on May 15, 2011.Courtesy: Dawn; www.dawn.com
Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2011.Year 17, No.158 - Bin Laden
Islam after Osama
Behind the ugly reality, there is poetic justice. Osama bin Laden was finally bearded in the world’s most ‘happening’ terror den: Pakistan. Osama is no more but who does not know that the cult of violence that he practised and preached in Islam’s name is alive and kicking in Pakistan as nowhere else? This article however is about Osama’s unintended gift to post-9/11 Islam.
An unintended gift to the faith
Step back just a decade and you’d think that Muslims engaged with the ‘Islam and Modernity’ paradigm were few and far between. The dominant voices in the world of 20th century Islam, especially its latter half, were those of Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami on the Indian subcontinent), Sayyid Qutb (leading theologian of the Egypt-born Muslim Brotherhood) and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (who gave birth to Wahhabism, the rigid, intolerant Islam of Saudi Arabia).
Born and bred as a devout Wahhabi in Saudi Arabia, it was easy for Osama to embrace the shared belief of Maududi and Qutb that all man-made ideas and systems – pan-Arabism, democracy, socialism, communism – were bankrupt: only Shariah law, ruthlessly enforced by an Islamic state, could restore divine order in the world. Thanks to an intermixture of Wahhabism, Qutbism and Maududism, what would otherwise have been an Afghan national liberation movement against the occupying Soviet forces in the 1980s turned into a laboratory of violent, global jihad. Osama was the most lethal product of this cross-fertilisation. And then there was 9/11, al-Qaeda’s own welcome message to the 21st century and the new millennium.
Call it the Hegelian dialectic: thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Some Muslims rejoiced over this “humiliation” of the only global superpower (so soon after the mujahids had facilitated the demise of the rival superpower). Others insisted that 9/11 was a mean CIA-Mossad conspiracy to fan Islamophobia. But saner members of the ummah were horrified that such a monstrosity could be committed in the name of a faith that literally means peace. The poison that Osama and al-Qaeda injected into Islam found its antidote within Islam. Thank you, Hegel.
“Islam was hijacked on 9/11”, declared the American convert Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. The UK-based scholar Ziauddin Sardar was as prompt in issuing his ‘fatwa against the fanatics’. With such opening salvos, the last decade has seen an ever growing number of Muslim voices eager not only to reclaim their faith from the extremists but also, in the words of Sardar, to “rebuild Islam brick by brick”.
Though Osama has now been rendered inactive, the terror machine is yet to be dismantled, the theology of violent jihad is yet to be pushed out of the marketplace of ideas. But there are reasons to nurture hope. You can today build a small personal library just with books entitled Seeds of Terror, The Nuclear Jihadist, Terror in the Name of God, Sacred Rage, Talibanisation of Pakistan, Descent into Chaos and so on. But should you feel so inclined, you will need to multiply shelf space several times over to add the books and videos infused with the spirit of a New Age Islam.
A decade ago the theologians of a tolerant, plural, gender-just, rights and freedom-friendly, pro-democracy Islam were few in number. Today not only is their tribe growing rapidly but an ever increasing number of Muslims, both men and women, are reading and interpreting the Koran and the traditions of the prophet in sync with modern sensibilities.
Sadly, we in India aren’t familiar with them yet. But they are important, influential names across much of the world. The US-based Dr Khaled Abou El Fadl, for example, is a strong proponent of human rights, a staunch advocate of gender equality and is among the most critical and powerful voices against puritan and Wahhabi Islam today. Then there is Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre includes him in its list of the top 50 most influential Muslims in the world. The magazine Egypt Today described him as a kind of theological rock star, “the Elvis Presley of western Muslims”.
Or take Tariq Ramadan, the UK-based author of Radical Reform. An online poll by the American Foreign Policy magazine in 2009 placed Ramadan at the 49th spot in a list of the world’s top 100 contemporary intellectuals. And let’s not forget Amina Wadud, Islamic feminist, imam and author of Inside the Gender Jihad. In March 2005 she stirred up quite a storm in the Muslim world after leading a Friday prayer for over 100 male and female Muslims in New York.
In the first year of the 21st century Osama stretched the dominant Islamic thought of the 20th century to its extreme. A decade later, there is a growing body of books, lectures and the World Wide Web propounding an Islam that is at home with the modern world and vice versa. And in the last few months such intellectuals and scholars have struck common ground with the masses on the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain…
Osama must have had many a nightmare during his last days of hiding.
Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2011.Year 17, No.158 - Bin Laden