Sunday, 8 May 2011

Life after Bin Laden

Life after Bin Laden

Aijaz Zaka Syed
Sunday, May 08, 2011

So America has finally managed to kill the monster it created. And in one of those classic ironies that fate throws up, Osama bin Laden met his end at the hands of someone whose name has often been confused with his own. In his death, Osama hasn’t just saved the struggling US president, he may even have gifted his nemesis a second term in office.

But can you really kill men like OBL? He was not just another human being, a man of flesh and blood like you and me. Rather, he represented an idea. And you can’t kill ideas – even if you happen to be the most powerful country on the planet and have the deadliest of arms man invented at your disposal.

The long crippled man who spurned a life of obscene luxury to live on the run forever like a hunted animal, had to go the way he did. There’s hardly a surprise there. The real story and feat lies in the fact that the Al-Qaeda chief managed to evade the long and powerful arms of the empire for 11 long years.

While the coalition of the willing hunted the most wanted man on the planet all across the wild frontier stretching from Pakistan’s northwest to the Afghan border with Russia, he ostensibly lived right in the heart of the Abbottabad cantonment, a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s elite Kakul Military Academy.

What an extraordinary, extraordinary story! And what chutzpah – a master stroke of the evil genius that he was!

And what embarrassment for Pakistan’s leaders! They haven’t been just caught unawares; they’ve been caught with their pants down. The country has become the laughing stock of the whole world. It’s damned if it admits that this was a one-sided US operation and it had no clue whatsoever until US choppers with their elite commandos barged right into the heart of the cantonment and took out their man. It’s damned if it suggests otherwise.

Whoever is responsible for this mess, they’ve put Pakistan in a rather nice spot, perhaps like never before in its history. The ever voracious and vicious television networks across the border haven’t stopped partying since. It’s the great Pakistan barbecue season all over again.

All his life, Osama had been an enigma and a perpetual source of concern to his distinguished clan and the land of his birth. Now he has visited a calamity on the folks who hosted and worked with him during the glorious decade of the Afghan jihad.

Lest we forget the commander of the faithful in that ‘holy war’ against the so-called evil empire was none other than the leader of the free world. Uncle Sam headed the Western coalition as he does now. Pakistan was only their second lieutenant, a facilitator if you will.

Only, when the music stopped, Pakistan was left holding the baby. Everyone went home and it had to live with the mess that was left behind. Osama, Al- Qaeda, the Taliban and the rag-tag army of various other groups are a blast from the past that the West doesn’t want to have anything to do with today.

When the tide turned after 9/11 and Pakistan went with the flow, the chickens came home to roost. Osama came home to where he thought he belonged. His final suicide mission was to blow up his former friends and the land that sheltered him.

However, the ultimate victim of the misguided missile that the Saudi billionaire was turned out to be the very faith that he claimed to champion.

He brought nothing but disgrace and disaster to Muslim lands and fellow believers. More Muslims than Westerners or Christians and Jews have died as a direct consequence of Al-Qaeda attacks, or by attacks inspired by his murderous ideology. A noble religion of 1.6 billion believers has come to be regarded as a death cult and met with international condemnation. Arabs and Muslims have been tarred terrorists. For all of this, Osama will perhaps never be forgiven by his Maker and Muslims alike.

Yet you can’t help feeling a twinge of sadness at the tragic end that the sheikh has met with – far from the land of his birth that he so loved. He was driven by the belief – hopelessly distorted as it was – that he was fighting to free Muslim lands and for justice for the Palestinians, Afghans and for the oppressed everywhere.

Muslims at large never identified with Osama bin Laden or condoned his appalling crimes. They however understood what forced a quiet young man to kick his billion dollar fortune and take up arms. He struck a chord among, not just Arabs and Muslims but also among the dispossessed everywhere by taking on the big bullies who have killed more innocents and wreaked more destruction on our world than a million Osamas could have managed in their lifetime.

Besides, the way this whole charade has been played out with Obama and his aides “coolly” watching the action live in real time as if it were a baseball game, and his body being dumped into the Arabian sea has only added to their disgust and outrage. Using all that overwhelming force to kill an unarmed, ailing man without a trial. So much for America’s fabled justice system and due process!

Assuming it was indeed Bin Laden who was killed Monday night, shouldn’t he have been put on trial for the crimes he had been accused of? What was the hurry to buy him at sea? What was it that America was trying to cover? And how’s Obama’s justice different from the ‘dead-or-alive’ cowboy retribution of his predecessor?

Dead or alive, we haven’t heard the last of this yet. Osama may be dead and gone; his cause is not. Others will take his place and may already have. If the world is to prevent the rise of more Osamas, it must take its scalpel to the festering cancer of injustice and oppression in the Middle East. Now that the so-called architect of 9/11 is gone, the US has no business in Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Bin Laden has taken with him to his watery grave the West’s raison d’ĂȘtre for its imperial project in the Muslim world.

The writer is based in the Gulf.


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