By Arab News
By Linda S. Heard
Am I sorry the world’s Most Wanted man is dead? No, I’m not. But at the same time I object to my intelligence being insulted. I spent all day Monday wincing at the blatant “God bless America” jingoism coming out of US beginning with the jubilant crowds dancing on Osama’s grave to President Barack Obama’s “Justice has been served.”
Justice would only have been served if Osama Bin Laden had been captured, investigated and tried. Instead, he was shot in the head while unarmed and hiding behind the skirts of his youngest wife. Martyrdom was just how OBL wished to go. The ultimate humiliation would have been to drag him away in an orange jump suit.
TV commentators say putting OBL on trial would have posed problems for the US, which is nonsense. There were no such qualms about putting Saddam Hussein or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – one of many supposed masterminds behind 9/11 – before a judge. The fact is Bin Laden’s assassination was just as purposeful as the poisoning of a Hamas commander in Dubai by the Mossad.
It seems too that he was shot before his attackers could prove his identity. The harvesting of DNA and use of electronic facial recognition took place subsequent to his death. How efficient is facial recognition when the subject has been shot through the head?
In his triumphal speech, Obama conflated OBL with 9/11. However, according to the FBI’s Most Wanted website, he was sought solely for his involvement with the bombing of embassies in Africa and the USS Cole. When the FBI was asked by a journalist why there was no mention of 9/11 on OBL’s webpage, there was no proof of Bin Laden’s involvement in that, they answered.
Wouldn’t taking him alive have been the best option? His alleged role in 9/11 could have been substantiated or otherwise and he would have been a font of information on the worldwide Al-Qaeda movement. When hundreds of small fry were incarcerated in Guantanamo, isn’t it odd that the biggest fish of all was literally thrown into the sea? That’s another thing. Why was the US in such haste to dispose of the body and why was it cast upon the waves instead of being buried in accordance with Islamic precepts? The official version is that no country wanted OBL’s remains and the US as mindful to expedite the funeral in keeping with Islamic law; the problem is burial at sea is only permitted by Islam in cases when a person dies on board ship. If the Americans were so concerned about Islamic law, his body could just as easily have been placed anonymously under the Afghan desert sands.
CLEARLY Islamic tradition wasn’t uppermost in their minds. In this case, given their awareness that news of the death wouldn’t be taken at face value by millions around the world – especially since the US has announced OBL’s death several times before — why didn’t they permit foreign forensic teams to view the corpse and take DNA samples so that his demise could be independently verified? That would have been the best way to silence conspiracy theorists.
The rest of the tale is equally bizarre. The story goes that OBL and his family may have lived in the three-story high, million-dollar walled mansion/fortress in the resort town of Abbottabad, a stone’s throw from Islamabad, ever since it was constructed in 2005.
The man with a $ 25 million bounty on his head must have been suffering from dementia when he chose to quit his Afghan cave or mud hut in Waziristan for a house that stands out like a sore thumb in a small town housing a military academy. Most residents of upscale Abbottabad are in some way connected to the military; many are retired army officers.
Are we seriously to believe that foreign residents without telephone lines or Internet connection and without need of garbage collection (they incinerated their own) didn’t attract any attention from either military intelligence or Pakistan’s ubiquitous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over the years? In Egypt, where I’m based, no one could move into a home near a military base without state security knowing what brand of toothpaste they use.
Did no tradesman or repairman turn-up at OBL’s door? He had a lawn. Did he cut the grass himself? Who supplied the occupants with food; who paid the water and electricity bills? Most importantly, where did this most easily recognizable fugitive on the planet receive dialysis? Western politicians are saying Pakistan has some explaining to do. Some believe the ISI and the Pakistani military contain OBL sympathizers. Even if there’s a kernel of truth in that, most wouldn’t be and even those who were so disposed would have been tempted by a $25 million windfall. Pakistan’s government is also under fire from within. People are angered by the US’ failure to get Pakistan’s green light for a Navy Seal op which they see as an infringement of their country’s sovereignty.
THERE are also questions surrounding the timing of the operation. When the US had intelligence since August, why did the president wait eight months before giving the go-ahead during which time the family could have relocated?
Cynics are already pointing to a 10- point leap in President Obama’s approval rating in the run-up to next year’s presidential election while noting that crowds outside the White House have been chanting “Four more years”. The announcement also comes at a time when the White House is mulling withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. That would spell failure as long as Bin Laden was still on the loose. Now the president can proudly announce “a job well done” — never mind that it took ten years and tens of thousands of innocent Afghan and Pakistani lives. In truth, the OBL operation has undermined the military aggression on Afghanistan. I’ve argued since day one that it was a grave mistake, writing that the only way to get Bin Laden was the use of human intelligence and special ops. I used to receive irate e-mails from Americans in response; now I feel vindicated.
The Afghanistan war chest has cost US taxpayers alone more than $350 billion, over 2,340 coalition military personnel have been killed — and there’s been incalculable numbers of civilian casualties. Americans should ask themselves whether so much sacrifice was worth it just to shoot one aging man in the head when his sickening ideology has already spawned worldwide hydra-headed Al-Qaeda offshoots and clones.
With OBL gone, Al-Qaeda has received a body blow and our world is now a safer place, say US and British officials while, at the same time, their countries’ embassies have been fortified and their citizens warned of possible revenge attacks. Did the White House never stop to think that Osama the martyr could be of greater inspiration to his fanatical death-loving chorus than Osama the recluse! The real body blow to terrorist extremists has been the Arab Spring. It wasn’t sparked by men with explosive waist belts but by youngsters using Internet social media who succeeded where Osama and his murdering ilk failed. Against something so transformational and earth shattering, in the great scheme of things, Bin Laden’s end is a nonevent. If the families of 9/11 victims have received closure, so be it.
If, God forbid, I were in their place I would never have been satisfied until I learned the truth straight from the horse’s mouth. Unfortunately, the mystery will continue; Bin Laden’s treasury of secrets are lost forever in the bowels of the North Arabian Sea.
For the record, I haven’t come across a single Egyptian who believes the official story; most think Osama died years ago from natural causes and has been resurrected for political expediency. Oh what fantastical imaginations they have! Of course, they can’t possibly be right.